3 Healing Reminders For Young Black Creatives

High anxiety is one of my biggest individual struggles as an entrepreneur and a writer. I can explain most of these feelings away and remind myself that anxiety is something created in my own mind. I remind myself that what I'm creating is worthwhile. I remind myself of the hard work that I've put into my business as a 22-year-old self-sufficient entrepreneur. But no matter how much I remind myself of what I know to be true, anxiety can still creep in. It's the fear that you'll never be "successful". It's the fear that you'll never be "recognized". It's the fear that whatever you're building will crumble to the ground if you look away even for a moment. Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives -- especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly.Anxiety is a common motif amongst young black creatives -- especially young black women. I see brilliant women every day questioning their worth constantly. I'm not immune to this. This week, I wanted to write about reassurance and how to remind yourself that you don't need the world to validate you, especially when it's slated to invalidate you at every turn and diminish your accomplishments.

  1. Remind yourself that anxiety does not always represent reality. You might feel like you are not doing "enough". But this negative self-talk doesn't help you accomplish what you really need to in the long term. When we punish ourselves for not being "enough" by some arbitrary standard, we impede our ability to reach our true potential. This isn't just B.S., it's real. I need to remind myself often that anxiety doesn't help me. It is an obstacle created by my own mind and doesn't represent who I am. In general, when we are bogged down by where we "should be", we prevent ourselves from getting where we need to go.

  2. There is no timeline we need to adhere to when it comes to "success". I tend to find success is a word that we can only define for ourselves. Still, we tend to constantly look outwards for a definition of success to live up to. This plays a role in clouding our self-image and leads to a lot of judgment of ourselves.

    To me, success means accomplishing the goals I have set for myself within the timeframe that I have chosen for myself. It doesn't have to mean the same thing for everyone. Success doesn’t define my happiness — although it does make up a part of it.

    We tend to look around us and see people who are far younger than us or sometimes far older than us who have already arrived where we want to go. (Or where we think we want to go.) We view them as "successful" in juxtaposition to ourselves when we may not even have the same goals as the person we are comparing ourselves to. The comparison doesn’t make logical sense, yet we fully identify with it.

    We may feel envy, we may feel inadequate and all of these feelings stymie our growth. The place we want to go seems further away when we look towards other people as our benchmark for how well we are doing. When we look at how we are managing our own lives, and how we are adhering to goals that we set for ourselves, we often find that our views of ourselves become far gentler. I advocate a more gentle view of ourselves in relation to "success". I advocate for success taking on a different definition than the one we see around us and the world.

    3. Rest and recovery are more important than any “benefit” that may come with working ourselves to death. Sometimes when you become invested in your goals, your ideas, and the things that you want to accomplish, you can forget to take care of yourself. This happens to a lot of creative people and also happens to a lot of entrepreneurs. Instead of continuing to run in circles and exhausting ourselves to the point where we become physically or mentally sick, I want to advocate for rest and recovery.

    We need to take our health seriously and begin to prioritize our health above external goals that we may be chasing. (*Note: in some cases, many people do not have a choice and I do not intend this to come off as judgmental.) Self-care has become almost clichéd in online circles but this is because typically in our society, we glorify people who do not take care of themselves, people who put work and the lack of sleep and accomplishments over self-care.

    It is not necessary to delete ourselves from existence in order to be successful or to feel happy with where we are in life. Young black creatives need to remember that taking care of our health will actually enable us to accomplish more over time. It is easy to get sucked into different messages we may hear that tell us otherwise, but I strongly advocate for paying attention to our internal clock and our internal needs.

    Do not look to the outside world to determine what you need, instead, determine it for yourself. Take care of yourself. Invest your energy into becoming aligned with your internal needs and work towards fulfilling these internal needs. It is not up to other people to determine what you need for yourself. It is up to you.

    All of these snippets of reassurance seem elementary but it is shockingly easy to forget them when we get sucked into the daily grind. Anxiety creeps up and self-care can seem dangerous. We tell ourselves that putting ourselves first is letting down our family, our community or ourselves. However, it is important to ground ourselves in reality rather than listening to the anxious voices that are racing through our minds telling us that we are not good enough.

    Good enough for what? Good enough for who? Our allegiance needs to be to ourselves and to our health first.

    I want to write as a final note to the young black creative folks out there to keep doing what you do best. Make art. Take photographs. Write. Share genuine love with each other. In trying times, all we have is each other and our support systems. We need to build these support systems and make them strong. But we must take care of ourselves in order to do so.


