To Thine Own Self Be True

I don’t recall when I first heard these words, but never have words been so evident in my life as these have been.  My self-love journey has taken me down many pathways; I have experienced some peaks and have wandered aimlessly in the valley, yet through it all, the most prevailing truth has been to embrace and practice self-trust every day that I have breath!

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I recently spoke at a women’s empowerment seminar and I wanted to share some epiphanies that I’ve had as I learn to trust the woman in the mirror more and more.

To the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta Inc.

My name is Traci Sanford and I am alive for the first time in my life! I stand before you as the most whole, complete, fulfilled, loved and honored that I have ever felt in my life.  I have immeasurable and immense love all around me.  I am head over hills, madly in love, crazy in love with an equally powerful man who matches me in word, deed, and swag.  He is a true king to this queen.  I have six beautiful, happy and healthy children- one daughter and five sons-y’all pray for me!  I am also a teacher at an urban middle school in Lexington, but my masterwork, my calling is teaching and mentoring women both young and seasoned how to live a lifestyle of self-love.  I recently launched The CRWND Life LLC, which is the umbrella of my self-love coaching, mentoring and empowerment speaking services.

The woman that I am today is a direct result of embodying self-love as a lifestyle.  To get here though, I had to accept some truths about myself.  I had to accept that where I was in my life then, was a direct result of the fact that I had at some point in time in my life become content with the idea that everything that I had experienced, from girlhood to adulthood, I deserved.  Everything!  From compliments to being choked out my kitchen, I deserved.  This kind of toxic and faulty mindset was rooted in the fact that I put my trust in everyone and everything, but myself.  So I want to share with you three stages of self-trust that I have identified through my experiences.

Stage One-Identity Crisis:  Who am I now and to myself?

When I made the decision to divorce my children’s father,  I suddenly felt like every title that I had-wife and mother-were stripped from me.  I was no longer the ideal two-parent household, happily married wife.  It was all I had come to be and now it was gone.  I was now about to be a divorcee and co-parenting.  I had to first let the devastation that I had a broken marriage run its course.  I had to grieve my former self so that I could make room for a newer version of me to begin to form.

Stage Two-Vision:  Here’s what I am, but here’s who I see.

Throughout my 15 year relationship, I secretly wrote in hundreds of journals.  I had them all over my house; in the bathroom, in kitchen cabinets, in my closet.  I would steal away to write whenever I could.  Within my writing, a pattern started to emerge:  I was always writing as a version of myself that was the complete opposite of who I was in reality.  The woman in my journals was strong and beautiful.  She was one with God and saw herself as a protector, provider and of a sound mind.  She was sexy and fierce, her voice was powerful, clear and concise and she never shook when she spoke her truths.  She was an ass kicker, vixen, CEO, healer, comedian, poet, dancer, wife, girlfriend, mother and friend-all of the things that I only fantasized about, but never really thought I could be.  The more I wrote her story, the more disrupted and unsettled my reality became.  I came to realize that the woman in my journals was already me, I just had to find a way to connect her to who I was.

Stage  Three-Do It Anyway:  Execution of a plan to become who I see.

Stage three is where I am now.  I have fully embraced becoming in all ways the woman from my journals.  She is not a figment of my imagination, she is ME.  She had always existed, I just lacked the ability to trust that I could do the work to manifest her.

Self-trust is knowing and believing that no matter what the outcome of any decision, be it positive or negative, I can handle the outcome.  The moment I embraced that self-trust is what solidifies our decision making and builds our capacity to take risks and move out of our comfort zones was the moment that I became true to who I am as a woman.  Life as I am meant to live it was revealed.  I am alive!  I am healthy and I am happy inside and out.

The moment we become aware of ourselves through the lens of self-trust is the moment that we begin to live the lives that we imagine.  We become who we are destined to be in an instant and the process of manifesting our best selves becomes our reality.  It is then that we start living our best lives.

Choose self-trust today.  Your life awaits you.

Back to Light: 3 Tips to Pull Yourself Out of Darkness and Into the Light.

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I must confess that I haven’t been operating as my best self.  This past couple of weeks, the challenges that I have faced have left me faced down in the mud.  I have cried in secret, found myself increasingly obsessing about changing my physical space, I have operated in a daze, lost my cool with my kids more than once, had a full-blown argument with my husband (our 2nd ever), all the while posting to my social media tips about how to reign supreme in your life daily.  Talk about irony.  Normally, I would allow myself to dive into a full-on pity party-dwelling on how terrible I have behaved, how much I haven’t accomplished, feeling like I am a fraud and not cut out to perform the work that I KNOW that I have been commissioned by my God to do.  I have experienced a complete spectrum of joy and pain in such a short time, but why?  Why am I experiencing life in this way, in this space and time?  How did I get here? God, what did I miss?  Questions that need answers.  As I was feeling the devastation of my present disposition, it occurred to me that I am fully in control of how long I remain in this unpleasant slump.  I was reminded that as easily as I relinquished my thoughts, actions, and feelings to the dark, I can most assuredly pull myself out and back into the light!

