People + Pleaser = Self-deprivation

I used to be a people pleaser until it landed me in a position where all could watch and no one could help. Meaning, I would push myself to conform to what others expected of me, whether it was healthy or not. People pleasing is taxing, it pushes you aware from you are at your core. It forbids you to live authentically but bend to the wants of other people. What people pleasing got me was months of lack of sleep and eventually anxiety.

In a previous post I spoke about self-care and depression. The reason I wrote that post was because in an effort to live up to the expectations of others I put myself in a bad place. However, I didn’t know it was bad until it was too late. Being in a PhD program, tutoring, teaching courses, and everything else outside of school, I became stressed and I knew it. But, what I didn’t know is that I had exhausted myself this time. I would wake up tired and go to sleep tired. I would be so weak and nauseous but I kept pushing because I wanted to be the best.

Well what that got me was medication to help with anxiety/sleep and depression pills. Now, while I never needed to take the depression meds I did need something to help me sleep because I couldn’t turn my brain off. I had pushed myself, in fact over 5 months, trained myself to keep going and naturally because we are creatures of habit, my body got the memo. So why self-deprivation?

Self-deprivation is defined as voluntary denial or suppression of one’s own interests or desires. While in fact school was once my desire, it’s demand was not. And, because I wanted to be what other people said I was, I pushed myself to the max. In retrospect, I realize that those compliments were not worth it. The bragging rights and yearning to be great isn’t as grand as expected. Now, when it comes within its right season then yes, but how many times have you tried to conform to others and lost yourself?It isn’t worth it.

It’s kind of what literature people call double-consciousness, originally coined by W.E.B DuBois–a great public intellectual during the Reconstruction Era. He says that double consciousness  “ is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of…measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings…” In essence, there are two dark souls trapped in one body. The moment we realize how we are internally and how the world perceives us to be, we have experienced double consciousness.

However, what DuBois fails to realize is that, he is putting the chore of choosing on the individual experiencing double-consciousness, not drawing attention of the error of the outside structures that superimposes one to feel this way. Here is where you come in. Don seek to please other people, because you will always disappoint someone or someone will always have something negative to say. Instead, focus on living a life that is pleasing unto God.

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The Right Thing is Not Always Easy

Sometimes I wonder how many people truly believe that they will always feel like doing the right thing! Of course, the right thing is relative, right? Perspective impacts the ways in which we think, process, and interact. This is equally true for the way that we decide what constitutes right or wrong.

I believe the most important part in understanding right or wrong is to come into the knowledge that it can be personal. What I mean is that the right thing for your life might not mean that it is the right thing for someone else’s. Equally important is the fact that not everyone will understand why you choose to live the life that you do!

So many times we get hung up on the opinions of others as if they have to live with the reality of you living below your worth. It’s a shame that we allow others to dictate the standards of our lives to appease their own insecurities and regrets. How tragic it would be if we got to the end of our lives with so much left to do that we dread moving forward.

The right thing is relative. The right thing is personal. The right thing is a matter of perspective. I want to encourage not to allow others to dictate to you your truth. Do not allow people to hang the weight of who they are on your shoulders while they move freely. Do the right thing for you! Live by the standard that has already been set for you. Free yourself of people bondage and know that the right thing does not always mean that it will be the easy decision. But, when did anyone become great by making easy decisions?

The Power in Unmasking

For [even the whole] creation [all nature] waits                                                                     eagerly for the children of God to be revealed                                                                                     -Romans 8:19

Perhaps one reason why masquerade balls are so exciting is because participants have the ability to pretend to be someone else for a short time. The possibility of embodying the essence of another allows people to throw off the cares of their life to participate in creating a sense of relief. If only for one night, people have the ability to seek refuge from their reality behind the mask. Yet, while the mask may serve as temporary reprieve, the truth of the matter is that the mask is temporary.

If I can be honest, I used to be a master at masking. I had the ability to hide behind a smile that betrayed me every time I painted it on my face. I had the ability to project a certain image about myself while internally becoming unravelled. It was I who put the mask on in an attempt to be perceived as a certain way. I wanted to have it all together so desperately that I would pretend by any means necessary.

Do you know what masking got me? Nothing positive. In fact, it distanced me further from the people who I loved. It put another barrier between all my friendships and I was the only one suffering. I hid behind my mask while going to war for others. I jumped over things that I shouldn’t have. I played the game so seamlessly that it almost cost me my emotional well-being.

Romans 8:19 reminds us that the whole world waits for the revealing of the children of God. My question is how can you be revealed if you have masked yourself? Which version of you will be revealed? I’ve learned long ago that people aren’t attracted to the you that you pretend to be. They don’t care about the things that you think they care about. In essence, they care about your most authentic self. They care about the person you were created to be. They care about you even the ugly parts.