Intersectional Feminism: Abuse & Feminism

Abuse and feminism are incompatible, yet many people who call themselves feminists are also abusers. It sounds like a drastic or incorrect statement, but we know it's true either from experience or through reading. That's why there are articles like this one on Everyday Feminism, warning you about the types of feminist men who abuse their status as feminist allies. That's why in activist circles, there are high status individuals who get away with bullying, coercion and other forms of abuse. We intuitively know that simply stating that you're a feminist doesn't change your ability to abuse people, yet many of us call ourselves feminists without reading literature on abuse, checking ourselves for these "toxic" behaviors or by practicing non-abusive forms of communication with our loved ones.  We know that this is true, but we still don't believe victims or survivors who come forward about their experiences.

But still, abuse and feminism are incompatible, so what can we do to ensure we stop normalizing abuse in our communities and our relationships? For our feminist work to be meaningful, it has to be void of all manner of exploitation, so learning about abuse and ending abuse is critical! With abuse, we cannot have liberation for women. We cannot have liberation for any group of oppressed people when we accept oppressive power dynamics in relationships. After all, social norms are built off of our every day relationships and how they function.

I have five suggestions for what we can do to change the way we relate to each other and work on expunging abuse from our lives. Note well!! I do not mean this as a guide for how victims should respond to abuse, but rather what we can do to ensure that we are not abusing others and showing compassion to people in our community who have experienced abuse (whether emotional, physical, financial etc.)

Learn To Empathize With Victims Of Abuse (Including Yourself!)This means believing people who come forward about abuse. This means speaking out against abusers in your community and not covering up their abuse for the sake of social status. This means educating yourself about the reality that victims of abuse live in. When you learn the truth and learn to never blame victims of abuse, you'll have finished the first step in extending empathy to victims. Do your research! Some great resources about abuse can be found on the Center of Disease Control website or in the book Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft.If you are a victim or a survivor or some kind of abuse, be sure you extend this empathy to yourself too.

Study Non-Violent Communication And Boundary SettingTo do what you can in your own life, you can practice non-violent communication. This blog shows some "rules" for fair-fighting that do not include yelling or belittling your partner. Yes, everyone is allowed to be angry, but no one is allowed to degrade another person out of anger. Studying ways to communicate with people in our lives without violence even when we're angry ensures that we have relationships where we promote healthy communication instead of verbal abuse and intimidation to manipulate the other person into our point of view.Setting boundaries is an aspect of fighting abuse that will allow us to clearly delineate what behavior we will and will not accept from others before we start friendships or relationships with people. Having a clear idea of our boundaries is not a fool-proof way to prevent abuse. However, it has the potential to help us weed out people who test boundaries instead of respecting them implicitly.

Recognize Your Toxic Habits And Practice Changing ThemThis is in line with studying non-violent communication but includes other ways you might be using abusive or manipulative tactics to get your way with the people in your life. Do you use the silent treatment to get a partner to acquiesce to your wishes? Do you yell until your partner agrees? Are you dishonest about your intentions in a relationship to get what you want?These are only a few toxic habits, but looking at your behavior for toxic habits and then learning alternative ways to get your needs met can improve all of your relationships. When you work towards healthy communication, respect for others' boundaries and setting healthy boundaries of your own, you can only see positive results! Relationships based on positivity and respect are far more fulfilling than those built on abuse and manipulation. It almost goes without saying, yet some people equate abuse/manipulation with love when really, the two can never coexist.

Learn "Red Flags" That Will Help You Identify (And Avoid) Abusers. Abuse is 100% the responsibility of the abuser. I reluctantly put this point on because I know there is a lot of room for it to be invalidated as well as a lot of room for it to be misinterpreted. I decided to add it because even if abuse is not the responsibility of the victim, it can't hurt to become aware of some red flags. If abuse is normal in your life/relationship dynamics, without learning red flags you may never learn to recognize some critical signs that may point to someone having ill intent with you.I don't want to list all the red flags here, but I will point you to some good resources. How To Spot A Dangerous Man Before You Get Involved by Sandra L. Brown is a great read (although it is heteronormative, so warning for that). For a quick summary of red flags, you can visit this website.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: Show Compassion To Abuse Victims/Survivors

Donate to (good) charities that deal with domestic violence! Or show compassion to abuse victims/survivors in your own life. If you can't help financially, reach out to charities or individuals who may need your time. This does not mean being invasive because you suspect someone is being abused, rather, try to get involved in community or individual initiatives.If you don't have time or money at least take the time to educate yourself and stand up for victims of abuse in conversations with your friends. Educate them when they make ignorant statements and correct misconceptions. Do what you can to extend compassion to your community!

Ending abuse is critical to an effective feminist movement in the Caribbean. We all need to do this together.