I offer you 3 tips to do the same:

1. Stop and say thank you.  One of the most powerful actions that we can take to moving ourselves from darkness back to the light, is to stop and be grateful.  I shared this week how I was feeling so overwhelmed with life’s challenges and in the midst of my crying my mind shifted to the fact that God has made me strong.  I literally started repeating, “thank you for making me strong.” The more I recited this simple thanks, the faster my mind and body began to shift from overwhelmed to ‘I’ve made it through this before.’  It was a powerful, yet simple action.  It’s easy to think of all the negative shit that we have going on: lack of funds, tension within the family, that endless to-do list, but deciding to stop and choose gratitude, shifts our minds from the negative back to what we’ve already overcome.  Life’s happenings don’t stop, but we can stop and shift our internal messaging by simply saying thank you.

2. Pray and revisit.  Once I moved from the place of being overwhelmed to a place of gratitude, I instantly felt physically better and I felt a mental relief.  Mind you, I was experiencing all of this alone.  Sometimes, it is not for us to bring in someone else (unless danger is imminent), but it is for us to practice and reengage in the work that brought us into light in the first place.  For me it is prayer.  My prayers are not beautifully scripted and sometimes sound a lot like rambling, but nevertheless, I pray.  There are times that my prayer is a simple thank you and other times it’s God, it’s me!  I have learned that God doesn’t need me to be able to recite scripture or even remind Him of what he’s done when I pray, He just needs the invitation to come in comfort and remind me that He made me strong.  Not only do I pray, but I revisit the very things that helped to guide me to light in the first place.  I revisit old journal entries, I look at photos, listen to songs and reread parts of books that were life altering.  What got me to a place of joy can get me there again.  One thing that I am mindful not to do is to go looking at other people’s joy because this most assuredly breeds comparison.

3.  Take one small step.  In order not to make the work of getting back to joy and to light overwhelming, we have to take small steps.  I do this by engaging in something as small as doing a 30-second plank or making a cup of coffee and sipping it in silence.  I read for a few minutes, go play with make-up or check-in with a friend or loved one.  All of these simple actions put my mind at ease so that I can then focus on the deliberate steps that I need to tackle the issues that put me in a dark place.  The time I take to sip that cup of coffee, allows me to focus on one thing that’s going to turn a dark situation to one of light.

There’s no shame in falling into darkness, the shame is choosing to stay there.  Light awaits us every day and so does darkness.  You have the power to choose where you want to dwell.  May you choose the light over the darkness!



Three Tips To Sustain Inner Growth

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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.

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.



Time to Give Up

By Traci Chanel

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I had an epiphany (gosh I love this word) around day 36 of #QwnSzn and it was this:  sometimes you gotta know when to give up.  I know. It sounds weird coming from me as I believe in the power of just do it and doing it anyway, but I’m not exactly talking about giving up as in quitting.  Let me explain.

I recently read an article about Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba. It was about the three questions he asks himself daily that he says helps him to find success and achieve goals.  My kind of shit.  On my own personal evolution journey, I often ask myself “big questions.”  I discovered the power of asking oneself important questions sometime ago, but I was really intrigued by the simplicity of Ma’s questions.  They are, What do I have?, What do I want?, and What will I give up?  Simple right?  I read through Ma’s application of each question-all great, but it was my own Auntie Oprah aha that made them profound.  Here’s my epiphany:

Question 1 What do I have?  I knew right away that this question had internal and external applications.  Internally, this question is about gratitude.  It’s about acknowledging what I’ve already accomplished and being grateful for everything that I’ve come through and thankful for what I have because truthfully, I live in the present, in the now and that’s the only thing that is real.  The past is over and done with and the future is only a well thought out maybe that I have no guarantee of living.  The only guarantee that anyone has is that one day we will all take one last breath.  I digress.  Externally, the question becomes actionable when I take stalk of what resources I have available to me in order to work a plan.

Question 2 What do I want?  This question is like an invitation to dream with focus; to become absolute with a vision and set a goal.  I believe that this question can only be asked after expressing gratitude.  It’s important to know that who I am at the moment is my highest form of self, who I dream to be is my next level self.  Make no mistake, I know that I am worthy right now.  So, this question gives the opportunity for me to make the vision plain and clear, to know and express exactly what I want and make a plan.

