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.
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.
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.