A year before my dad died (which was seven years ago), he and I had a series of conversations about my relatives on his side—and his marriage to my mother. Some things I already knew. Some things I was waiting to connect some dots on. Some things flat-out surprised me—and totally disgusted me.
I would give some details; however, while I am certainly an open book, I still want to be careful with how much I share about all three points because 1) a lot of people in my family aren't even close to being as candid (or shoot even honest); 2) I'm not writing this in order to "put people on blast"; and 3) interestingly enough, choosing to separate myself from certain family members is what's helped me to be less pissed and more gracious. Gracious about what? How I'm going to address why I don't involve myself with certain family members anymore. On both sides of my DNA.
I know that family estrangement is still a really radical concept to some people. Still, I totally mean it when I say that you oftentimes don't realize just how much you are only further traumatizing yourself and hindering your growth as an individual by still intimately involving yourself with your relatives…only for the simple fact that they are your relatives. After all, you know what they say—all skinfolk ain't kinfolk and chile, when it comes to healing and thriving as an individual, I sometimes believe that no truer words have been spoken.
On the open tip, what I will say is I'm a survivor of almost every type of abuse you can imagine, including neglect. Neglect from many members of my family too. At the same time, I think it's important to state that it wasn't the kind of abuse that happened every day. In fact, the running statement I make in interviews is what my family did well, it was "A level." Problem is, there really wasn't anything between an "A" and an "F". Either what they did was really great or it sucked and was the lowest of the low. BIG TIME. And because I really believe that I am a generational curse breaker, in order to truly break so many of the patterns and cycles, I had to get away from the classic definition of insanity—doing the same thing while expecting a different result. And yes, that included leaving certain relatives behind. Definitely for now. Possibly forever.
That's what we're going to tackle today. Whether you are currently estranged from a relative—or like a close friend of mine, an entire side of your family—or you're contemplating if that's something you should do for your overall ultimate health and well-being, I'm going to share with you, from very personal experience, why that is absolutely nothing to feel shame, guilt or embarrassment about. Now take a deep breath. You ready?
If ANYONE Should Be Your Safe Place, It’s Your Family
It might sound crazy to say that there are benefits from estrangement yet, there are. Trust me. When it comes to mine, one of the things that a lot of my tribe says is, although I'm "Shellie" and gonna always be "Shellie" (LOL), removing myself from toxic family members has caused me to be a lot calmer overall. I agree. Back when I was still involving myself in the cyclic BS, I used to feel so out of control and somewhat intimidated by certain relatives. Leaving them alone caused me to feel more in control which caused me to not want to control everyone and everything else. And I definitely wouldn't have discovered that without fully separating myself.
This brings me to my first point. There is a particular toxic relative who I realize caused me to pick female friends who were very similar to them—beautiful, talented, manipulative, selfish and emotionally unstable. I would pick these kinds of women over and over and over again because that relative had a strong influence in my life. Once I unraveled myself from that person, though, I realized I kept choosing unhealthy friends because I didn't know what healthy looked like. And one thing that healthy is? It's safe.
Safe is a big deal to me (check out "Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members"). It means that I'm protected. It means that I'm not subject to being hurt or harmed. It means that I'm in an environment or dynamic that is at little risk for pain or drama. Y'all, for some of us, the most unsafe individuals are our family members. That's why I'm the kind of person who actually gets pretty pissed off when people say that you shouldn't distance yourself from family members just because they're related to you.
What the hell are y'all talking about? If you've got relatives who are constantly putting you in harm's way—do you get that the last people who should be doing that are them? So, if they are the ones who are unsafe for you, at the very least, take a season to take care of yourself, because all they will keep doing is taking advantage of your vulnerability and, if you've got any (which isn't uncommon), even your feelings of fear.
Only Boundary-Violators Have a Problem with Boundaries
When I first decided to remove myself from all of the familiar crap, there was one person in particular who confirmed, LOUD AND CLEAR, exactly why I needed to do it in the first place. They showed up at my house unannounced (and uninvited; after I made it clear to them that they weren't welcome). They tried to dictate how I should conduct myself within my own space (remember y'all, I'm in my 40s). They sent other boundary-violators my way; people who had hurt me tremendously while growing up. WTF? Oh, I was pissed. I'm still a little triggered just thinking about it.
After getting still and reflecting, I realized that they were doing what they had always done—not respected my space. Or feelings. Or needs. They weren't going to change. I had to. This is actually one of the reasons why I am so "pro-estrangement"—again, at least for a season—if you've got toxic relatives in your life. It's so you can get quiet and still enough to ponder and process what the hell is actually going on, because sometimes stuff is so chaotic that you can't get a grasp of what is truly causing or triggering it.
