1.20.2018

The Fear of Being You

For most of my life that I can actually remember, I lived in constant fear and discomfort of not being enough or not doing it right. It always seemed like I didn't measure up - no matter where I was or who I was with. There was often an underlying panic within me that forced me to crawl back inside myself in situations where I needed to be seen. It's funny because I had this desire to stand out, this desire to be validated, but whenever I actually had the chance I had a hard time accepting that it is was my time to shine. It's like I wanted to be seen and hide all at the same time. I would grow resentful that people wouldn't notice me but I would feel like "too much" when I was comfortable enough to be myself. That constant back and forth unfortunately left me in a position of loneliness a lot of the time. I felt alone with friends and I felt alone with myself. When you feel like you're never enough, you never really take the time to get to know yourself. Well, why would you if you feel like you're not worthy of knowing? 

I say all of this because a few months ago I finally got confirmation to the constant feeling of panic and stress I had been dealing with for so long. The thing that stole my self worth for years and years was anxiety. I know this might sound obvious to some people reading this but I can't tell you how relieved I was to know that all of this wasn't my fault. Feeling worried and insecure all the time made me feel like something was wrong with me, and that made the loneliness worse because it seemed like no one understood. I would isolate myself from social situations and then someone manage to tell myself that no one cared about me. It's funny how an anxious brain can play tricks on you. It wasn't that no one cared about me, it was that I pushed them away. 

It's clear to me now that the voice in my head telling me to isolate was really the voice of anxiety and depression. There was nothing wrong with me and there was nothing wrong with the people around me. The issue lied in the fear of being myself. I've shared this before but I used to struggle a lot with my biracial identity. I didn't know where I fit or how I should "act", and it felt like I was being pulled in many directions by peers. I obviously wasn't "white" enough and I certainly wasn't "black" enough either. The real person inside of me could never break free because I was constantly told to pick a side by my peers. After years of seeking to fit into a box I would never fit into, answering the question "Who are you?" was an impossible one. I remember having an interview freshman year of college where they asked, "What are 5 words to describe you?" Seems like a simple question, right? Well, not for me. I had absolutely no clue who I was. Not a single idea. I didn't know it at the time but the reason why I couldn't answer that question was because I lived in constant fear of myself. Being authentically "me" was terrifying

Fortunately, I'm not scared anymore. I feel very secure in who I am now and I genuinely love the person that I have become. I can clearly articulate who I am, what I like to do, and what I'm passionate about. This is a major victory because I wasn't able to confidently do that just 5 years ago. My anxiety manifests differently these days than it used to but it's still something I have to conquer each day. Today, my anxiety is rooted in situational stress professionally. I'm thankful that I have the privilege to get the help I need so I can be my best self not only for me, but for my family, my friends, my boyfriend, and my students. Overcoming anxiety is making the choice to say "I am enough" and "I am worthy of being seen and heard". 

I hope my story is helpful to one of you reading this. I want everyone that feels similarly to know that you are not alone, you're not crazy, and it most definitely gets better. You don't have to live in fear of being yourself any longer. You are SO loved! 

12.26.2017

10 Girl Power Products You MUST HAVE Before 2018

Walking into 2018 like...


Super silly, I know, but who doesn't want to be a little more fabulous in the new year - am I right? 
Something that I'm going to keep working on this year is being 100% authentically myself. As I get older and get to know myself better, I am really learning to love the person that I have become. I am finally confident enough in my beliefs and opinions. I coming to terms with the idea that what I have to say matters and my voice deserves to be heard as much as everyone else's. This is something I have preached many times to my girls but it's definitely been a huge challenge for over the years. But lately, I've found myself doing my own thing, speaking up when I disagree, and standing up for myself when I'm not being treated the way I deserve to be treated. In 2018 I am making a promise to myself to be unapologetically me. Because, well... ain't nobody got time for that! Be you, girlfriend! 

So, in the spirit of stepping out and being our authentic selves, you're going to need some armor. Let's (literally) wear our passions on our sleeves & spark conversations to education and inform the people around us to do better
Here's a list of some of my fave girl power products that I've been loving this year. Some of them I already own and some of them I'm still "heart-eyeing" from afar. Either way, you NEED these things in your life! Also, all of the items are linked for your shopping pleasure. Enjoy! 


I own a lot of clothes but this is my favorite shirt at the moment by far. The best part about it are the reactions I get from people when I wear it. My "woke" friends get it right away while the not-so-woke people have a confused look on their face. Since buying it, I've had the opportunity to educate several random strangers and my class of 7-year-olds about the gender wage gap. That is so awesome! This shirt comes from my favorite store of the moment called The Outrage. They have 2 locations in Philadelphia and DC. I stumbled into the Philly store by accident a couple months ago and all of my feminist dreams came true! The other wonderful thing about them is that they give a portion of their profits to BA human rights organizations like Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and the Malala Fund. The proceeds for this awesome shirts are donated to the National Organization for Women

#2 - The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 


This is probably the best book I read in 2017. The Hate U Give is a young adult novel about a black teenager named Starr that witnesses the death of her black male friend at the hands of police. Throughout the book, she navigates the hardships of what it means to be black in a world that is consistently attacking her very own community. Starr's story provides a personal touch on the Black Lives Matter movement that will change your perspective and challenge your understanding. I was able to gift this book to one of my favorite RISE girls earlier this year and she loved it. Great for teens and adults! If you haven't read this yet, you need to asap! 





