For Tiffany Laibhen-Spence, Alone Time Is A Non-Negotiable
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:
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.
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.
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
Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
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Here's Why Very Few Relationships Can Actually Be 'Platonic'
Recently, while in an interview, someone asked me if I think that men and women can be just friends. I didn’t even hesitate to answer; my response was immediate, “Absolutely.” What I followed that up with is what intrigued them — “Life has taught me that not a lot of male/female dynamics are ‘platonic,’ though.” When they asked me to expound, the interview ended up taking a whole ‘nother turn.
As a writer who really pays attention to word meanings, something that can be a bit frustrating about our culture is the fact that based on whatever is popular at the time, folks will just up and change the original definitions of words to suit a particular agenda or whim — and the word “platonic” 1000 percent fits into this category. And perhaps that’s why we seem to continue to go in circles about whether or not people of the opposite sex can (and should) be friends and what that even can (and should) look like.
Let’s talk about it for a bit. Because as a word-literal type of individual, while again, I absolutely believe that men and women can be friends, at the same time, I think it’s about as rare as a red diamond to truly find yourself in a friendship that is…platonic.
It’s Time (More) Folks Knew What ‘Platonic’ LITERALLY MeansGiphy
So, let's do first things first — let's define what it literally means for something to be platonic. If you go to your favorite search engine and put something along the lines of "What does platonic mean?", the first thing that you're (probably) going to see is a ton of dictionary definitions that say something along the lines of "of, relating to, or being a relationship marked by the absence of romance or sex" (Merriam-Webster), "designating or of a relationship, or love, between a man and a woman that is purely spiritual or intellectual and without sexual activity" (Your Dictionary) and, my personal favorite, "purely spiritual; free from sensual desire, especially in a relationship between two persons of different sexes" (Dictionary). Yeah, bookmark that last one; I'll be circling back.
Keeping this in mind (and please do), where does the word "platonic" actually come from? From what I've researched, the philosopher Plato once penned something entitled "Symposium." In it, he addressed the topic of two people sharing the kind of love that is free of any type of sensual desire, one that is based on divine love alone. An author from the 1800s broke it down this way: "Platonic love meant ideal sympathy; it now means the love of a sentimental young gentleman for a woman he cannot or will not marry." A write-up on Merriam-Webster's site stated that "The term platonic was initially used to mock non-sexual relationships, as it was considered ridiculous to separate love and sex, but eventually this connotation faded away leaving us with today's notion of close friendships." Yeah, we used to live in a culture where love and sex were not separated. Hmph, that's another article for another time, though (check out "We Should Really Rethink The Term' Casual Sex'").
Anyway, as with many things (especially in our culture), the word "platonic" is kind of used in "broad strokes" these days (bromances, female friendships, etc.). However, because there continues to be this forever discussion — and oftentimes debate — about whether or not men and women can be "just friends," I'm going to tackle this topic strictly from that angle — from the place where platonic actually originated.
Yes, Men and Women Can Be Just Friends. But…Giphy
At this stage in my life, I'm pretty sure that I have more male friends than female ones. There are layers of reasons why, yet I think a huge one is because I like the balance that masculinity brings to my femininity (especially as I'm learning to embrace different aspects of my femininity, intentionally even more). And while every single one of my male friends is respectful and is a super safe space in my world on every single level that I can imagine (and have been for years now), there are probably only a couple who I would say 100 percent qualify as being…trulyplatonic.
Why would I say that? Well, I'll illustrate this point with something that one of my male friends once said to me. He's super cute. He can sing his ass off (and definitely has one of my favorite speaking voices). People see us out together often, and some have told us that they assume that we've had something going on at some point. Anyway, after hearing someone share their theory about us, I told it to him.
Me: "I told him, 'He's my brother. We would never mess around.'"
My Friend: "Correction, you are like a sister. You are not my sister, though. Under the right conditions, you could still get it."
When I shared that exchange with another male friend of mine, he basically cosigned on the sentiment: "Shellie, I have never approached you like that because I really respect you. I want to be good for you for the rest of our lives." (That reminds me: check out "Question: Is The Man In Your Life Good 'TO' You? Good 'FOR' You? Or...Both?" when you get a chance.)
Then I went to one more guy homie and ran both statements by him: "Girl, yeah. If I didn't want to keep you in my life long-term, I would've tried to holla a long time ago!" And he and I have been friends for almost 20 years at this point. When did he get around to telling me this? Eh, maybe two years ago. LOL.
So, my takeaway from all of these "for real?!" exchanges is even though men and women can be just friends, there is a certain level of intention, self-control, and ability to see into the future (on some level) that must go into account — because, just because something more-than-friends-like may not have gone down, that doesn't mean there isn't a "dormant seed" lying around somewhere…whether it's one-sided or on both sides of the friendship dynamic.
As you can see, I just provided you with three instances where the male friends in my life; we've had nothing sexual or even physically intimate beyond a hug when we greet each other in nature — although things aren't exactly platonic if there is some sort of attraction or sexual/romantic curiosity that simply never got explored. Because again, according to Plato, a platonic relationship is free from all of that kind of…tension — or possibilities. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
And now you probably get why I entitled this article in the way that I did…right? I mean, just think about it — out of your male friendships, where is there NO sensual desire or dormant romantic interest…on your side and/or on his? If you're not sure about "his"…have you ever asked him? Or them? Because again, once I really let the definition of platonic sink in, I think maybe two guys in my life totally fit the bill.