Oh, but when you step out from this ish, I promise you that a part of what you'll realize is that the people who really and truly love you, they are going to honor your boundaries. They won't demand that you break them for their benefit. They won't dismiss them as if they are irrelevant. They won't try and talk you out of them. Even if they don't fully understand what is going on, they are going to respect your limits because what healthy people know is love and respect work hand in hand. Sis, no one truly loves you—family or not—if they don't respect you. And respect means accepting your boundaries. Simply because you set them.
Sometimes Forgiveness Means Removing Yourself from Being Tempted to Not Forgive
I strive to be a Bible follower. And so, I am well aware of the fact that the Bible says that in order for God to forgive us, we must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). This is why I don't cosign with people who think that you shouldn't forgive others. NO ONE is worth me being in an unstable place with my Creator. At the same time, again, the Bible says that in order to be right with the Lord, we must forgive. It does not say that when people abuse/mistreat/constantly offend us that we need to act like those things never happened or that we should remain in their hamster wheel of drama.
That's why, it is truly my belief that, in order for reconciliation to transpire (something else that the Bible also speaks of—2 Corinthians 5:17-19), not only does the victim need to forgive, the victimizer needs to repent as well. For the record, repentance isn't just about saying "I'm sorry." It's about making an amends too. It's about being proactive and intentional about righting the wrongs. Yeah, that sermon isn't preached nearly enough.
That's why this point is phrased in the way that it is. There are some people in my family who, whether it's intentional or unintentional, they just constantly cause harm and pain. Will they apologize? Sometimes. Well, they do that justification-not-taking-full-responsibility kind of apologizing (which isn't much of one). Yet my issue is they will do that, only to commit the same offense, on some level, not soon after.
Again, I know that the Bible says that I must forgive which is another reason why there is distance. It's because, since you're gonna keep "slapping me" (so to speak) and it's getting harder and harder to forgive you for it, how about I acknowledge just how broken you really are in that area and 1) give you nothing to slap and 2) pull myself out of the position where it's getting harder and harder to forgive you when you do it? It's not a common way of thinking yet it's been a very freeing one for me. Straight up.
When People Didn’t Love You Well, Please Make Sure That You Do
The last guy that I loved? It's funny that the moment that I removed myself from certain family members, the less appealing he became. In hindsight, I realized that he was just as smart, funny, creative, charming and interesting as they were. He was also just as unstable, manipulative, gaslighting, narcissistic and selfish as they were too. On some levels, I loved him because "thanks" to those relatives' example of love, I thought that is what love looked like. Ugh. I'm not saying all of this to demonize ole' boy. I know a lot about his own family dynamic and he honestly could stand to take some time off them from them too. Yet that's not my issue or problem.
What estrangement has done for me is driven home the point that, rather than spending (or is it wasting?) time trying to get toxic family members (or toxic men) to love me in the way that I deserve to be loved, it's better to distance myself and discover how to redefine love and then love myself better. That way, I can cultivate a new standard and therefore prevent myself from getting into relationships/friendships with individuals who do nothing more than mirror the family drama and dysfunction that I had gotten so accustomed to for so many years.
Another benefit of estrangement is you're not imprisoned by what you thought love looked like. You can get the time and space to free yourself up enough to understand just how warm, comforting, beneficial, encouraging and consistent real love actually is.
Guilt Is Typically Placed on Us. By Toxic People.
OK, so let me hit on the guilt that you might be feeling regarding being estranged right now. Honestly, this could be a book all unto itself because a lot of people who struggle with guilt? It's oftentimes because they were surrounded by manipulative people some/most/all of their lives. Manipulative folks 1) don't like to take accountability for their actions; 2) get off on using puppet strings to try and control people's thoughts, actions and emotions, and 3) they are the kings and queens of deflection; if they can make you feel bad for what they've done, they will do it. Every time.
As a direct result, when you make the decision to distance yourself from them, you already know what they're gonna do, right? Guilt trip you (or send someone your way to do their dirty work for them). Before you know it, you find yourself having a hard time sleeping; you're feeling anxious; you're not trusting your own judgment; you're being indecisive; you're feeling like you have to defend/explain/apologize for everything—I could go on and on about what guilt looks like. My main point in bringing this up is, as you're reading this, I hope you can see how a lot of the guilt you may feel now is because, when it comes to the people you are distancing yourself from, you've probably always felt it. Take it up a notch and it's also why you've always stayed in the toxic pattern with them. Guilt has been overpowering you. It's time to let it go.
Listen, while I'm all about feeling remorseful when necessary, guilt is not the same thing. Not only that but very rarely does guilt do any of us any good. All it does is give us distressful feelings. Ones that, more times than not, cause us to either make poor decisions or ones that don't really make us a priority in the long run.
