How Low Self-Worth Leads to Imposter Syndrome and a Powerful Strategy to Overcome Both

How Low Self-Worth Leads to Imposter Syndrome and a Powerful Strategy to Overcome Both

Everyone has something important to share with the world…

But imposter syndrome can get in the way of fully showing up. At the core of imposter syndrome is feeling unworthy of success and feeling like you don’t have a place at the table, in the classroom, on your job, or in relationships. This often leaves us feeling like we don’t have anything to offer or feeling like we are not good enough. 

When we feel low self worth, we are more likely to feel unworthy at work and at school and unworthy of love, life, and success. We question ourselves and our achievements and we feel like imposters. All of this contributes to the anxiety, procrastination, overworking, and perfectionism that often come along with imposter syndrome. It can be a never ending cycle.

Imposter syndrome shows up in many different ways… 

In my personal experience, I overworked myself. I tried to be perfect in order to prove that I was good enough and worthy of my accomplishments. I would stay up later than I needed to and pushed myself to turn in every assignment on time. I felt I needed to prove I was good enough on the merit of my academic achievements. Now I can see that perfect achievement would never make me feel worthy or release me from imposter syndrome. 

When you struggle with imposter syndrome, you may also find it hard to start projects. Or, you may struggle to do the work in front of you, because you don’t feel worthy or smart enough to do a good job. 

You may have trouble recognizing your gifts, or shrink yourself and hide your talents. When we struggle with imposter syndrome and low self-worth, we also miss out on the joy of engaging with our strengths and talents and showing up fully. And, the world misses out on the important gifts we have to share. You deserve to tap into your gifts and share them because the world will be a better place when you do that.

What would you find the courage to do if you knew you were worthy? 

Think about what life would feel like and be like if you showed up courageously in the world.

To start showing up courageously,

Identify your strengths

I want you to reflect on and identify your strengths. Take some time to think about it. Often, our strengths are things that come easily to us and that we do naturally without even thinking. You may be creative, a great listener, or you may be a great problem solver. 

Once you’ve identified your strengths, 

Consider how you would like to share them in the world. 

How do you want to share your gifts at your job, at school, on your teams and in your community? How do you want to show up in these spaces? Do you want to be a listening ear for people? Do you want to help people solve problems? Write this down because having a list will help you during the times you feel like an impostor. 

This is a list you can return to when you’re feeling nervous, or you are wondering if you belong in a space. 

Return to this list!

When you feel like you need to be perfect or have all the right answers, or you need to get everything right, return to this list. Often when we’re nervous, it’s because we are focused on not wanting to make a mistake. Instead, you can focus on how you want to bring your strengths to play.

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Believing in Your Unconditional Self-Worth is a Radical Act

Believing in Your Unconditional Self-Worth is a Radical Act

Black people have been treated as unworthy since America’s inception. 

This is an unfortunate and heartbreaking history and the legacy of this history continues today. African people were stolen from their homelands and chattel slavery was instituted in the United States. Chattel slavery meant that children born to slaves were considered slaves and it guaranteed that slavery would continue from generation to generation. Enslaved people had no rights, and they were treated and considered to be less than human. 

I do not need to recount all of the traumas of slavery, but one marker of slavery is Black people were told over and over again in small and large ways l we were not worthy of love, life, health, care, and respect. Despite this messaging and conditioning, Black people built loving relationships, Black people cared for and loved their children, and Black people cultivated joy and community in the midst of these historical experiences and subsequent trauma. 

I wish I could say that racism ended with slavery. 

Unfortunately it’s not so. The racism used to justify slavery changed forms after slavery was abolished. Racism manifests in numerous ways like police murdering Black people who are walking, running, and sleeping. Every time one of these murders happens, I feel it viscerally in my body. As a Black person, I wonder how you feel both psychologically and psysiological when you hear of another murder or see it happening on video? Then in the summer of 2020, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered and something shifted. 

People began to wake up this truth that we, as Black people, have always known: Black Lives Matter. 

I’m hopeful and there is still work to do. 

Today, aside from the overt racism we experience in cases of police violence, there are many subtle forms of racism. They can look like being passed over for a promotion or not getting an interview for a job that you’re overqualified for. Black women also have to navigate stereotypes like we are hyper sexual, we are manipulative, we’re gaming the system, or we are always angry. Sometimes it’s just assuming we are always strong, that we don’t feel pain, or that we don’t get sick which results in us not receiving the medical care we need. 

Dear Black people, we are worthy because we are human. 

Our worthiness is not based on anything else but that irrevocable truth. 

We are human.

When we assert our unconditional self worth as Black people, we are taking a radical stand against all the prevailing messages like Black people are only worthy if we talk right, act right, play right, or look right. 

The idea that we need to be perfect and magical to be loved and respected is a lie. 

