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For Tiffany ​Laibhen-Spence, Alone Time Is A Non-Negotiable

This fashion designer and influencer wants you to protect your energy at all costs.

Finding Balance

In xoNecole's Finding Balance, we profile boss women making boss moves in the world and in their respective industries. We talk to them about their business, and most of all, what they do to find balance in their busy lives.

Finding your happy place is a talent not easily mastered by creatives of color. Between keeping up with politics, navigating social media, and making sure our loved ones feel loved on, the hustle is likely to hustle you out of your peace of mind. But Tiffany Laibhen-Spence wants you to protect your energy at all costs. That means being intentional about unplugging to recharge.

The 30-year-old self-proclaimed extroverted introvert recently sat down with xoNecole and gave us all the details on how she thrives in the digital world as an entrepreneur while managing her self-care. According to Tiffany, it all starts with unapologetically spending time alone. "Because I'm naturally an introvert, I have always been a person to make time for myself. However, I used to feel guilty about it. When I needed to cancel plans or say no to somebody, I would beat myself up about how flaky it seemed," she explained. "...I then realized that I just required an unapologetic and welcomed pause after anything that drained my energy! It's been my best realization and has helped tremendously!"

Along with deep breathing, watching The Office, and making time to celebrate her small wins, here's how Tiffany finds balance:

What’s been the driving force behind all of the hats that you wear these days? What is your “why”?

I have always believed that life should be enjoyed. I never bought into the "check to check, work to pay bills, spend the rest of your life in debt" story that many people live by. I have always imagined myself doing something that brings me to life daily and not having to struggle. My biggest goal is to be able to retire my parents so that they can see a different side of life where their only obligation is to spend their time doing things that fulfill them.

Courtesy of Kevin Spence

"I never bought into the 'check to check, work to pay bills, spend the rest of your life in debt' story that many people live by. I have always imagined myself doing something that brings me to life daily and not having to struggle."

What are some ways you stay focused on the positive when things get hard?

I am very spiritual. My faith that something bigger is always leading me or redirecting me in the right direction is how I stay focused. More specifically, I pray, meditate, read self-help books, and drink positive energy tea daily (Tea by Yogi. Try it and thank me later!) I also follow lots of positive, encouraging pages on social media. On the days when I wake up and I don't feel like doing any of "it", I've made it a habit to immediately go to YouTube and search "motivational video" and I'll listen to that while getting ready for the day.

What is a typical day in your life? If no day is quite the same, give me a rundown of a typical work week and what that might consist of. 

Mondays and Wednesdays are typically my shoot days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are my edit days, and those can go until 12 a.m., especially if I have a deadline. I try and dedicate my Fridays to industry research and content/creative planning. My sister is a varsity soccer player so I do my best to attend her games. It's sometimes hard because as a one-woman band, if I'm not home editing or shooting, it's not getting done. My husband is a director of photography for BET in New York, so he is constantly traveling. Our home is in Philly, so we work hard to date in-between our hectic schedules and try to take advantage of our weekends together! I'm now hosting and attending lots of events, so my schedule is all over the place now.

Courtesy of Kevin Spence

"Not many people understand what goes into content creation, and it can be crazy having to stop in the middle of an edit, attend an event, and then come back at 9 p.m. to hop back into an edit. It's a lot to balance."

What are your mornings like?

On a normal weekday, I'm up by 6 a.m. I make my tea and meditate for about 30 minutes. I then journal and read for about an hour, depending on the day. After getting my head and intentions together, I hop on Instagram to spread some love on my stories. I then get my post or content ready for the day. This routine changes about every six months or so. Sometimes I like watching a motivational video or calling my mom. It can depend on my mood and what I need at the time.

How do young wind down at night?

The most hectic part for me has been trying to do it all on my own and still show up for my loved ones. I'm literally building my brand from the ground up by myself. When I have a deadline pending and I have to come up with the creative direction, decorate the set, shoot high-quality content, and edit within a day or two, and my family/friends have something important coming up, it can be overwhelming. Not many people understand what goes into content creation, and it can be crazy having to stop in the middle of an edit, attend an event, and then come back at 9 p.m. to hop back into an edit. It's a lot to balance.

Do you practice self-care? What does that look like for you? 

