As someone who pretty much makes a living out of sharing all of the things that I've learned about relationships, if there's a consistent thread that ran through pretty much all of my dysfunctional ones, it's the fact that, at the foundation of each and every one of them, I didn't trust myself very much—even before they started. The reason why I didn't trust myself is because I didn't take out the time to really get to know me and my wants and needs before attempting to get to know other people.
Most of us would agree that trust is a core principle for all healthy connections, whether they are personal or professional. When you trust someone, it means that you are confident in their character and integrity. It means that you know they are reliable. When you trust another person, it means that, if anyone is gonna say what they mean and mean what they say, they are the one individual that you don't have to worry about; if anyone can be depended upon to have your back, they are it.
Unfortunately, a lot of us put this kind of confidence in the wrong people because confidence does not lie within us first. We don't trust our own judgment. Our gut instincts. Shoot, we barely even trust what our mind, body and spirit tell us that we need (especially over what our appetite tells us that we want). Unfortunately, the fallout of all of this is that, when you don't trust yourself, you can end up trusting the epitome of the wrong kinds of people. You can also end up making some pretty bad decisions too. And the fallout of all of this is you end up distrusting yourself…even more.
I know this isn't a topic that's discussed nearly as much as it should be. So, in the effort to make sure that you trust you before anyone or anything else, I've provided a few signs that you probably have trouble trusting yourself, followed by three ways to break free from that totally counterproductive mold.
You Can’t Make Decisions Without an Entire Tribe in Tow
Accountability is a good thing. More of us could stand to apply it our lives far more often, to tell you the truth. But it's one thing to be open to having people reel you back in or call you out on your ish; it's another matter entirely if you're mentally and emotionally paralyzed without 5-7 of your friends helping you to make a decision.
A lot of times, if a person requires an audience in order to make choices in life, it's because they want others to like what they are (or aren't) doing. They are so consumed by that, their own happiness doesn't even really factor in all that much.
So yeah, if you need a bunch of people to "get", understand or co-sign on what you are—or aren't—about to do in your life, that is a very telling indication that you don't trust yourself very much; that you think the opinion of others is more important, impactful and relevant than your own. (Pretty scary, huh?)
You Flip-Flop. A LOT.
I've got a friend who I pretty much always wait until her third declaration before I take her seriously. Why? Because she's one of the biggest flip-floppers that I know. Literally, over the course of one day, she can make three different declarations and profess wholeheartedly that she means each one.
What causes someone to be like that? Typically, they are very feelings-oriented and outside-influence swayed. What I mean by that is when they are up, they are going to make a choice based on that feeling but if they feel down 10 minutes later, they are going to make another decision about the very same matter. As far as outside influences go, if they decide to do something and then they read an article about how their favorite celebrity decided to do the opposite based on a similar scenario, suddenly, they think the famous individual—someone they don't even know—probably has more wisdom and insight than they do. (Yeah, that's pretty much a crap shoot most times, if you ask me.)
The problem with being a constant flip-flopper is two-fold. First, it channels mass confusion throughout your psyche. Second, it keeps you from making real progress. After all, the definition of decision is "determination, as of a question or doubt, by making a judgment". Did you peep that? A person who makes a decision does it by being determined to do so. They aren't easily swayed once they make a judgment call. That's because they believe that what they are doing is right for them—no matter what is going on around them (or how often their feelings change because of it).
You Rarely Try New Things
When's the last time you went to a new place, tried a new food or attempted something that was totally out of your comfort zone? If you're staring blankly at the screen because that's how long it's been for you, you've just ran into another sign that you don't trust yourself, nearly as much as you should.
Although some people probably think that sticking with the same ole' predictable patterns and routines is about "knowing oneself enough to not venture out", it's actually the opposite. A part of what it means to trust yourself is that you have a level of confidence that assures you that stepping out and doing new things is a good idea. That, no matter what happens, at the end of the day, you'll be just fine. If you don't know anything else about yourself, you are able to 100 percent trust that.
You’re a Closet Envier
Envy is evil. Straight up. It's all about being so focused on what someone else has going on that you're not able to pay attention to the good things that are happening in your own life. In fact, envy is so ridiculous that it's mentioned in the 10th Commandment (Exodus 20:17)—"Thou shall not covet." (Coveting is envying, by the way).
So, how do you know for sure that envy is something that you struggle with? You're constantly comparing yourself with others. You have a hard time being genuinely happy for people and their triumphs. You are always trying to set your life to the pace of someone else's. You think that success means outdoing someone instead of living your own best life. You are a copier. You dislike others for no real good or valid reason. In short, you're a hater.