We are worthy when we win and fail. We are worthy when we experience depression and anxiety. We are worthy when we are coping with trauma. We are worthy in the fullness of our humanity. 

How do we put our self worth into practice? 

We stop buying into the idea that our worth is based on our productivity. 

I believe a powerful way to connect and honor our unconditional self worth as Black people is to take good care of ourselves. So often, we push ourselves to the limit because we feel we have no other choice. We buy into the idea that we always have to be hustling to be successful and worthy, that we must work 3 times as hard to be as successful as White people. Overworking ourselves can increase stress, exhaustion and physical health issues. I want us to shift away from the idea that to be worthy as Black people, we have to work ourselves into the ground. 

We practice listening to our bodies and taking care of ourselves.

With my Black female clients, we often talk about the need for rest. Taking care of ourselves is a radical act because it directly challenges the messages that we are not worthy of love. When I talk about self-care I’m not referring to the commercialized instagrammable self care I’m talking about deep practices of listening to your body and taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself can look like making sure you get enough sleep. Too often, as Black women, we have trouble taking the time to sleep and rest because we feel we need to be tending to someone else. I encourage you to set a bedtime. If you have trouble allowing yourself to relax and rest, consider why it’s difficult for you. 

We honor our bodies through movement and being mindful of what we eat.

Movement doesn’t have to look like intense exercise. It can look like going for a walk on a beautiful day, or engaging in cardio, or running but doing something that feels good for your body. I encourage you to figure out what that looks like for you. Being thoughtful about what you eat does not need to be a restrictive diet, it means prioritizing eating foods that you find nourishing. Honoring your body can also look like being still in prayer and meditation, taking time to journal, and generally giving yourself space to be present with your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Being mindful is attending to yourself with love and care, and giving yourself the attention you deserve. 

Self care can also look like making time to have fun.

Lean into what you love to do for fun. It is important that we lean away from always working to finding time to have fun. Fun looks different for us these days but finding creative ways to laugh and connect with friends and loved ones can be an important way to take care of ourselves. 

If you don’t have a consistent practice of taking care of yourself, I encourage you to make that a priority during this Black history month. You can receive a personalizable self-care plan to get yourself started here:

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Why a Romantic Partner Can Never Complete You

Why a Romantic Partner Can Never Complete You

A big part of my struggle with low self-worth was believing that I was unlovable and not worthy of love… 

This caused me to desperately seek out relationships to prove that I was worthy and lovable. My first serious relationship started during my senior year of high school and continued into my freshman year of college. Honestly, I should have listened to the nun at my all-girls Catholic high school that advised me to end my relationship and go into college as a single woman to get the full experience…

As a freshman in college, I began feeling stressed and anxious when my boyfriend didn’t want to make the hour-long drive to come visit me, when he seemed disinterested when I would visit him, and when he eventually broke up with me. I was crushed and heartbroken! 

After getting back together a few months later, only to find the same disinterest arise once again, the pattern of getting into relationships with guys who were emotionally unavailable was just getting started. In most of my relationships, the anxiety and worry I felt about my significant other eroded the quality of the relationship. Under it all, was my fear of being unlovable and my belief that I was unworthy of love.

When I finally ended up in a relationship with a guy who was good for me, I was bored! Hmmm… needless to say, this was exhausting. I spent many years in a state of agony, just hoping a man would love me so that I could get rid of the horrible feeling of being unworthy of love.

My fear of being unlovable came to a head when I was in a relationship with a great guy who could not and did not fall in love with me during our two-year relationship. I faced my ultimate fear of being unlovable. Even though I thought that would break me, the reality was facing that fear is what helped me to realize that I am lovable. It was not easy by any means, but I eventually came to understand that my partner not falling in love with me wasn’t about me being unlovable… it was about his limited capacity to love. This freed me from my relationship anxiety and desperation for love. Cue the deep sigh of relief!

Sometimes, facing our worst fears is exactly what we need to overcome them.

This experience taught me that I no longer needed to search outside of myself for a partner to complete me and make me worthy. Affirming myself that I was lovable and worthy marked a powerful transition in my journey to unconditional self-worth. 

I wonder if you can relate to my story at all… 

Have you ever tried to use a romantic relationship to feel worthy? 

Have you felt crushed after someone left a relationship with you or didn’t choose you? 

Have you started a relationship with a lot of hope, only to feel empty inside after the initial rush of infatuation wore off? 

If you have, know that you are not alone.

Using romantic relationships to prove we are worthy just does not work. Maybe it will for a short period of time, but eventually, our unaddressed feelings of unworthiness will re-emerge and cause stress and anxiety, making it hard to have a healthy and stable relationship. 

We can attempt to blame our partners for the void that we feel within us, but we are the only ones that can fill and heal that emotional void of unworthiness. 