Absolutely! Self-care is what keeps me sane. It looks different at different times. My favorite right now is watching my favorite movies and shows on my couch and sipping wine or a cocktail. Meditating is my constant form though. It definitely relieves any worries or anxiety. I can feel the difference if I miss it for a day or two.

What advice do you have for busy women who feel like they don’t have time for self-care?

My advice is, yes, you do! My favorite cliche is, "You can't pour from an empty cup." It's so true! You can't possibly be giving your best self to your spouse, your kids, or your work if you haven't taken the time to get to know yourself. One of the best things my mom did was take care of herself when I was growing up. She would go get her nails done, go away with her girls once a year, and have regular girls' nights. Her and my dad would go on couples' trips, which I was annoyed with as a child (laughs), but I now know why. It taught me to never lose me to anything!

In the beginning, I had to write self-care into my schedule just like I would anything else and stick to it! It's now become a habit for me. Take 30 extra minutes in the morning to do deep breathing, read your favorite book, do an exercise or take a dance class. You may not have time every day because, well, life, but you definitely have time to love on yourself just a little more.

Courtesy of Kevin Spence

"One of the best things my mom did was take care of herself when I was growing up. She would go get her nails done, go away with her girls once a year, and have regular girls' nights. Her and my dad would go on couples' trips, which I was annoyed with as a child, but I now know why. It taught me to never lose me to anything!"

How do you find balance with: 

Friends? 

I have to put it into my calendar, or else I'll work right through it. I tell my friends not to take offense. I'm just really focused and I take my schedule seriously! So if it's scheduled, I'm there! I also try and text them if they come across my mind, even for just a second.

Love/Relationships?

We communicate via text and FaceTime throughout the day so that we can say connected. We also shoot together, so we make a date out of those days. We get content and then we go to dinner and spend time!

Exercise? Does it happen?

I am still finding a way to fit exercise into my schedule consistently. Since my schedule changes so often, it makes it a little hard to be consistent, but I will make it happen.

The self?

This is one thing I make time for. Regular manicures, meditation, reading a book, or anything that brings me joy is a must.

When do you feel most beautiful?

I feel most beautiful when I feel most healthy. So when I'm eating well, moving my body, [my] hair is healthy, skin is healthy, that is when I feel my best.

Do you cook or find yourself eating out more often?

Up until about two months ago, I was cooking 80% of the time and ordering out the other 20%. Because my schedule has picked up so drastically, I have not found much time to cook lately. I'm currently in the process of hiring an assistant to help me with projects because cooking brings me joy and I'd love to have more time to do it without having to sacrifice being productive!

Courtesy of Kevin Spence

"I detox by deleting all of my social media apps until I feel ready to get back on. It usually lasts about a week, but if I get to the end of that week and still feel overwhelmed or anything negative, I stay off until I'm centered again. I detox daily by monitoring who I'm conversing with, having mandatory alone time, and allowing myself to decompress after interactions."

Do you ever detox? What does that consist of?

For a physical detox, I drink detox teas to clean my body out. I also do time periods of no red meat and mainly veggies. I've done fruit juice cleanses as well. Mentally, I detox by deleting all of my social media apps until I feel ready to get back on. It usually lasts about a week, but if I get to the end of that week and still feel overwhelmed or anything negative, I stay off until I'm centered again. I detox daily by monitoring who I'm conversing with, having mandatory alone time, and allowing myself to decompress after interactions.

When you are going through a bout of uncertainty or feeling stuck, how do you handle it?

I pray. Anything that I have today is because of prayer and allowing something bigger than me to show me what I need to see to make the next best move. So when I'm uncertain, I ask for guidance on what I should be doing and I ask for clarity. Then I act in the manner that I'd like to see myself. I leave that prayer knowing that the solution is on the way and I do my best not to worry about it, but instead, smile and thank God for the clarity or the signs I needed. It has worked wonders in my life.

What is something you think others forget when it comes to finding balance?

People forget to celebrate the little wins. Celebrate finishing that edit, posting your first video, and doing what you said you would. When you forget to celebrate those wins, you are constantly chasing something. It leads you to believe you aren't doing enough, which then leads to overworking. Find time to celebrate your wins, however small they may be. Pour a glass of wine, go out for dinner--do something! You deserve it!