This brings me to my next point.
Are You Platonic? Or Are You Friend-Zoning?Giphy
Now that you know that probably 70 percent of the people you know (both online and off) have been using the true meaning of platonic all the way wrong, let’s go about deeper: when it comes to your friendships with men, are they genuinely platonic or…is it more like you’re friend-zoning them?
A few years ago, I penned an article on the topic entitled, “Before You 'Friend Zone' Someone, Read This.” If you’re skimming this on your lunch break, I’ll summarize friend-zoning as knowing that a guy has so-much-more-than-platonic feelings for you, yet because you basically want to keep the benefits of the friendship or even his emotions around, you will string him along on some level.
Personally, I can’t stand friend-zoning. I think it’s selfish, with some sprinkles of manipulation and wasting someone’s time. Don’t agree? How would you feel if a guy was friend-zoning you? (Yeah…exactly.)
This all needs to go on record because, knowing that a guy wants to “take it there” with you (whether sexually or romantically), you not full-on addressing it and/or giving him just enough hope to take you out, listen to all of your stories about other men and give you the attention that you need knowing that he doesn’t have a shot in hell — that is NOT a platonic friendship and honestly, you’re not being a good friend at all. Friends protect each other’s hearts, not abuse them.
A platonic friendship means that you both have no interest in each other, and, as Plato put it, while you may have a strong and solid bond, it’s spiritual love that connects you. And what exactly does that mean? Spiritual love also deserves its own article, yet the gist would be that you recognize there is a purpose in your friendship, yet it’s about wanting what’s best for one another and even helping each other to get there.
For instance, a platonic friend of yours may know that you desire to be married one day, so he has no problem setting you up with a good guy in his life. And if things go well, he would have no problem standing up as your own best man (without feeling like he’s dying inside) because he never saw you beyond anything but a friend. A guy in the friend zone doesn’t move like this; he likes you too much to help you move on with someone else. See the difference?
Why Relationships Should Start Off As NON-PLATONIC FriendshipsGiphy
Before I end this with some tips on how to properly care for the few platonic friendships you may actually have, since the use of the word may require a bit of mental reprogramming, I do think we should also address that if you've got a good guy in your life, who right now is a friend and either you've never thought of him in that way or the topic has never come up — he's someone that you may not want to brush off.
What I mean by that is, it's one thing for there to be absolutely no interest in someone vs. never considering it before — and the reason why you might want to give it some thought is because, ask any healthy married couple who's been together for more than five years and I'll bet you my next rent check that they will say that the best relationships are birthed out of friendship (check out "Are You Sure You're Actually FRIENDS With Your Spouse?").
Yeah, just because you've filed someone in the "I see him as a good guy" category, that doesn't automatically mean that y'all's friendship is platonic. For instance, I have a male friend who is fine and I adore on many levels, yet the reason why it would never work on my end is because there are certain relational standards that I have that he does not meet. However, don't get it twisted — I've considered him because, on so many levels, we "fit." So, the mere fact that I ever seriously thought about him on that level means that we are "good friends," yet it's not exactly platonic.
I'm not free of potential sensual desire…I just choose not to act on it. Yet because I get the value of having friendship as the foundation for my own future marriage (should life play out that way), I am wise enough to know that I would've been a fool to not at least…ponder him and the possibilities.
So yeah, if there is a male friend in your life that the thought of dating or having sex with him doesn't make you want to throw up in your mouth, there's a pretty good chance that it's not a classic platonic dynamic — and you might want to consider if it could/should go to the next level — if not immediately, eventually. Because there's a pretty good chance that if you are thinking that way, he probably is as well.
Protect Your Genuine Platonic Friendship(s) At All CostsGiphy
Let me end this with how one of my platonic friendships rolls. We both think that the other is attractive, yet neither of us is attracted. We both give each other opposite-sex insights. We both have said that the mere thought of dating each other makes our noses turn up like there’s an odor in the air. And even when I try to imagine us together, my mind goes blank. I love, love, LOVE this man — oh, but it is absolutely nothing more than platonic — and he feels the same way. It’s as close to familial love without being blood relationships. It’s a rare dynamic, and that is what makes it so special. There is definitely a spiritual type of love there; no more, no less.
If you’ve got someone in your life who you feel the same way about (again, it’s got to be mutual; he must feel that way, too), you’ve got a gem of a situation going on because there is nothing like having the kind of friendship where you and a guy can hang out, exchange perspectives and thoroughly enjoy each other’s company, knowing that’s all it is and will ever be. Things will never get weird. No one’s feelings are gonna get hurt (from the whole friend-zoning thing). You don’t have to walk on eggshells. You can just be.
And that’s why I’m all for platonic friendships. And listen, if you’re blessed enough to have even one in your lifetime, be fiercely protective of it. Don’t take it for granted. Nurture it in a way that your male friend needs (because it probably won’t be the exact same as your female friendships). Y’all, platonic friendships are so bomb because, if it’s honored and protected correctly, it’s the one male friend that you can probably keep for life because even your romantic partner will not find it to be a (true) threat — hell, they honestly could probably end up becoming (some level of) friends with your platonic homie as well.
I hope that I broke this all down enough to where, when you decide to use a word to describe your opposite-sex friendships, perhaps you will pause and ask yourself, “Wait, is this a platonic friend or a good or close friend?” Because the clearer you are on the differences, the easier it will be to know how to maintain your friendship — and feel about your friend. Feel me? Cool.
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Featured image by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images