The way out of this exhausting cycle is to connect to our unconditional self-worth. You ARE worthy of love, no matter what you’ve done or what you’ve gone through. 

There are many practices I will share with you in upcoming episodes that will support you on your journey to connecting with your unconditional self-worth, but for today…

Here are some self-love practices that you can use to remind yourself that you are worthy of love…

Treat yourself the way you hope a partner would treat you. This could involve indulging yourself with a delicious meal, drawing a candle lit bubble bath for yourself, giving yourself gifts, affirming wonderful things about yourself, and spending time doing things you enjoy! 

Take some time to think about the ways in which you prefer to receive love and then offer yourself love in these ways. It’s okay if it feels silly at first, but do it anyway. It will get easier. Commit to one thing that you can do this week to show yourself some love. 

Bonus points if you journal about it!

When you engage in self-love, you are communicating to yourself that you are worthy of love and care just because you’re you.

“One of the best guides to how to be self-loving is to give ourselves the love we are often dreaming about receiving from others.”        – bell hooks

What changes when you know you’re worthy?

When we know we are worthy unconditionally, we show up as complete people dedicated to building healthy relationships and we don’t fall into codependency. When we know we are worthy, we set healthy boundaries to nurture all of our relationships and stay balanced. 

For me, knowing I’m unconditionally worthy of love has prepared me for a healthy, flourishing relationship with my fiancé. Yes, you read that right! Fiancé! Our love blossomed just after my last ‘unlovable’ relationship, when I was no longer desperately searching for a partner to complete me. Divine timing, huh?

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How Self-Worth Affects Every Part of Your Life

How Self-Worth Affects Every Part of Your Life

My experience with low self-worth started early in life…

I grew up as an only child and was often lonely. My parents were introverted, and I was extroverted. So oftentimes when I wanted to play with my parents, they wanted their quiet time. No fun! I was also one of the only Black girls in a predominantly white school. I was one of the few students who wasn’t invited to parties and wasn’t crushed on by the cute boys. To make things worse, I also felt like I didn’t fit in at church, even though I had Black friends there. There were times when I hadn’t seen the newest, coolest movies or shows and I didn’t know the latest dance moves or songs.

All of these experiences caused me to feel left out, lonely, and that there was something wrong with me. It made me feel like I wasn’t worthy of attention, affection, or being included.  

Around age 12, I decided to do something about it. I wanted to figure out how to feel loved, accepted, and included. I tried to be the perfect friend, always selfless, generous, and giving… which are all great characteristics, though I never asked for anything in return. See the problem here? I even tried my hardest academically, getting perfect grades and trying to get into all the great universities, to feel worthy in that respect. Still, nothing was changing.

That pattern continued into my adulthood. Though I succeeded in school, eventually getting my doctorate, it still didn’t take away my feelings of unworthiness. Realizing that didn’t work, I went on to try using relationships to feel worthy. After years of this, I finally realized NONE of it worked and that I needed a new plan. 

I went to therapy in grad school because I was suffering from severe anxiety. I wonder why… The source of my anxiety and discontent was that I was trying to base my worth on external conditions, trying to find my sense of worthiness in academics, professional success, and relationships. 

Can you relate to any of this? You’re not alone! 

This is a common experience and something I’ve heard time and time again from my clients. The pain of not feeling worthy, the intense desire to figure it out and find something to make themselves feel worthy, then coming up short, criticizing and questioning themselves about what they did wrong. It’s a harmful cycle that I help people find the end to.

What’s the difference between self-esteem and self-worth?

Self-esteem is derived from our abilities, social position, accomplishments, and things we believe we can achieve. We can boost our self-esteem by learning new skills or improving our performance and it goes up and down based on how we’re doing in various aspects of our lives. This is why you feel great about yourself whenever you win a competition, get a promotion, or successfully do a headstand, yet if you make a mistake or fail, you feel pretty bad about yourself.

People may have high self-esteem, yet struggle with feelings of low self-worth that leave them feeling empty and discontent despite their achievements and accomplishments. 

Have you ever had an experience where you reached that ultimate goal you’ve been striving for, but when the excitement wore off, you still felt empty? That’s where self-esteem can leave us high and dry.

Unconditional self-worth is distinct in that it’s not something we can have more or less of. It’s not about comparing ourselves to other people. Unconditional self-worth is the sense that you deserve to be alive, to be loved and cared for, and to take up space.

Why is unconditional self-worth important?

As a clinical psychologist, I believe pervasive low self-worth is a root cause of mental illness. People all over the world are struggling with mental illness more than ever before and I believe that our disconnection from our true source of self-worth is a major contributing factor to the anxiety and depression that people are experiencing. 

When we don’t feel unconditionally worthy, we’re more likely to settle for unhealthy relationships where we don’t have our needs met, which can increase anxiety and depression. If you don’t feel worthy, you’re not going to negotiate for that salary or that raise that you deserve and you’re not going to take care of your body in the way your body deserves.

