As much as self-care has entered the mainstream conversation amongst black women as an essential act, it’s still a hard task. I actively search for self-care routines on social media (shoutout to that 21Ninety newsletter that hits my inbox every morning) in an attempt to prove to myself that I am really trying to take better care of myself. However, I realized that I can’t take time to care for myself without loving the person whom I’m caring for.
There are times when I feel so alone that I'm minimized into this caricature that is undeserving of love. For years, I’ve brainwashed myself into believing that it’s totally fine for someone to neglect me as long as they show an ounce or even the slightest glimpse of love or support. I would be too busy trying to give others the love that I wasn’t giving to myself just to have it not reciprocated in the end. And, I was ok with that. I learned to be ok with that. I taught myself that it was ok to be disrespected as long that person shows (or has shown) that they love you. I taught myself that I wasn’t worth the respect and acknowledgement that I deserved. Simply, I was taught to unlove myself by showering others with the love I wasn’t giving myself.
Yesterday was my breaking point. I’m writing this at 3 A.M. because I’m finally done with the lethargic task of loving others for the expense of myself. I’ve cried, been overwhelmed, second-guessed my worth, and spent over $200 at the grocery store within the past eight hours because of my foolishness in allowing people to blatantly disrespect me. I hate how I finally realized it now after years of being indirectly slapped in the face by people whose hits travelled beyond my external.
I’ve lost a valuable relationship. In fact, now I’m not sure if it was that valuable. Nevertheless, when she and her mother came into my life, I was ecstatic that I could finally have a friend who had the same ambitions as me after years of feeling lonely. Her energy was so magnetic that I was so sure that we would be the best of friends. Because we had the same goals, we decided to go into business together in an attempt to reach our ultimate goal that we knew was going to be monumental in the city of Chicago. However, it seemed like our business goals would be focal point of our conversations during the rare occasion that we did talk to each other. In fact, she was more of a business partner than she was a friend. Most of the time, we didn’t talk at all. Unread texts seemed to become more than just an “Oh, I forgot”, but I dismissed it and made excuses because I knew that deep down inside there was no malicious intent involved.
Thus, when her mom basically did the same thing to me by not acknowledging me as apart of her team for her business, I dismissed that too as an oversight from a very busy woman who had too much going on to acknowledge lil ole’ me. Even after the first time it happened, I was still on board to do whatever she needed me to do for the next event, knowingly leading myself to be unacknowledged again. Welp, it happened again, and I was still ready for the next event, up until yesterday.
Prior to yesterday, though, I received a call from the mom. I thought the call would be an explanation of why I wasn’t included in her acknowledgements and recognition for my work during the event, but it was for something totally different. It was about the issues I am having with my mom (another post for a different day). She lectured me on what I was doing wrong and urged that I should do better. Although I listened to her wisdom, she caught me off guard a bit because this is her first time calling me…..like ever. I found it weird that our first phone conversation would be about how “terrible” I am as a daughter. She’s never called to see how I was doing before or to simply talk to me although she claimed I’m like a “daughter” to her. Still, my “yes, you’re right” after the advice she gave proved I was willing to overlook that in order comply with what she was telling me.
Her daughter, my “best friend”, followed up with an unexpected text yesterday (two days later). She basically said that she couldn’t be friends with me anymore because I’m not “of God” and she was disgusted by the way I was treating my mom. She mentioned that we couldn’t be “best friends” because she couldn’t be associated with someone who’s having problems with her mom. This also blindsided me because our last line of communication was me inviting her to an event and her never getting back to me about her attendance. Our line of communication is usually like that-----me texting her, and she not texting back-----when we’re not talking about our next event. However, it has progressed recently, and I’d hoped our relationship would get better. Nevertheless, I told her how I felt while still (ironically) invalidating my feelings when she explained her reasoning. Then, she abruptly ended the conversation and blocked me from her social media pages. Her mom just unfriended me on Facebook and stopped following me on Instagram.
Prior to this, I never received a phone call or text inquiring how I felt regarding the situation with my mom. It would have been nice to receive a "Hey, sis. Is everything ok?". They were immediately ready to dismiss me once they heard my mom’s complaints. And just like that, I’ve been made to seem like the “bad guy” because I tried to express how I felt. Why did I invalidate my feelings when talking to her? Why did I continue to be in a relationship in which reciprocity or respect for me clearly didn’t exist? Why was I so distraught when they dismissed me from their lives and social media realm?
Because I wanted them to like me, and I failed at doing that. Unfortunately, I’m inherently a people pleaser; I will do whatever it takes to make someone like me, even if that means it costs my self-worth because I’m not used to people taking interest in me. Whenever that tiny spark of interest presents itself, I do anything in my power to keep it. Too often, black girls overwhelm themselves by trying to be everything to everybody else when they do nothing for themselves, and they end up with so much pain because of it. That’s how I felt last night. Among the array of emotions of feeling overwhelmed, betrayed, and utterly disrespected, culpability plagued my mind. I couldn’t sleep last night because I had this guilt that felt all too familiar. Amid the hurt I felt, I managed to continue to make myself the culprit and victimize them. That was just another act of me invalidating my feelings.
I refuse to consistently neglect my feelings. No longer will I allow myself to be a doormat for somebody else’s ego. I can’t continue to sacrifice myself so that others can feel good about themselves. I matter. I am important in this world. My existence warrants some respect, and I’d be damned if I risk losing my confidence again just to garner attention.
While self-care is a necessary work, self-love is even more important. I’m in a new phase of my life, and I can’t allow anyone to get in the way of my quest for happiness and inner peace. Unsurprisingly, I’ve lost a lot of seemingly meaningful relationships along the way. I’ve learned to be ok with that because if people can’t like me in this journey of self-discovery, then they weren’t intended to be in my life at all. They were only a roadblock to happiness.