Question 3 What will I give up?  This is the question that made me bow my head shamefully. It was the one that choked me up.  I couldn’t answer it because it was showing me up.  I felt like I was being accosted.  No seriously.  This question made me shift in my seat, I was so uncomfortable with my answer.  My answer to this question shined a light on a horrible habit that I have, procrastination.  Procrastination is like a drug.  It temporarily soothes pain and momentarily takes one away from suffering.  So to ask me what I am willing to give up? Shit, it was like asking me to choose how I  would like to suffer and who wants to do that?

I learned from Mark Manson, writer of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, that knowing what pain we want in our life and what we are willing to struggle for steers our choices.  See, our choices either drive us closer to our goal or take us off course.  Then it hits me.  I choose procrastination because it delays my perceived suffering.  My dreams then, starve to death and the cycle repeats.  It happens every time I get excited or a dream comes to me.  I envision myself living the dream and even make a plan.  Soon as I have to commit (which means I have to give up something) or it gets hard and I lose motivation-I procrastinate.  Every. Single. Time.

I decided to ask myself the three questions.  What do I have?  This was easy to answer.  #QwnSzn is all about gratitude, so I breezed through this question.  What do I want?  I had several answers for this one: financial freedom, accountability, a farm, Essence Fest and the list goes on.  I admit that when it came to the third question, my hand shook to write its answer.  What will I give up?  The first thing I wrote was give up immediate gratification-this is hard for me. I took a breath. Then my heart poured out.  Give up impatience.  Give up old limiting mindsets.  Give up idle time or the seduction of idle time.  Give up comparing my timeline to others.  Give up the thought of instant success.  Give up the illusion of daydreaming as being the same as action.  Give up sleep (sometimes).  Give up failing to plan. Give up bullshit standards.  Give up what other’s want for me.  Give up what I think I can’t do.  Give up hesitating.  Give up being content and comfortable.  Give up procrastination.  Give up starving my ideas.   Jack Ma and Mark Manson are not at all that deep with their questions.  They simply understand that there is no gain without pain. Period.  It is now day 44.  I am in the process of answering these questions to plan for the last couple of months of 2018 and the end of #QwnSzn.  I know what I have.  I know what I want and I damn sure know what I am giving up.

I challenge you to ask yourself these same questions


Fall For You

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If ever there were a time of year where life slows down for all the right reasons, it is the fall.  The name itself is indictive of winding down and settling in.  The days get shorter and nights longer, the trees are in their final dress rehearsal before the winter’s rest.  The world seems to shift as people prepare for the great gatherings of family to eat and be merry, and just truly enjoy each other’s company.  This is time of year calls for the generosity of strangers and displays of loving thy neighbor and is topped with the celebration of a new year.

As I reflect over this year’s highs and lows, I am full of gratitude.  It seems with every trial and tribulation, some how a spirit of thankfulness wrapped me in the warmth of peace, even as I watched life’s chaos rage about.  I am thankful that my family is intact and with it came the blessing of holy matrimony to the man God custom made for me.  Thankful for provision, in that my school created a position for me that allows for me to flex and grow as an educator and the compensation is more that enough.  Thankful for the peace and serenity that true friendships and sisterhood bring.  My whole world up to this very moment has kept me in a state of gratitude.  I find myself whispering, “thank you for love.” “Thank you for my life.” The theme of my journaling is gratefulness.  I have found that saying thank you seem to attract more reasons and opportunities to give more thanks.  Unexpected blessings seems to be around every bend.  I feel as if every heartfelt thank you that my heart utters brings me into alignment with abundance.  I declared at the beginning of September that this was the month of abundance-I have yet to see a day that it has not come into fruition.  From a beautiful wedding day to finding an extra $10 bucks in the washer-I count it all!

This season, I am pushing myself to do something new.  There are exactly 100 days between now and January 1.  Starting today, I am challenging myself to fall in love with the woman I am.  Not becoming, but who I am right at this moment.  It is so easy to get caught up in the vision of who I could be or am becoming, that I forget that I am already a beautiful version of my best self! I accepted long ago that growth is beautiful and a necessary process.  We should all be striving to learn something new that will help us to evolve and live better, more fulfilling lives-but one should never neglect that we exist in the now.  The present is all that matters anyway.  The future is not guaranteed.  Shit happens everyday that turn our well laid plans and intentions to scrap.  That’s just life.

Starting today, September 23, 2018 it is Queen Season.  The next 100 days are dedicated to the intentional practice of self-care and gratitude.  I will be showering myself with love and finding a reason to be grateful. I will be intentionally reminding myself that I am a Queen.   I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next 100 days and it really doesn’t matter.  What matters is that I am falling for myself.  I intend to let myself know everyday that I am enough and that I determine my worth.  I define who it is that I say I am.  I make my own declarations and affirm myself-not for the world to see and say, “oh how great thou art,” but it is to remind myself that my existence is a testament to how great my God is and that loving myself is the best thank you.  Self-love opens us to all that’s good in this world.  It attracts this life’s best light and helps us to shine when our days become dark.  It reminds us to always be grateful.