When we believe we are worthy of love and respect, we’re more likely to demand that in our relationships. When we believe we are worthy of success and sharing our gifts with the world, we’re more likely to show up and experience the success we most desire.

When we feel worthy unconditionally, we’re more likely to take good care of our mental and physical health and less likely to experience mental illness. 

When I connected to the true source of my worth, knowing that my worthiness is comes from something within me, not something external to me, SO many things shifted in my life. I was free of the anxiety that inhabited my mind for years, I began to build healthy and loving friendships and relationships that are mutually beneficial, I was able to show up more authentically in my work and my personal life, and I was able to manifest more abundance, prosperity, joy, and peace in all areas of life.

Of course, I still experience challenges and frustrations in life… I’m still human, but connecting to the true source of my self-worth has been extremely liberating and has made life so much better than it was before! At its core, it’s about healing and transforming our relationship with our self, letting go of the belief that something is wrong with us, releasing self-criticism when we make mistakes, and connecting more deeply to compassion, grace, and encouragement. 

Are you getting excited about starting your journey to self-worth and the unboxing of all the incredible opportunities life has for you? 

Here’s a journaling practice that can help you reflect on this…

I encourage you to start reflecting on whether you believe you are unconditionally worthy now. Write about your answers to the following questions and see what comes up for you!

  • Do you believe you are unconditionally worthy?
  • Are there conditions you believe you need to meet in order to be worthy? What are they?
  • What keeps you from feeling worthy?
  • What would life be like for you if you believed you were worthy unconditionally?


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Three Steps to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Start Contributing Your Gifts

Three Steps to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others and Start Contributing Your Gifts

We live in a world that causes us to constantly compare ourselves to others. Whether we are scrolling through social media or looking at the latest 40 under 40 list, it is so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves to other people. When we compare ourselves to others, we often end up feeling like we aren’t good enough and we start thinking that if we could just talk like them and look like them, we would be happy, loved, and accepted. In this post, I will help you to understand how comparing yourself to others holds you back and share three steps to identify and start contributing your gifts to the world.

I believe that low self-worth is both a symptom and a cause of comparing ourselves to others. When we compare ourselves to others and we end up on the bottom of that comparison, we feel unworthy. Also, when we feel unworthy, we are more likely to compare ourselves to others and look for evidence that we need to be like someone else in order to be worthy. Comparing ourselves to others can leave us in a cycle of feeling unworthy that’s tough to get out of.

What is heartbreaking about this is that when we are caught up in comparison and feeling unworthy we often try to fly under the radar and hold ourselves back from truly contributing our gifts to the world. In the midst of all of this comparing, we can forget that our communities, friendships, families, workplaces, and schools are enriched by having all different kinds of people in them. No work team or educational environment is improved by having a bunch of people who are exactly the same and there is research showing that teams with members from diverse backgrounds produce better work.

When we compare ourselves to others, we may start to believe that we need to be exactly the same as someone we admire in order to be good enough or successful. If you try to be just like someone else, the world misses out on the unique gifts and talents you have to offer. Imagine if every flower was a rose, or if every tree was an oak tree. Imagine if every song was an RnB song, or if every movie was a drama. The world would feel dull if everything was the same, we value and appreciate the diversity in nature, in our entertainment, and throughout our lives but we lose sight of this when we are thinking about ourselves.

The way to combat this comparison is to focus on your strengths and gifts that want to contribute to the world. Next, I am going to share three steps that will help you get out of the cycle of comparison.

Identify your strengths

Take some time to think about what your strengths are. Often our strengths are things that come easily, things we do naturally without thinking about it. Because of this, it can sometimes be hard to recognize our strengths. Think about what you are good at; what do people affirm you for or often ask you to do? For example, are you a good listener? Are you a good writer? A powerful speaker? Are you empathic? Do you ask great questions? Are you a wiz with numbers? Do you organize things well? Remember that your strengths do not have to be grand and that you don’t have to be the best at something to acknowledge your strength or gift in that area.

If you are having trouble identifying your strengths, consider talking with a close friend, loved one, or colleague about the strengths that they see in you.

Own your strengths

So often we disavow our strengths in an attempt to be humble but it doesn’t benefit anyone if we do not embrace our strengths. When we diminish our gifts and strengths, we miss out and the world misses out. Once you have identified some of your strengths I want you to own your strengths. When someone affirms you for your strengths, graciously thank them without rejecting their affirmation. When you have shared your gift in a situation and feel the power of connecting to your strengths, allow yourself to soak in that positive feeling and offer yourself gratitude for how you contributed to the situation. Owning your strengths is not arrogant, it allows your true nature to shine and helps you to connect to the things that make life meaningful.

