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4 Life Lessons I Learned From The Lies I Used To Tell Myself

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Full disclosure: I'm usually not a real fan of self-help books.


Something about them comes across as too judgmental and preachy like there's only one standard to life's journey and I'm being scolded for not following the set path. Yet, I was intrigued by the repeat mention of one book in particular: Rachel Hollis' Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be. First, it was a frequent recommendation on my Facebook news feed for those who were looking for a weekend or vacation read; then one of my friends inboxed me a highlighted passage of the ending captioned with "I love this."

I checked out the book because I just had to see what she loved.

Wash Your Face is a quick, oftentimes funny read with each chapter structured as a lie that the author, Hollis, has told herself over the years. At the end of each chapter, Hollis lists three or so points or lessons that have helped her to disprove that lie.

As I read the book, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that there were larger themes that resonated with me. In fact, this self-proclaimed self-help book skeptic actually encountered four 'wash-your-face-and-moisturize-too' moments as I read her book.

Curate your tribe.

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Now initially, I skimmed over the tribe talk in Hollis' book. I felt it was irrelevant because I already have my squad. It consists of my day ones from my hometown and where I went to college plus my "day twos" from my corporate years. But then, the realization hit me:

My circle is suddenly incomplete for this new season I'm in.

My tribe members are accountants, financial analysts, educators, and IT professionals. They are everything with the exception of one thing, they aren't creatives. Oddly, it was an important detail I missed as I tried to navigate this writer life. And it still didn't really click when any of them tried to school me on the job game because I was too busy screaming in my head, "I. know. how. to. play!" emphasized with that hand clap we do on every syllable.

But Hollis suggests more than find your tribe. "Talk to women who understand," she says.

In my case, women who understand 3-5 pitches and two relevant writing samples in lieu of – or sometimes in addition to! – just résumés and job applications.

Always keep the promises we make to ourselves.

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I never think about this. What I actively try to do is follow through on the commitments that I make to everyone else.

Oh, you want me to drive you to New York Saturday morning? Rest assured I'll be there on that rainy Friday night, although I hate driving in the rain. But, hey, my word is bond.

Sure I'll help you take your sew-in out tonight. And I'll be there intricately following and snipping the dark thread so that I don't cut any real hair.

But let me say to myself I'm washing and twisting my poofy little 'fro this Saturday night. By Thursday morning, I'm crying about how I can never get my hair wet enough to immediately make suds, so I have to wash it 18 times, and how the thick strands snag my weak fingernails.

I'll do that ish sometime next week, I decide, and I go through this routine for every upcoming shampoo.

Hollis asks if we'd count on a friend who'd flake on us or constantly gripe when asked to perform the same task. "No way," she responds for us. We'd certainly feel some type of way, no matter how trivial the request may seem, yet it's somehow acceptable when we put ourselves on the proverbial back burner.

"If you constantly make and break promises to yourself, you're not making promises at all," she says.

We're actually procrastinating, becoming complacent, and more than likely barely meeting any goals we've set for ourselves. And trust, that's definitely not a good feeling.

Timetables are for buses, planes, and trains.

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I just knew I was going to get my Master's by 25, snag my hubby by 28, and start our family by age 30. Furthermore, I was going to work on Wall Street in corporate finance, preferably as an investment banker for a top financial institution, and buy a lovely brownstone in Manhattan.

That was the plan of the 22-year-old me. None of that happened. Not one thing.

However, I did manage to build a progressive – yet unfulfilling – career in finance so I thought that I can definitely rebuild an amazing one in a different field, right? Yet, I'm in the midst of a career pivot that I initiated six years ago and I can't help but think, I should be further along than this.

Hollis says this is another one of those lies. She mentions how women tend to attach our dreams to our ages. But the problem is that we also tend to remember that we haven't met these goals on our birthdays, especially milestones, causing some of us to dread turning another year older or even celebrating altogether.

While I wouldn't skip an opportunity to have a lit birthday, I still can't help but wonder at what age will these grander dreams finally come to fruition. But perhaps we should be asking ourselves a different question: Where would our lives be if everything had gone according to our schedule? And would we be content?

As Hollis says, "God has perfect timing."

And a perfect plan, too.

Don’t be so modest about what you do.

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I don't always give the correct, or even straightforward, answer to "What do you do?"

Something about "I'm a writer" sounds phony. Perhaps it has something to do with having a formal education in numbers but no professional credentials in words. Could I really consider myself an authority? Or maybe it has more to do with the stereotypes placed on writing, one being it's more of a hobby instead of a "job, job." I don't bother to debate because that would require me to flash my handful of receipts. Instead, I keep them filed away like I'm saving them for the IRS.

And there I go being modest again.

Hollis talks about how she used to encounter other entrepreneurial women who'd downplay their careers, too. Even Hollis was uncomfortable talking about her job at one point. "Oh, I have a lifestyle blog," she'd say, knowing full and daggone well she ran a popular website that attracted millions of monthly visitors and she managed 11 employees. Girl, you wash your face.

But, you know what, though? I've earned the right to dampen my washcloth as well. After all, I am a bona fide published writer. Furthermore, how are we supposed to attract more opportunities if we're acting all meek?

Or as Hollis asks, "Do you really think God made you – uniquely, wonderful you – in hopes you would deny your true self because it might be off-putting to others?"

Listen. My name is Teronda and I write dope ish. Get at me.

Y'all might want to put yourselves out there, too.

But on a serious note, perhaps I was the one who was too judgmental. Maybe the self-help category of books isn't always some self-righteous figure who's yelling how we're losing at life. Girl, Wash Your Face is the voice that guides you to look at things from a different perspective because she's avidly rooting for your glow-up.

Now tell me, who's ready to shed the lies stopping you from being the best boss you were meant to be?

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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