I invite you to take the next 100 days to practice gratitude.  Instead of complaining or dwelling on the negative, find a reason to be thankful.  I welcome you to indulge in loving yourself intentionally for the next 100 days.  Drink more water.  Learn a new stretch.  Play with a new style.  Try out a new lip color.  Read a sexy novel.  Unfollow a toxic social media account-whatever you do that’s good for you.  Finally, journal about it.  There are truly immense benefits of journaling.  This will be an opportunity to focus the experience.  It is an investment in yourself that will give you a great return.  This season, fall for you.

Finding Solace

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Solace is defined as comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.

Recently, I posted to my personal Facebook page about an experience I had with finding solace.  Days before the post I had been struggling.  This struggle was a familiar one; feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, confusion,  onset of crying, and silence.  Yep, depression was trying to slide its way back into my life.  I was fresh off just my first conference as a keynote speaker.  It was a glorious triumph!  I had spoke my truth and offered encouragement and was able to deliver just as I had dreamed.  The entire conference itself was a testament to the words that I live by daily, do it anyway.  This was me living out my dreams of empowering other women to apply and live out their own mantras.  I should have been ready for the tests to come.

I truly believe that when we begin to act on any endeavor, that it is sent out into the universe and as soon as we begin doing, the tests come.  I felt as if I had been jumped by depression.  As if it grew arms and literally suckered punched me.  This particular bout had me on the ground and was kicking my ass y’all!  I found myself crying out of nowhere and I was overly sensitive to everything.  I didn’t want to write.  I didn’t call on my loved ones.  I did exactly what I always do: sink.  I had trouble sleeping and things that should have been normal tasks, became overbearing.  Seriously, laundry is not that hard.  Yet, I found myself in the laundry room feeling unappreciated as a mother because the boys left their laundry unsorted.  This is what depression does.  It tricks us out of being happy.  It makes small tasks seem gargantuan and whispers falsehoods.  Even though I was sinking, I started to recognize the small instances of joy.  I watched some Facebook videos of people demonstrating kindness.  I would see posts of friends reporting out their personal wins and hit the like button.  The more I paid attention to the good happening, the more my spirit began to float to the surface.  I jammed to uplifting music.  I played with my toddler.  I was getting lifted! My sister asked me to fix her dinner and that’s when I had an epiphany;  my solace is in my service to others.

Like I wrote in my post, “when you actively and intentionally begin to align yourself with God’s plan (speaking at the conference), you can’t stop thinking and dreaming of ways to SERVE!  Our lives are not our own.  Some of you all are stuck or stagnant (or sinking) because you forget that your life is part of something bigger.  These last few days, my mind was grey (I confessed). I couldn’t figure out  what it was that I needed.  Sure enough, I found solace (focusing on the good) and just like that I got back to what I know, service.  I was making my sister dinner and God began to pour into me (this is where is gets good y’all).  He was giving me ways to serve and showing me all the resources around me to bring it into fruition.  Y’all I burst into tears!  I can’t help but to shower folks with love because it is how my own cup gets refilled,” I wrote.

I realized after the post, that my solace-that comfort that I didn’t know I was seeking-is in service to others.  I realized that the not knowing what I needed was my sign that I needed to be poured into.  I had given the conference my all and I needed to be filled up.  Service is how God fills me up.  When I step outside of myself in service to others, whether through deed or word, I grant myself the opportunity to connect to God.  Service brings joy not only to others, but to the server.  God is moved and He begins to reveal Himself.  I had to get outside of myself to find solace.  The tools of depression-loneliness, silence, and hopelessness-run amok in our minds first and then manifests outside of ourselves in our behaviors like crying or not getting out of bed.

If you are in the grey or maybe you are in the darkness, wherever you are solace is closer than you think.  It is in a child’s smile, it’s in kind words, it’s in letting a car out at busy intersection.  It can be found in the melody of your favorite song.  Solace is in remembering those moments of joy in your life.  It’s reminding yourself that your life is purposed not just for to enjoy, but for others to discover that same joy from your story.  Step out of yourself.  Reread a good book.   Take a walk.  Pull out old photos.  Watch a good movie, I recommend  Disney’s Coco. It will fill your heart with more joy and appreciation than you could imagine.  Trust me.  Finding solace requires a small bit of courage to step outside your mind and to just look around you.  It’s really quite simple.