Ugh. Just reading all of that can show just how draining envy is. It's also an enemy of your spiritual development because it can have you out here feeling like God loves someone else more than you; that He's looking out for someone else more.
Someone who trusts themselves doesn't have time for envy because they are confident in their own gifts and abilities. The end result is they are too busy creating their own glow-up to be concerned or worried about someone else's.
Your Voice Isn’t Loud Enough
Back in the day, there was an episode of A Different World where Tisha Campbell played a student by the name of Josie who had HIV and Whoopi Goldberg played her professor. An assignment was given to the class to write their own eulogy (you can watch a clip of it here). As Josie was fidgeting to get through her presentation, which included sharing that she had HIV, Whoopi's character told her, "You are a voice in this world." She sure was because, all these years later, I still remember that scene. That's how powerful a story can be.
Above my bed, there is a quote that says, "Your story matters. Tell it." Your perspective, your experiences, your personality—there's something about all of these things that are yours and yours alone. They are what make you a rare commodity on this planet. But who's gonna know just how significant and relevant to the culture you are if you're not speaking up?
A lot of people have a hard time trusting themselves because, quite frankly, they aren't sharing enough of who they are and what they have to offer with others. You can't trust yourself if you don't believe what Josie's teacher told her—"You are a voice in this world". What are you waiting for? Speak up. (A good read on this topic is "The Power of Your Voice: 3 Steps to Finding and Embracing It".)
How to Trust Yourself—First, Take Great Risks
It's kind of weird that a lot of us are able to trust other people when we don't even trust ourselves. But when you think about those who you do put your confidence in, how did it get to the point where you felt sure that you could? You took a chance on them, right? You told them a secret and they kept it to themselves. You asked a favor and they came through. You needed them to be an ear and a source of support and they made themselves available. In short, you took a risk and they didn't disappoint.
The same way that you extended yourself to others to see if they were worthy of your trust, that is the same thing you must do in order to trust yourself more. This means you need to meet new people, attempt something that you've never done before and again, be intentional about going beyond your comfort zone, both personally as well as professionally, from time to time.
If the thought of doing this terrifies you, but you're going to try it anyway, that is already a step towards building trust and self-confidence. The cool thing about taking risks is they can open the door to new opportunities, teach you lessons about yourself and others, and prepare you for taking even greater chances in the future. As a result, fear will fade. And that's always a good thing.
Next, Develop Your Strengths
A huge mistake that a lot of us make, far too often, is we focus on our weaknesses far more than we do our strengths. But if all you do is focus on what you can't do well, you're never going to refine and perfect what you do.
A good example of this is me and my brother. I have a gift for writing; it comes effortlessly to me. Something I have the talent for is singing. My brother is the opposite. He's had great success as an artist, but if I looked at him and said, "I'm going to abandon my natural writing ability to become a better singer", while I might've gotten better, I know for a fact that I wouldn't have seen the kind of success that I have had as a writer.
Strengthening weaknesses is cool. But man, take it from me—if you put more sweat equity into further developing your strengths, you'll be unstoppable in so many ways. The trust that you have in yourself and what you can accomplish will go straight through the roof!
THEN, BE YOURSELF. UNAPOLOGETICALLY SO.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." He is so right. I venture to say that a lot of people are out here, totally distrusting themselves, and it's all because they are paying more attention to what society, their family and their peers are telling them to be rather than 1) pondering who God created them to be and 2) looking within to figure out the kind of person they want to be.
I can personally attest to the fact that when you're intentional about being your true and authentic self, not everyone is going to like it. A part of the reason is because genuineness is foreign to a lot of folks; it's uncomfortably different. In fact, I've got a quote by a writer named Shannon L. Alder that's the signature on one of my email accounts. It says, "Being different is a revolving door in your life where secure people enter and insecure ones exit." Say that, Shannon.
Always remember that trust is about strength, ability, sureness and integrity. If you focus on developing these things in such a way that you can be proud of yourself, what others think (or don't think) won't matter nearly as much. You'll accept that who's meant for you will enter, who isn't will exit—and both are for the best. Because life is too short and you are too special to be out here pretending to be someone else, simply to please others. You'll know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you've got to trust yourself enough to be completely and unapologetically yourself. And graduating to that kind of mentality will bless you tenfold!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
How We Met is a series where xoNecole talks love and relationships with real-life couples. We learn how they met, how like turned into love, and how they make their love work.