I want to admonish you to take off the masks. Take off the unnecessary weight that you’ve put on and reveal your truth to the world. It is so unfortunate that we are cower away from authenticity, but I believe in order to live your best life, you have to unmask.

Transparency Helps All Involved

fullsizeoutput_682It’s so easy to remain closed off to people around you. It’s amazing how we have the desire to help people but we refuse to show them our wounds. Perhaps we need a new perspective on transparency.

Being transparent is a sign of strength because it takes courage to do. Even more, your wounds are only signs that you’ve been through the battle. They are neither a testament to your current status nor a sign of your weakness. Contrary to popular belief, wounds and wounding prove that you are a survivor. Perhaps you survived a divorce, a failed relationship, or a degree program, but the story that was birthed out of it has  oil on it.

People need your transparency. You need your transparency. When you share the depth of who you are you are enlarging your capacity. You give yourself permission to validate your experiences as well as give others the green light to live past their pain.

Unfortunately, so many of us fall victim to the need to save face, but in saving face you hide behind the mask of your reality silently screaming for help. It is not that you cannot be honest, but you refuse to expose yourself. You refuse to expose yourself to the elements around you, but those elements help you produce the sweat–the oil–of your anointing.

God did not create us to be isolated as so many of us believe. He did not give us community, family, or friends to hide the most intricate parts of ourselves, but positioned us around these people to help. We all need help, we all need encouragement, we all need one another. However, you can never enter into a successful relationship with someone else–whether it be friends or intimately–if you don’t expose the essence of who you are.

Transparency can be ugly. Transparency can be scary. Transparency can be beautiful. Transparency can be freeing. Transparency can be you!

Becoming a Better Friend is Becoming a Better Person

IMG_9126I have a type A personality, and therefore, I’m generally goal oriented. While this worked for me in the professional world it didn’t translate well into my relationships. Namely, because I focused so much on school, and personal goals, I dropped the ball on my friends. While I always showed up for them when they needed me that was really the only time that I was present. Now, if you would have told me that I was a horrible friend because of my “call me in case of emergencies” attitude it would’ve fallen on deaf ears. However, the Holy Spirit started to speak to me about becoming a better person, and this included being better for my friends. In order to do this, I had to be vulnerable.

Confrontation–The first thing that I had to do was go to each person individually and ask them about areas of improvement in my life. Specifically, I had to sit and let them draw attention to my weak areas. If I said that this was an easy thing to do I would be lying because it was tough. In fact, I cried for several days after our conversations. I must admit that because of my strong personality, I am not the easiest person to approach especially with conflict. However, I believe God prepared my heart to hear my friends before they spoke a word. They told me that I had a wall up, that I would show up but not be present, that I don’t like to admit that I need people, and that I do things looking for recognition. They were right! I didn’t spend days crying because they called me out, but because these were things that I thought no one noticed. I was already secretly battling certain issues and their perception of them told me that I couldn’t run any longer.

Recognition–After days of replaying the various conversations in my head I decided to confront myself. Yes, I did have certain issues. Yes, I needed to work on them even if I didn’t want to. And, yes, I needed to do it now. In recognizing that I was being called to grow, I called my friends and apologized for my negligence. I apologized because I didn’t think they needed anything from me for real. In essence I failed to consider their needs and distributed what I thought they needed. In apologizing I felt weak, but it gave me the courage to move forward.

Implementation–Because I operated in a realm of my own thinking I had to figure out a way to establish common ground with my friends. Therefore, I implemented Friday check-in day. While we might text throughout the week, Friday is my day to initiate conversations with them. I send them encouraging words, I pray over them, and I invest in what they have going on in their lives. Ultimately, I use this time to reconnect with the women in my life because that builds stronger relationships. Proverbs 18:24 tells us to show ourselves friendly if we desire friends, and though I desired deep connections through friendship, I wasn’t allowing my friends to access me. Friday check-in has allowed me to move into a move responsible space in my friendships that has caused me to see that the people who surround me have complex lives. I am able to be more lenient with their mistakes, and I’m more open about my life as a result.

Pushing past my emotions–Can I just be honest here? There are times when conversing with my friends are an inconvenience. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but sometimes when I’m free they aren’t, and vice versa. However, because I’m the one who is dedicated to becoming better, I had to tailor my schedule around them on Friday’s. This means if they can’t talk when I reach out, I have to somehow move things around in my life to be available to them. Perhaps this has been the greatest struggle for me, but no relationship worth having  is ever convenient. However, if I say with my mouth that I want friends who care and invest in me, I must serve as a model.

Becoming a better friend has helped me to see the value in the people around me. It has caused me to cherish them more because I know that they are destiny connections. Through this process I’ve learned some key lessons about myself and the people around me, and all I had to do was position myself to hear them.