Share your strengths

Once you have identified and owned your strengths, consider how you would like to share them in the spaces you are in. Would you like to ask thoughtful questions during team meetings or offer yourself as a person that colleagues can talk with when they need a listening ear? Instead of worrying about the possibility of making a mistake or how others might judge you, see if you can focus on how you want to contribute your strengths and gifts at work, school, and other situations. Remember that you do not have to be perfect to share your gifts, you can share your strengths and make mistakes. When you shift your focus from concerns about not being good enough to what you can contribute, you will likely feel more empowered and confident entering that situation.

I hope this blog post has inspired you to get out of the cycle of comparison and move into a space where you are owning and sharing your gifts and strengths with the world. I encourage you to take the time to write down your strengths and how you would like to share them in the places where you work and learn. Having this list will also be helpful during times when you get caught up in comparing yourself because you can return to the list to remember that you do have something to contribute.

5 Things to Know to Tap into the Transformative Power of Meditation

5 Things to Know to Tap into the Transformative Power of Meditation

I used to hate meditating and now I try not to go a day without meditating . Meditation helped me to move from a place where my energy was often anxious and frantic to a place where I am mostly calm and centered and able to shift out of anxiety when it arises. In this post, I will share how meditation has helped to transform my life and five things to know about meditation if you are just starting out.  

When I was first learning to meditate I did not like it at all. I am the type of person who is almost always moving, talking, or doing something and the idea of sitting still and doing nothing was not appealing at all. Since I didn’t see how meditation was helpful, I pushed back against meditating, telling my instructor that I’d rather do yoga or something that involved movement. Thankfully, I was learning to meditate as part of my clinical training so I had to stick with it. Over the three months of this training, I began to appreciate and settle in to the stillness of meditating. I was able to watch my racing thoughts and let them go without attaching to them. I was able to breathe deeply. I was able to calm and center myself.

Now, I try to make sure to meditate every morning because I know it helps to prepare me mentally and physically for the day ahead. It is in meditation and stillness where I connect to myself and what is most important to me. Most of my days are busy and outward facing as I am working with clients and managing administrative tasks. In contrast, meditation is the time when I go inward and center myself for the day ahead. It is when I exercise my agency for what I want my day to look like. It helps me to engage in my day with intention instead of from a place of reactivity. 

I definitely still have challenging days and do get frustrated and reactive at times but I know from experience that meditating in the morning helps me to face the challenges of life in a much more calm and centered way than I would be able to without it. This is the reason that I recommend meditation to almost all of my clients and I’m sharing this post because I want to encourage you to incorporate meditation into your life if you haven’t already. 

If you are apprehensive about meditating like I was in the beginning or have tried it before and didn’t like it, I encourage you to do an experiment: commit to meditating for 5-10 minutes 3x week for 2 weeks and just notice what it is like for you. How do you feel during meditation? How do you feel afterwards? Do you notice any differences in levels of frustration or anxiety on the days that you meditate? 

There are a lot of misconceptions about meditating that keep people from trying it, which is why I wanted to share 5 things to help you tap into the transformative power of meditation if you are you’re just starting out with meditation or if you are feeling stuck or frustrated with the process.

One: There is no such thing as being “bad” at meditation. Often people meditate once or twice and then stop because they think they are bad at meditating since their mind wanders while they meditate. I have news for you: I’ve been meditating for around 9 years and my mind still wanders when I meditate. The aim of meditation is not to stop your thinking but to practice noticing your thinking and then bring your attention back to the point of focus for the meditation. So let your mind wander all it wants when you meditate and see if you can notice and let go of your thoughts during your practice.

Two: The core of meditation is being present. So often we are caught up ruminating or reminiscing about the past or fantasizing or worrying about the future and through meditation we are guiding ourselves to be in this moment now. When we focus on the present moment we often find that life is more bearable. Being in the present moment is one of the most transformative aspects of meditation because it is in the present when we feel most calm and centered, it is in the present when our creativity can emerge, and it is in the present when we can connect to the full vibrancy of life.

Three: It can be helpful to use a guided meditation when you’re just starting out. When you are just starting sitting in silence can be challenging without any guidance. Using guided meditations can help remind you to bring your attention back to your breath or the present moment. Also, there are many different types of meditation and trying out guided meditations can help you find a stile that resonates most with you . There are a number of great meditation apps and my personal favorite is Insight Timer and I have also heard great things about Liberate, Calm, and Headspace

Four: Meditation is not intended to immediately make you feel better and calmer. Sometimes it does and that’s always great and I encourage you not to think of it as a quick fix but as an ongoing practice that will bring more more calm and peace over time. It is important to know that meditation will not help you to feel better immediately because if you use it that way, you are more likely to give up on it if it doesn’t take away all of your stress and anxiety in the moment. However, if you make an ongoing commitment to meditating regularly, you will see the benefits over time.