I’m willing to bet that this is not the first time you’ve seen this couple. Dalen Spratt is a television producer, owner of a tailored men's suit line, and creator of Ghost Brothers: Haunted Houseguests, which is currently streaming on Destination America. Stacey Spratt is also a serial entrepreneur, focusing mostly on events and the nonprofit world, and she is the owner of two award-winning craft beer bars called Harlem Hops. But their accolades are not what united them.
The couple met years ago at their alma mater, Clark Atlanta University, when they were still working to create the life they have now, and if you had told them then that they’d eventually tie the knot, the pair probably would’ve laughed in your face.
Today, they’re new parents, flourishing in their careers, and each others’ “teammates.” When desiring love, Dalen recommends not looking to other couples for advice. And Stacey advises staying true to what you want. “Don’t put age or limitations on love and children. If God could do it for me, why can’t he do it for you?”
Here's How We Met.
How did you meet?
Dalen: We met in 2005 when she was advising the Greek sororities and fraternities in college. She was old as hell in college, and I was a young buck (laughs). Everybody had a crush on her, but I didn’t think much of it. Then, in 2007, we were in the same grad school class, but she still wasn’t trying to see me then either. I had to catch her five years ago; I was very patient.
Stacey: Yeah, everybody in our grad school class called him Young, Fresh to Death because he was always dressed in B-school (what CAU affectionately refers to as business major classes), and we’d just wear sweatpants (laughs).
So, I know Dalen was always attracted to you. But what about you? Did your attraction to him develop over time?
Stacey: So 2006-2008 – all the years went by. I don’t think we were really thinking about each other at all back then. Years later, I had an event in Dallas, and I booked him to be a speaker. Then, a few years ago, Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: "If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you." But I still thought he was too young at the time, and he started pulling receipts. Taraji P. Henson was dating someone young at the time, Gabrielle Union–
Dalen: First of all, I didn’t do that. You did that.
Stacey: Okay, I did. I thought he was a cutie pie, but that age thing was on my mind!
"Dalen posted a photo of him on Instagram, and I slid in his DMs. I remembered him being so young and handsome, and I’m like, I should hook him up with my younger cousin. His response was: 'If you’re not hooking me up with you, no thank you.'"
Talk to me about the first date. How did he change your mind?
Stacey: Our first date was at Tin Lizzy's in Atlanta. During that time, he was living in Dallas, so it was long-distance. But he came into town, and we just had a good time. We talked a lot, which we still do. It wasn’t anything fantastic.
Dalen: Don’t downplay our first date.
Then, walk me through your courtship. How did you get to the next level? What was that conversation like?
Stacey: I think he knew at age 43 or 44 I wasn’t playing around. But also, I think it just naturally progressed.
Dalen: Yeah, it just happened naturally. And I’m going to be honest, I don’t think initially either one of us thought it would be as serious as it was. She thought I was too young and I wasn’t ready for marriage, kids, and all that. I think we both thought we were just hanging out. But after spending so much time together, a lot of stuff started happening. Like, she had to have surgery early on. It wasn’t just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That’s why we still don’t have an anniversary date because we never really asked.
"It wasn't just time together; it was intimate time. Next thing we know, we just never left each other. That's why we still don't have an anniversary date because we never really asked."
What made you want to commit to each other?
Dalen: The moment I knew Stacey was for me was from a phone call. I don’t really like talking on the phone, and I can be really blunt sometimes. But we were talking, and I said, ‘I don’t really feel like talking anymore.’ And she was just like, okay, and hung up. I wasn’t trying to be rude, and she understood that. It sounds bad, but that’s how I knew she just got me. I felt like she could get my random awkward moments, and she does to this day.
Stacey: For me, I liked him as a person. Even when times get rough and tough, I could still like him as a human. He is my best friend. We have time. We laugh until we cry, and it’s just always like that. Even when we get pissed at each other, something happens, and we fix it. Also, how he treats his mother. That’s a momma’s boy, but I’m a daddy’s girl – so I get it. I know how I want to be treated, and I see how he is with her and that’s beautiful.
What are some important lessons you’ve learned about yourself through loving your partner in this relationship?
Dalen: I grew up an only child and she grew up with siblings. So, when you have someone who is used to doing things by themselves, there is definitely a learning curve when you get into a serious relationship. It’s funny now, but it was definitely a process.
Stacey: I agree – definitely the only child thing. There’s times I look at him like, did you ever live with anyone else? That comes from being momma's baby, too. I have to say, my “mother-in-love” spoiled him. But also with Axel (their daughter), that brings another level of patience.
Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images
What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome together?