These stickers are also from my fave store of the moment The Outrage. I stuck them on both my work computer and my personal computer (so you know I love them). This quote from Elizabeth Warren is a constant reminder for me to not give up or back down even when the voices around me are convincing me otherwise. Proceeds from your purchase benefit the ACLU







I think this is pretty self-explanatory. ;)  













I've known Morgan for several years now and she is one impressive female! She is a phenomenal writer that's been featured in The New York Times and The Atlantic. Her book tells her personal story of what it means to be black AND female in America today. Her book releases in January and I've already pre-ordered my copy. 





A couple friends of mine gifted me this pin for my birthday in September and it's been on my backpack ever since. I also have a tshirt I bought in college with this same phrase. It's a simple message that shows people that feminists are not crazy, baby-aborting, bra-burning women running through the street. (But if that's what you're into, do you, girl!) Feminists are everyday women & girls like you and me that simply want gender equality. This pin normalizes the word so that the F word isn't such a bad word after all. 





I randomly came across these in my hours of online "window shopping" during the holidays and I've been lusting after them ever since. LOVE! 










I've had this shirt for about a year now. It's definitely a conversation piece and that's what's so great about it. Living in DC, most people read it and say "I love your shirt!". However, I wore it to the airport once and the TSA agent read it and said, "Really though?". Irritating, I know. (Side-eye emoji) But, how cool is it that this shirt allows you the opportunity to educate people on the spot?! 







Ah I'm obsessed with these! I owned the corresponding book, Bad Girls Throughout History, and gifted it to one of my Houston girls. These note cards are adorable though. My teacher self is imagining hanging them up around the walls of my classroom for my students (especially my boys!) to be inspired by everyday. These would also be super cute in a girls bedroom all over the walls! 







I love this phone case! It's simple but gets the message across for everyone to see. And as an added bonus, it's made my one of my fave girl-owned companies Little Words Project







If you buy anything on this list, I'd love for you to share on our social media pages! 

Wishing you all a wonderful holiday season! Thanks for sticking with me for another year. Let's make 2018 a year of growth, authenticity, and empowerment. See you next year! :) 

11.26.2017

Strength


I was lucky enough to spend Thanksgiving this year with my sweet grandmother. The older I get, the more I come to appreciate quality time with people I don’t get to see often. At 88 years young her spirit radiates joy, positivity, and love that she so willingly shares with everyone she encounters. From the sound of her laugh and the conviction in her voice when she tells a story, my grandma has a presence that warmly pulls us in closer together. But most importantly, the quality that shines the brightest is her strength. From the stories she and my dad have told me, she has lived a lifetime as a strong, empowered woman to positively impact her children, grandchildren, and the greater community in which she lives. She has shown that womanhood in not a limitation, but rather a source of independence and power. My grandma is a true example of a woman that gets things done and lives out loud.

My week with Grandma and a recent conversation I had with someone else inspired this post today. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about strength and how we don’t all define it the same way. I think it’s common in our culture to define strength as being tough. “Toughness” can mean many things – getting up when you’ve been knocked down, fighting back when someone hurts you, not letting emotions get the best of you, or even sticking it out when times get hard. I don’t disagree with that definition but it’s not the whole story. Strength looks different to different people depending on their perspective. For example, in a recent conversation I had with someone I know very well, it became clear to me that we had conflicting definitions. The things I perceived as strength, she perceived as weakness and vice versa. Our life experiences have shaped each of us into building a model of strength that we all aspire to be. We all want to be strong, right? In getting there, we discover the values that mean the most to us.

So, what does strength mean to you?
Here’s what it means to me:
-       Asking for help even when it seems like everyone knows what they’re doing
-       Not being afraid to mess up or get it wrong
-       Taking a risk even when you’re scared or insecure
-       Owning your mistakes and apologizing to the person you wronged
-       Being open about your flaws, insecurities, & weaknesses with others so they know              they’re not alone
-       Allowing yourself to be vulnerable, even when it’s not expected
-       Advocating for yourself and others
-       Knowing when to speak up and when to sit back & let things go
-       Setting boundaries for your relationships
-       Knowing your limits so that you can say when enough is enough
-       Making yourself a priority and not feeling guilty about it
-       Not apologizing for being your authentic self
-       Letting of the people & things that no longer serve you
-       Embracing the people that are not only nice to you, but also challenge you to grow              while supporting you every step of the way
-       Not needing to prove yourself with words, but choosing to prove it with actions instead
-       Holding your head high even when life is throwing you curveballs
-       Allowing yourself to feel emotions, good AND bad
-       Choosing courage to take a leap of faith over what is fast or easy
-       Unapologetically telling people what you need from them (politely of course)
-       Having an opinion, even when it’s not the popular one
-       Not settling for less than you deserve
-       Listening to your mind & body so that you can pause to take care of yourself first

I know this is quite a long list but it shows just how complex strength really is. My life experiences thus far have informed my definition into something much more complicated than “being tough”. While I feel like I have mastered some of the examples above, there are definitely a handful that I’m still working on every single day. I encourage you to choose one of them and make it your mission every day to go after it. My favorite one as of late has been “Being open about your flaws, insecurities, & weaknesses with others so they know they’re not alone”.  Recently I have taken every opportunity I can to share my struggles with anxiety. And you know what? It has only made my connections with people stronger. By sharing something so personal to me that most people choose to hide, I am revealing a strength within me that can possibly help others know they’re not going through it alone.

What does strength mean to you? I hope my story and my grandma’s story inspires you to seek the strength that you ultimately deserve.