Five: If you already have a religious or spiritual practice, such as praying, reading scripture devotionals or spiritual texts, or listening to religious or spiritual teachings, I encourage you to connect your meditation to these practices. Taking time for stillness before or after you engage in your established practice may deepen the resonance you feel with the teachings you listen to and readings that you do. I encourage you to see what it is like to meditate 5 minutes before or after engaging in these practices. 

I hope this post has inspired you to start meditating or to return to meditation if you have not done it for a while. Meditation has become a core centering practice in my life and I hope you will experience similar benefits. At its core, meditation is about being in the present moment, not thinking about the past or worrying about the future but being present with your breath and with yourself in this moment. Meditation helps us to slow down to connect to what is most important and to allow this to guide and center us as we go about our lives.

How do you practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment?

How do you practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment?

You may be wondering if it is possible to practice gratitude in the midst of disappointment. You may feel torn between feelings of sadness and loneliness and the belief that you should be happy and grateful in your life right now. I want to encourage you to allow yourself to feel both your disappointment and your gratitude and in this post I share practices to help you do just that.

If you are experiencing disappointment as we enter the holiday season and we close out 2020, you are not alone. So much has been disappointing this year; you may have lost a loved one and been unable to grieve them like you wanted because of the pandemic, you may have lost a job that you really enjoyed and counted on for financial stability, you may have lost access to physical touch which helps you to feel calm and safe, you may have had to cancel trips or other plans that you were looking forward to. Whatever you have lost this year, I encourage you to give yourself space to grieve those losses. 

So often, we push ourselves to get over our pain by telling ourselves that someone else has it worse. While I think it is helpful to have perspective, we don’t want to invalidate our feelings by comparing them to what other people are going through. If we were only able to feel upset when no one else had something worse happen to them, we would never be able to feel hurt. When we judge ourselves for feeling the way we feel, we end up suppressing our feelings and they usually come back at a later time and in an unhealthy way. 

Feel your feelings

So what should you do instead? I suggest you start by allowing yourself to feel your hurt, pain, and disappointment. Allowing yourself to feel your emotions is not ruminating about what caused the disappointment but instead involves paying attention to the physical sensations associated with the emotion and allowing the feelings to be there without fighting them or pushing them away. As you pay attention to the physical sensations, see if you can offer yourself some comfort and love for the discomfort and pain you are experiencing. You may find that accepting your emotions actually helps them to pass more quickly than resisting them. Also, it is helpful to remember that our feelings show us that we are human and care about things and the difficult emotions we experience reflect the the gap between what we hoped would happen and what actually happened.

Acknowledge what you are grateful for

Once you have allowed yourself to feel your feelings, the next step is to intentionally look for things that you are grateful for in your life. There is ample evidence on the power of gratitude; it helps us to feel happier, it can soothe anxiety, and it can help to lift a depressed mood. When we practice gratitude, we shift our attention from what is wrong to what is going well. Our minds are naturally drawn to negative things and gratitude helps us to counteract this tendency.

Identifying what you are grateful for is not intended to invalidate your feelings, the aim is to hold the disappointment and the gratitude together. For me, this looks like allowing myself to feel disappointed and frustrated about having had to postpone my wedding and cancel trips this year while also acknowledging that I am grateful to have a partner who I know I want to marry, I am grateful that my parents and family members are healthy and safe, and that I’m excited about some things that I’m working on professionally. I hold all of these things together because they are all true for me and they do not invalidate or override each other. 

What would it look like for you to acknowledge your disappointments and your appreciations? What has been hard for you this year? And what are you grateful for right now? I encourage you take the time to reflect on these things and allow yourself to sit with the sadness and joy that may arise for you.

I hope this practice of holding your disappointments and gratitude together helps to bring you some peace in the midst of a turbulent year. I’d love for you to stay in touch by following me on instagram @dradiagooden and signing up to receive my free e-book on overcoming low self-worth and more messages like this from me.

Coping with Discrimination

Coping with Discrimination

Photo by Jeffery Erhunse on Unsplash

There has been a lot of focus recently on how organizations can improve related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and how individuals can work to be anti-racist. These conversations are necessary and it strikes me that there has been very little focus on how to support Black people as we navigate racism and discrimination in our daily lives. Additionally, so often, Black people are the ones tasked with the emotional labor of leading the diversity committee or the equity efforts without additional compensation. My hope is that the increased acknowledgement of the racial trauma in this country and the need for healing is shifting this dynamic . Unfortunately, the road to increased equity and inclusion and to ensuring that spaces are welcoming and affirming for Black people is long, and it is important that we prioritize taking care of ourselves during this time. In this post I will share some common reactions people have to experiencing discrimination as well as coping strategies to take care of yourself in the face of discrimination.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination involves being treated differently based on your identity or membership in a certain group. Discrimination could look like never being considered for a promotion because you are a Black women, not receiving challenging work assignments that could further your career, or not being compensated as much as your White male colleagues for the same work. Discrimination often manifests in the form of microaggressions, which are brief interactions that communicate negative views about people from your identity group. A classic example of a microaggression is having a colleague express surprise at how articulate you were when giving a presentation. The underlying message is that because you are a Black woman they assumed you weren’t smart enough too give a good presentation. These microaggressions and discrimination take a toll. Microaggressions and discrimination often leave us questioning ourselves and wondering if we did something wrong to cause someone to treat us poorly or with disrespect. Overall, experiencing discrimination is stressful and exhausting and in response to this stress we can cope in both helpful and unhelpful ways. Below, I highlight common responses to discrimination and my recommendations for healthy coping strategies.