Dalen: We’ve gone through a lot within the years we’ve been together. We suffered two miscarriages – I’d say that’s the biggest.
Stacey: Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me. I was wondering if I can’t carry [a child] what that looks like for us. We had very real conversations pretty early in our relationship.
"Having those miscarriages and trying to understand what’s next and what our options are was a lot. I had two myomectomies (fibroid surgeries), and he supported me through that time. Also, still, it was on my mind that he’s eight years younger than me."
What do you fight the most about?
Dalen: Nagging. Stacey nags; she’s a complainer. She’s that momma that will look in a room and just hunt for something to complain about. Like, I’m worried for Axel when she's in high school.
Stacey: It’s because I like things to be in place. He leaves stuff all over the place. I can tell where he’s been in the house because something is left around. So he says I’m nagging – but it’s like, just get your stuff.
What are your love languages?
Dalen: Stacey is gifts all day.
Dalen: We’ve talked about this. xoNecole is about to cause problems in our home (laughs).
Stacey: Obviously I love you. *thinks again* It’s words of affirmation.
Dalen: That’s it.
What’s your favorite thing about each other?
Dalen: I’ve always respected her business-mindedness. That may sound superficial, but it’s not because I’ve never been with someone who thinks like me. It’s one of my most treasured things about her. I remember one day, I was just running through ideas with her, and each time Stacey had a suggestion on how I could make it better. It’s just very comforting. She takes whatever I’m doing and elevates it – including me.
Stacey: I love Dalen’s hustle and creativity. He’s been on multiple shows, and he continues to create, produce, and reinvent himself and the product he’s putting out. I love that we can create together and bounce things off each other. Even though we may be in different arenas, there’s nothing he can’t offer me great advice about. I love that drive.
Finally, how did you know it was love?
Dalen: Well – she said it – first. (laughs)
Stacey: And he looked at me and smiled! He didn’t say it back. We were on a trip, out of the country.
Dalen: We were arguing when she said it, and she just threw it out.
Stacey: But we continue to do that. We’ve spent holidays and everything outside of the country.
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Y’all, I ain’t got no lies to tell you. Personally, I am counting down the days until the obsession with resembling Mr. Snuffleupagus (the real ones know) goes away. Not that I don’t think there is something uber-feminine and sometimes even super glamorous about a long, lusty pair of eyelashes — but as one of my favorite quotes goes, “The excess of a virtue can be a vice,” and lashes are no exception. Lawd.
How To Grow Eyelashes Naturally
Besides, I wonder how many people who go overly long and thick on the extensions tip get that over time, that can do significant damage to their natural eyelashes — sometimes irreparably so. That’s why I think it’s important that, if you’re going to add lashes, you take the “less is more” approach. Oh, and if it’s because you wish that your own lashes were longer or fuller, you learn how to make that happen by taking a more holistic approach (while also being patient; it takes between 4-11 months for lashes to reach their fullest potential).
Starting with the following 10 tips on how to grow eyelashes naturally, you will be batting your natural lashes in no time, chile.
1. Take a Biotin and Collagen Supplement
It probably comes as no surprise to you that a supplement that’s associated with hair growth and thickness is the water-soluble form of vitamin B known as biotin. Skin rashes, brittle nails, and hair loss are all signs of having a biotin deficiency. If your lashes seem to be sparse or thinner than you would like, taking a biotin supplement certainly couldn’t hurt.
Speaking of supplements, you might want to add some collagen to your health regimen, too. Since collagen contains amino acids that help to build hair and can help to strengthen weak hair follicles — those are already solid enough reasons to take them for your lashes.
For the record, foods that are high in biotin include mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, and broccoli. As far as collagen goes, foods that are high in it include bone broth, chicken, liver, berries, and aloe vera (bookmark that aloe vera point).
2. Keep Your Lashes Clean
So, here’s the thing about this particular point: Although you probably wash your face at least once a day (hopefully twice — once in the morning and again at night), if you’re not being intentional about cleaning your lashes, there could be some leftover mascara and other gunk on them that could end up weighing them down and/or drying them out. So, definitely wash them all on their own. Your best bet would be to use a super mild cleanser like baby shampoo so that your eyes don’t end up getting irritated in the process.
3. Condition Them with Aloe Vera
Since aloe vera is high in vitamins A, B12, C, E, and folic acid, that’s already a good reason to want to use it on your hair — and your lashes qualify. Plus, pure aloe vera gel is made up of almost 100 percent water, which makes it the ultimate conditioner for your lashes if you’re looking for something all-natural that will both soften and strengthen your lashes at the same time. To get the best results, a lot of women like to apply a small amount of aloe vera gel to their lashes before turning in at night and then wash the solution off in the morning.
