When I started my self-love journey back in 2012, I had no idea what I was doing. I operated in secret because I was too ashamed to admit that I needed help and I didn’t yet have a name or a language to articulate what I was feeling. At the time, every decision I made was rooted in fear. I would wait until my house was empty or everyone was asleep to journal because I learned very quickly that journaling to some, was a form of secrecy. I had been accused of keeping secrets after initialing refusing to let my significant other at the time, read my journal. Even listening to music was suspicious, especially if songs like Jessie J’s Big White Room, played on repeat. Most days, I drove to work in tears. My car became the one space that I could be completely vulnerable. I played songs that rallied my heart’s cry and soothed it all at once. I drove to stores to try on clothes that I couldn’t afford but often imagined where I could go in such beautiful garments. I perfected putting on a happy face, even though I was face down in the mud.
It has taken me nearly 7 years to begin operating in wholeness. Over the years I have made small discreet changes like getting up an hour early to sip coffee in sweet solitude to major changes like packing my 3 babies up and moving in with my father. Nevertheless, with each trial and error of this journey, I’ve picked up a few tips that have helped me to sustain my inner growth and I like to share 3 that are the simplest to implement and maintain: get up, dress up and show up.
- Get up. I once heard author Elizabeth Gilbert say, “God is whatever lifts your face out of the dirt.” I have learned that with love all things begin and end the moment you take a step forward. It takes one decision to activate the first step and the first step to trodden the path that leads you to wholeness-but none of it matters unless you get up. Every day that your eyes crack open, is an opportunity to raise yourself out of the dirt. Get up. Even when you’ve cried yourself to sleep and your body is a million times too heavy, get up. Laying in bed can be a dangerous seduction. You feel like it’s the safest place to be, but in reality, it only pacifies and breeds more of the fear that holds you captive and keeps you broken.
- Dress up. For many years, I didn’t shop for clothes for myself. I was made to feel that “looking cute” was an invitation for other men to approach me or a blatant attempt to disrespect my marriage. So, because I would rather keep the peace than to argue how ridiculously insecure this was, I wore clothes that were out of style, drabby and too big. Shopping for myself was out of the question and even thrifting was unacceptable. It wasn’t until I decided to fight against the projection of this insecurity that I saw just how important getting dressed was. When I put on clothes that fit and are a true reflection of how I see myself, I feel a surge of confidence immediately. The ritual of getting dressed has become one of the best forms of free therapy. Yes, therapy. Dressing up helps to set the tone for the day. It’s me walking into the arena (thanks, Brene’ Brown), ready to take on whatever challenges I may face. In my profession, it often communicates to others how I should be approached. I exude confidence, even if I don’t feel it. Not only do I dress up externally, but I also dress up mentally and spiritually. I play music that speaks to me, like Jessie J’s Queen (the acoustic version) or L. Spenser Smith’s My Life. I recite my favorite scriptures, Jeremiah 29:11, Luke 1:45 and Zechariah 4:10 to set up my mind for a purpose. These days, I have fallen in love with makeup. I carve out time in the morning to apply it because, for me, it’s like the cherry on top. Dress your mind and your body every day.
- Show up. You can’t grow where you won’t go. Sure, I could shut myself off from people and the outside world but I would never become whole if I do. I got through some of my darkest days by showing up for the people who depended on me. Even though I cried all the way to work, I gave my best to my students. I checked homework and made my children dinner. I attended family functions, grocery shopped, groomed the dog, mowed the lawn and fulfilled my wifely duties all while being a complete mess on the inside. Yet, the more I showed up, the more tolerable I became with my circumstances until I got to the point where I could change them.
I have discovered that growth truly happens when we get up to face our fears, dress up with confidence and show up for our lives. This is how you turn fear into fuel. This is how you push forward and power through to becoming a more complete version of yourself. 2019 is all about doing what it takes and this is what it takes.