Courtesy of Helena Raju

"When you forget to celebrate those wins, you are constantly chasing something. It leads you to believe you aren't doing enough, which then leads to overworking. Find time to celebrate your wins, however small they may be."

What does success mean to you?

Success means having balance between all the things that bring me joy and make me who I am. Right now those things are self-awareness, healthy relationships with my loved ones, financial well-being, thriving in my chosen career path and making an impact.

What does happiness mean to you?

Happiness is temporary. It's an emotion. In life, you will experience hardships. You will lose people, you'll lose relationships, and you won't get the things you've been working hard at. In those moments, you will not be happy. You can still have joy and gratitude in your heart in those moments, but you won't be happy. I think the key is enjoying and appreciating your happy moments as they are happening but understanding that life needs ups and downs for you to continue growing on your journey.

For more of Tiffany, follow her on Instagram @tiffanylaibhen!

Featured image courtesy of Kevin Spence

Originally published on February 9, 2020

Black Women, We Deserve More

When the NYT posted an article this week about the recent marriage of a Black woman VP of a multi-billion-dollar company and a Black man who took her on a first date at the parking lot of a Popeyes, the reaction on social media was swift and polarizing. The two met on Hinge and had their parking lot rendezvous after he’d canceled their first two dates. When the groom posted a photo from their wedding on social media, he bragged about how he never had “pressure” to take her on “any fancy dates or expensive restaurants.”

It’s worth reading on your own to get the full breadth of all the foolery that transpired. But the Twitter discourse it inspired on what could lead a successful Black woman to accept lower than bare minimum in pursuit of a relationship and marriage, made me think of the years of messaging that Black women receive about how our standards are too high and what we have to “bring to the table” in order to be "worthy" of what society has deemed is the ultimate showing of our worth: a marriage to a man.

That's right, the first pandemic I lived through was not Covid, but the pandemic of the Black male relationship expert. I was young – thirteen to be exact – when Steve Harvey published his best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Though he was still just a stand-up comedian, oversized suit hoarder, and man on his third marriage at the time, his relationship advice was taken as the gospel truth.

The 2000s were a particularly bleak time to be a single Black woman. Much of the messaging –created by men – that surrounded Black women at the time blamed their desire for a successful career and for a partner that matched their drive and ambition for the lack of romance in their life. Statistics about Black women’s marriageability were always wielded against Black women as evidence of our lack of desirability.

It’s no wonder then that a man that donned a box cut well into the 2000s was able to convince women across the nation to not have sex for the first three months of a relationship. Or that a slew of other Black men had their go at telling Black women that they’re not good enough and why their book, seminar, or show will be the thing that makes them worthy of a Good Man™.

This is how we end up marrying men who cancel twice before taking us on a “date” in the Popeyes parking lot, or husbands writing social media posts about how their Black wife is not “the most beautiful” or “the most intelligent” or the latest season of trauma dumping known as Black Love on OWN.

Now that I’ve reached my late twenties, many things about how Black women approach dating and relationships have changed and many things have remained the same. For many Black women, the idea of chronic singleness is not the threat that it used to be. Wanting romance doesn’t exist in a way that threatens to undermine the other relationships we have with our friends, family, and ourselves as it once did, or at least once was presented to us. There is a version of life many of us are embracing where a man not wanting us, is not the end of what could still be fruitful and vibrant life.

There are still Black women out there however who have yet to unlearn the toxic ideals that have been projected onto us about our worthiness in relation to our intimate lives. I see it all the time online. The absolute humiliation and disrespect some Black women are willing to stomach in the name of being partnered. The hoops that some Black women are willing to jump through just to receive whatever lies beneath the bare minimum.

It's worth remembering that there are different forces at play that gather to make Black women feast off the scraps we are given. A world saturated by colorism, fatphobia, anti-Blackness, ableism, and classism will always punish Black women who demand more for themselves. Dismantling these systems also means divesting from any and everything that makes us question our worth.

Because truth be told, Black women are more than worthy of having a love that is built on mutual respect and admiration. A love that is honey sweet and radiates a light that rivals the sun. A love that is a steadying calming force that doesn’t bring confusion or anxiety. Black women deserve a love that is worthy of the prize that we are.

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Featured image: Getty Images

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