4. Brush Your Lashes (No, Seriously)
Have you ever thought about what brushing your hair does for it? It removes tangles. It gets out debris. It evenly distributes natural oils. It reduces stress. It increases blood circulation. And for all of these reasons, it’s important that you brush your eyelashes on a daily basis. All you need to do is designate a clean wand for nothing but brushing your lashes. Then, whether it’s right when you wake up in the morning or right after washing your face, use the wand to GENTLY brush your lashes. First, do the top of them and then use the wand to lift them up. After a few weeks, you should notice your lashes appearing fuller. (You can check out a brief tutorial video here.)
5. Pay Attention to Shedding
Just like hair sheds on your head (50-100 hairs a day is considered normal), losing 1-5 eyelashes is the average amount to not worry too much about. However, if it happens to be more than that, lash extensions, leaving makeup longer than you should, or even relying on eyelash curlers too much can play a direct role in lash shedding. So, if you notice that your eyelashes are appearing thinner or parse, do a process of elimination first. If nothing changes, make an appointment with your doctor in order to rule out the possibility of other underlying health issues.
6. Apply a Castor Oil and Vitamin E Oil Blend at Your Lash Lines
I’m gonna be real: even though I know that medical experts have a resume to back up their claims, sometimes I will read articles on certain topics and still think they’re being haters. For instance, after reading that a dermatologist (via a Byrdie article) said that applying castor oil to your lash lines can hydrate your lashes, yet it won’t help them to grow, I have to admit that I rolled my eyes. I mean, if castor oil contains protein, antioxidants, nutrients, and fatty acids along with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties and hair can benefit from all of these things, how could your lashes not, too?
And while you’re at it, break open one or two vitamin E capsules and add it to the castor oil. Vitamin E helps to reduce hair loss, increases shine, and helps to lock in hydration — all good stuff to know if you happen to use mascaras that contain some type of alcohol in the ingredients (and many of them do).
7. Put Tea Bags on Your Eyes
The herbs and tannins that are in herbal tea can do wonders for your eyes when it comes to doing everything from lightening the appearance of dark circles and reducing puffiness to speeding up the healing process of styes and even pink eye. So, what about when it comes to your eyelashes? Well, I’ve actually read a few places (like here and here) that green tea especially can do wonders for lash growth, in part due the caffeine that’s in it. Listen, some warm bags on tired eyes are the ultimate kind of low-maintenance pampering hack. Try it a couple of times a week. You’ll feel more relaxed, and your lashes could end up growing longer, too.
8. Have “Off Days”
No matter what you put on your lashes, it’s going to add a bit of “weight” to them — and anything that has weight will start to get worn out over time. That’s why it’s also a good idea to give your lashes “off days” from any kind of mascara, serum, or keratin-infused products. Sometimes, simply brushing your lashes and adding a bit of coconut oil (which adds protein) or lemon peel oil (which could accelerate lash growth) is all you need in order to pamper your lashes without the added stress and pressure of makeup. 1-2 days a week of this should be all that you need.
9. Use a Bit of Shea Butter at Night
Something that I’ve been getting into the habit of doing more and more at night is applying a thin coat of shea butter on my lips as well as on my eyelids. The fatty acids alone that are in the butter do wonders for my skin (especially when I use it consistently). Since shea butter has properties in it like linoleic, oleic, stearic, and palmitic acids, as well as anti-inflammatory properties, your lashes can only benefit from the moisture that shea butter offers as well as its ability to increase collagen production (which, again, is great for hair growth and elasticity) and promote stronger hair.
10. Keep Your Mascara Current
It’s kind of crazy that it was five years ago when I wrote, “When Should You Replace Underwear, Make-Up, Bedding, Washcloths & Towels?” for the platform. Anyway, as far as mascara goes, if you’ve got a tube that has been in one of your bathroom drawers for over six months, it really is time to toss it. Why? Because you really aren’t supposed to use mascara for longer than three months before getting a new tube. That’s how you keep bacteria and germs down to a minimum and the solution from getting so thick that it ends up being heavier on your eyelashes than it should be.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the kind of mascara that will help your eyelashes to grow longer, make sure that keratin is listed in the ingredients, along with peptides, vitamin B, and water (water should actually lead the pack). That way, you can be confident that while your lashes are appearing thick and full, they are receiving just what they need to gain some length over time too. Now wink one time if you feel me. LOL. #wink
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