If you're tempted to feel guilty about the decision you've made to let some family members go (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"), do some self-love journaling so that you can remind yourself why you made the decision in the first place. Then jot down some areas where you've improved since making the shift. Some of us constantly feel guilty for choosing us because we've never done it before. Loving on you, healing you, figuring out who and what are truly best for you? That is NOTHING to feel guilty about. Remove yourself from anyone who tries to tell you otherwise. Straight up.
Let (Internal) Peace Be Your Guide
Listen, the older—and hopefully wiser and more mature—that you get, the more you want peace in your life. LAWD. Yeah, something that my mother used to say is I was violent about my own peace and development. Looking back, that's one of the best things she's ever said to me because when you are at peace—I mean the Hebrew word for peace is shalom which means things like whole and complete—there is nothing like it. Once you achieve it, you get to a point and place that any person, place, thing or idea that hinders it (especially on a constant basis) is something that you need to keep your distance from.
Life comes with so many challenges, simply because that is how life is. Yet if yours seems to be in constant upheavals, step back and think about if your family has anything to do with it. If you can name at least five reasons why the answer is "yes"—at the very least, establish firm and unapologetic boundaries. Or, if like in my case, either things are so unhealthy and/or they keep violating your limits, removing them from your life, as a consequence of their destructive behavior, is nothing to feel bad about.
Miss them? I get it. Wish things were different? I totally understand. Sacrifice your peace just to stay in chaos and drama? It's really not worth it. No one said that estrangement had to be forever. It really kind of depends on how well you heal and how much the people who hurt/harmed you have changed during the time apart. Yet if you know your family is infecting your life, please take care of you.
That way, you can spend less time in their drama and more time living the life you never thought was possible…until you removed yourself from their mess. Again, I am a living testimony of this. Peace personified. Finally.
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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. ;)
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
Every now and then, a celebrity name drops a tool or regimen that they swear by to keep their beauty and fitness game on lock. And every now and then, those finds make us think that whatever product they're using might be worth the investment. Today, Kelly Rowland just so happens to be that girl.
Over the weekend, while headling Beautycon, the 42-year-old singer revealed to PEOPLE that her biggest beauty splurge comes in the form of LED light therapy. She told the outlet, "There's this light by Shani Darden, the LED light, and it's not cheap. But I literally sleep under it every night."
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, and in light therapy, these little diodes emit different wavelengths of light to benefit your skin. LED light therapy has seen an uptick in popularity for its benefits, which range from acne reduction and skin rejuvenation to pain relief and a more even skin tone.
She continued, “It's like a 20 to 30-minute time limit. When I'm under there, it [has] red lights, blue lights, and other colors of light. But those are the ones that I use the most, and they are so awesome because of the simple fact that they are like killing germs and [helping with] anti-aging, which is amazing."
Kelly didn't lie when she said her go-to beauty device was a "splurge." Retailing at a whopping $1,900, the Shani Darden best-selling LED Light Therapy Mask "is clinically proven to reduce acne, pigmentation, and wrinkles." Per the website, the re-engineered "diode LEDs deliver the highest dose of red, blue and near infrared light therapy in cutting-edge wavelength combinations for smoothing, clearing and brightening benefits."
Kelly is someone who gets badder with age, and over the years, the wife and mom have been vocal about her dedication to self-care through the use of beauty products. In a 2022 interview with PEOPLE, she shared her inner beauty philosophy, "Give yourself as many compliments as you possibly can. You start with one, you can have two. You have two, you can have four."
Keep scrolling for some of Kelly Rowland's other beauty faves, including a couple of additional Shani Darden finds:
Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Foundation
Pat McGrath Labs
"For me [with foundation] it was either not enough coverage or too much coverage … Pat [McGrath] found the perfect blend of them both," Kelly told PEOPLE. "This is actually my color, and it blends in beautifully with the skin – the texture of it is just like silk. I brush it on, or, sometimes I use the little sponge and push it into the skin. It's my favorite. She just nailed it, she really nailed it."
Regarding this product, Kelly revealed to The Cut, "I go up my cheekbones, across my skin and my temples with her wand — it’s incredible."
"I've been with [esthetician] Shani [Darden] for almost 10 years. I was having the toughest time with my skin after I had Titan [seven years ago]. Before she sold this, she put it in a little tube for me and told me when and how to use it–she likes to educate, which I really appreciate–and my skin changed in a matter of two weeks." - via PEOPLE
“Sometimes I use the Rich Cream, and sometimes I just use the Cream," she explained to The Cut about her product preferences.
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Featured image by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Beautycon™