Common Responses to Discrimination

Internalization – Internalizing racism and discrimination involves believing negative stereotypes about your group and feeling that being Black or a member of another historically oppressed group makes you inferior. When people internalize racism and discrimination they often try to distance themselves from other members of their group (e.g., a Black person who doesn’t want to be associated with other Black people). In attempt to manage the discrimination they experience these people have adopted the belief that there is something wrong with being Black because they bought into the dominant narrative about Black people in the US. This internalization is heartbreaking because it causes people to feel unworthy because of who they are.

Representative – Another way that discrimination impacts us is that it can make us feel like we must be the representative for everyone in our group. When you are the representative, you feel the pressure to perform perfectly in order to make sure that other members of you group who come after you will have a chance and be looked upon positively. Taking on the representative role is a lot of pressure and can be emotionally exhausting. Often, when people feel like they must be the representative they don’t feel like they can truly be themselves at work or at school and that they have to hide anything about themselves that could be seen in a negative light.

Overcompensating – Most Black people have been told by a family member that they must work 2-3 times as hard as their White peers to experience any success. The idea is that you have to overcompensate in order to be given the recognition that you deserve. When people overcompensate they adopt perfectionism in an attempt to disprove stereotypes. This often leads to people overworking and experiencing burnout, which is obviously a detriment to their health. Additionally, overcompensating rarely changes people’s negative views about your identity group, it only gets you labeled as an exception.

All three of these responses to discrimination can result in emotional exhaustion and negative feelings about yourself and your work. Take a moment to reflect on whether you have responded to discrimination in any of these ways. How have these things affected the way you think and feel about yourself and how you engage in work and school? Be kind with yourself with in this reflection and remember that whatever your response has been to any discrimination you have experienced, it has come from a place of trying to protect yourself. Next, I will share five healthy coping strategies to support you in navigating discrimination.

Coping Strategies for Discrimination

Acknowledge your experience – So often as Black people we tell ourselves to push through, we ignore our feelings for the sake of being strong, and we may fear that if we stopped to really acknowledge how we feel we would be too angry or upset to keep going. However, while ignoring and suppressing your feelings may be a little helpful in the short-term, it ultimately leads to bigger problems in the long term. Unprocessed anger, pain, and sadness can manifest as physical health issues and can result in getting upset with a family member or partner at another time. This is why my first recommendation is to acknowledge your experience of discrimination. Just naming and validating your experience can be a powerful step towards releasing and healing what happened to you. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, hurt, and anger related to what you have experienced and offer yourself compassion. Acknowledgment helps you to affirm that you are not crazy and that you have experienced something that is challenging and problematic.

De-personalize discrimination and microaggressions – As I mentioned earlier when discussing internalization of stereotypes, it is easy to start to believe the negative things society and colleagues may say about you and to start questioning yourself and feeling that you are being treated poorly because there is something wrong with you are. A powerful way to challenge this is by reminding yourself that you are not experiencing racism and microaggressions because there is a problem with you being a Black woman, for example, you are experiencing these things because there is racism and sexism present in our society and institutions. When people have a problem with you being Black that is their problem, not something that you are responsible for. Taking this stance does not mean that you never accept feedback or identify areas for personal or professional growth, it means that when you experience someone treating you in a biased way because of your identity, you remind yourself that their treatment is about them and the biased society we live and not about you.

Connect with people who look like you – There is a reason that affinity groups still exist and it is because there is a powerful sense of relief that we feel when we are in a space with people who share our identities and we know that we don’t have to prove our intelligence or value. If you are experiencing discrimination, it is important to find places and spaces where you can connect to other people from your identity group. This could be at your job or school or friends and colleagues outside of the place where you work or go to school. Having a safe space to vent about your experiences and have them validated by other people can relieve stress and help you to feel less alone.

Reflect on the experience and determine whether or not to take action – Once you have acknowledged your experience, depersonalized it and connected with other people for support and validation you can determine whether or not you would like to take action to address the discrimination you experienced. Sometimes it is empowering to address discrimination and microaggressions by talking with the person who was involved or to HR but sometimes that feels like emotional labor that is not worth the energy. Unfortunately, it is common for people to respond defensively when we call them out for inappropriate behavior and it is important not to rely on the response of someone who harmed you in order to make peace with the situation.

Set boundaries and take breaks – If you are experiencing a lot of racism, discrimination, and microaggressions, I encourage you to set boundaries around the time you spend engaging with work and school in order to protect your time and energy outside of work and school. Make sure to take breaks from work to recharge and connect with things and people who are important to you. As I mentioned earlier, overcompensating by engaging in work and school can exacerbate stress and when you are experiencing discrimination it is essential to take care of yourself by taking breaks.

I wish that in 2020 we didn’t still have to talk about how to cope with discrimination and microaggressions but unfortunately racism is still alive and well and in order for BIPOCs to thrive in this environment it is essential to adopt healthy coping strategies and take care of ourselves.

Preparing for the Relationship You Want

Preparing for the Relationship You Want

I spent years having conversations with friends and my therapist and my parents about how to find a partner who was a good match. My friends and I discussed the pros and cons of online dating, dating apps, meeting someone through friends or out and about. We discussed what we wanted in our partners; the degrees we wanted them to have, the careers they were pursuing, their political and religious beliefs, and personal characteristics. We vented our frustrations about the emotional ups and downs of dating; matching with someone on a dating app, chatting for a week, getting excited about a date, only to be disappointed when meeting in person. We cried together about relationship disappointments and how we might be able to choose better next time. What strikes me now, is that through all of these conversations, rarely did we discuss how we wanted to be as partners; the question of whether or not we were ready for the type of relationships we longed for was rarely asked or addressed. When I got into my relationship with my current partner I realized that I had spent far too little time preparing for the kind of relationship I wanted and reflecting on what it would look like for me to be a good partner.

When I started dating my current partner, I was caught off guard by how honest and straightforward he was. I was pleasantly surprised that he proactively planned dates, communicated that he liked me, expressed his desire for a committed relationship, and generally did what he said he was going to do. I was so used to not getting what I wanted in relationships that I struggled to be present and just enjoy our budding relationship without looking for things that were wrong. Upon reflection, I began to understand that I had become so accustomed to working to get past partners to commit that I was not used to just relaxing into a relationship. What I have concluded after growing in this relationship for over a year is that I had not spent enough time preparing myself for the kind of relationship I really wanted. I had been overly focused on trying to find the right partner and had not spent enough time thinking about how to be the kind of partner that would enable me to have the healthy, deeply committed, and intimate relationship I was longing for.

Is my story similar to yours? Have you spent a lot of time thinking about how you can find the right partner and what you want that person to be like, while neglecting to think about how you want to be as a partner? Have you failed to consider whether you are ready for the kind of commitment and relationship you are looking for? If this feels familiar to you I hope you will find my suggestions below, about how to prepare for the relationship you want, to be helpful. One thing that I have learned over the last year and a half of my relationship is that being the kind of partner you want to be is an ongoing process. I am continuing to grow and learn about myself as a partner and to identify ways that I can be a better partner to my fiancé. The suggestions below are intended to be ongoing practices that you revisit throughout your time dating and in a relationship. Continue reading “Preparing for the Relationship You Want”

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye

I recently said goodbye to a job I had for more than 4 years, a place where I did some of my initial training as a therapist and developed as a professional. As I said goodbye to colleagues who have become friends and work that I loved doing sadness, welled up in my chest. I felt the gravity of what I had experienced and done at that job along with the almost overwhelming gratitude for the love, joy, laughter, and growth that I experienced while working there. As I was saying “farewell” to my colleagues I understood why my clients so often avoid their emotions; our feelings can seem like too much to sit and be present with. I think this is part of why goodbyes can be so challenging for many of us. I am grateful that I was able to be present to these waves of emotion and to feel my feelings all the way through as a way of honoring the experience I had and the work  I did. Saying goodbyes in healthy ways allows us to appreciate the experiences and relationships we’ve had, reflect and learn from what we have gone through, and move forward unencumbered by the past.

All of us say numerous “goodbye’s” throughout our life; when we end relationships, when we move, when we change jobs, and when people we love die, we are forced to let go and acknowledge that something is over. In Stillness Speaks Ekhart Tolle says that “every ending is like a little death.” I think this is another reason that people do not like to say goodbye because it can feel like a part of you is dying; goodbyes force us to acknowledge that despite our best efforts to hold on to things, nothing lasts forever. As Black people, some of us may have a difficult relationship with saying goodbye because of the trauma we have experienced. Whether it is a loved one dying unexpectedly, someone being locked up in prison unfairly, or the legacy of separation of families during slavery, it can be difficult for Black people to say healthy goodbyes while processing the trauma we experience. Continue reading “Saying Goodbye”