How To Stop Having A 'Knee-Jerk Reaction' To Everything
Do you ever think back to a television show or movie that you used to really enjoy and, while you still have a powerful amount of nostalgic feelings for it, years later, you can't help but give it major side-eye?
That's how I feel about the original Beverly Hills, 90210. Although the reruns immediately take me back to when I was in high school and even college, Lord, did they have some pretty racially-ridiculous episodes (like the one that had Vivica A. Foxx in it or the one when West Beverly High was scared to have a dance with a Black high school). And where were the Black people?! OK. But I digress.
The reason why I'm bringing it up at all is because there was an episode when fine-as-he-wanna-be Brandon was dating this chick named Emily. One night, she got him on ecstasy without telling him. When he found out and broke up with her, she made up a lame reason to spend the night at his house in order to seduce him. They made out for a bit and then he stopped and told her he was done. The next day, when Emily told Brandon that she didn't believe him because of how into her he was while he was on drugs, he said something that has always stayed with me:
(Paraphrased) "Emily, that was nothing more than a physical reaction…like when your doctor hits you on the knee or something. It didn't mean anything."
Hmph. Don't get me started on how a lot of us could stand to ponder that when it comes to casual sex in general. But when it comes to the focus of this particular piece, as a pseudo-pop-off-in-recovery, there are also some of us who could live a much simpler and peace-filled life if when something or someone triggers us, we wait for the immediate impulse to pass before saying or doing anything too.
Because, like Brandon, oftentimes once the initial feeling subsides, we calm down and our common sense takes over, we tend to see the situation—or at least how to approach it—very differently. Sometimes, whatever "it" was didn't mean as much to us as our feelings first told us that it did.
If you know you are prone to have knee-jerk reactions to everything, here's what I've learned to do in order to reroute taking that kind of approach:
Relax. Relate. Release. Literally.
True A Different World fans know where the phrase "relax, relate, release" comes from—Whitley's therapist (played by Debbie Allen). In one episode, as she was expressing to Whitley that Whitley couldn't control Dwayne's feelings, only her own, the therapist introduced what we all should keep in the back of our minds whenever we're offended, anxious, or straight-up pissed: "You need to relax, relate, and release into reality."
The reality is, oftentimes us going off only makes matters worse. So, no matter what has transpired, take a moment to breathe deeply (relax), think about what's got you so heated (relate), and release as much pop-off energy as possible before saying or doing anything else.
Respond vs. React
Have mercy, the amount of drama I could've spared in my life if I had mastered this, years and years ago. Although responding and reacting might seem like the same thing on the surface, they aren't. When you're responding to something, you're reacting in a way that is favorable (a way that is positive or at least advantageous). When you're reacting, you're either reciprocating what was done to you or you're acting in opposition to something or someone. See how responding is a lot more beneficial than reacting?
Now, I'm not saying that by choosing to respond, you have to be a doormat or punk yourself out. I'm just saying that…if your co-worker says something crazy, if your boyfriend does something inconsiderate, if you and Comcast are having it out for the third time this month (SMH), take a moment to think about what you can say or do that will work in your favor rather than against it. Thinking before doing is the cornerstone wisdom of responding vs. reacting.
Remember That Nothing Is EVER Truly Deleted Online
Two reads that are worth checking are the think piece "Social Media Has Created a Generation of Self-Obsessed Narcissists" and a science-based article "Narcissism and Social Networking." They both provide some interesting food for thought that back up another reason why a lot of us are probably having more knee-jerk reactions than ever—we are constantly taking in info and commenting online. As a direct result, we've become soooooooo opinionated that we sometimes forget that other people have the right to their opinions too; that they shouldn't be cyberbullied into thinking like we do. (Narcissism is a beast, y'all.)
Back when I used to have a Facebook page, I must admit, things were pretty lively on it. It was more of a "Hey, check out this article and let's all discuss" kind of forum and one of my rules was no comment (even when folks came for me) got removed. Boy oh boy, did that lead to some pretty interesting conversations/debates/flat-out arguments.
On one hand, it was cool to see and take in so many different perspectives. At the same time, it can get really easy to be so comfortable sitting in our homes while hamming away at our keyboards that we forget we're not just talking to a handful of individuals. Unless we're inboxing or DM'ing (and even then, things are usually not as "private" as we'd like to think), there is an entire audience of other individuals who are watching (which sometimes means trolling) too. Strangers. Acquaintances. Enemies. Haters. Even bosses or prospective employers.
A wise man once said, "The internet is not written in pencil but ink." When it comes to your online activity, if you find yourself getting offended or even just feeling some type of way, walk away from your computer or put your phone down for 10 minutes or so. Listen to a favorite song or hit up a friend and vent your frustrations before you decide to type anything.
If you don't do that, while you can delete whatever your emotional reaction was, if it was inflammatory enough, there's a chance someone caught it (and saved it) before you could remove it. And shoot, even if you do remove it, when it comes to what's expressed in cyberspace, it's still around…somewhere (check out "Experts: Deleted Online Information Never Actually Goes Away").
Embrace the Sensei Power of Silence
Sometimes, when my pop-off spirit wants to rise up and take over, I'll think back to Mr. Miyagi from the original The Karate Kid. Remember how calm he was when he was teaching Daniel-san how to fight? (#waxonwaxoff) Mr. Miyagi was always so calm and soft-spoken, no matter how mad Daniel got. Why? Because he knew his own power. He didn't have to prove it.
Trust you me, lately, I have been floored by some of the nasty capabilities of human nature. But now, more than ever, I have learned that silence is not only golden, it's oftentimes the most effective approach to matters. Leonardo da Vinci once said, "Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence." Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Speak only if it improves upon the silence." Euripides once said, "Silence is true wisdom's best reply."
When you know your own strength and power, you also know how important it is to conserve it. Silence is not a weakness. It is a tried and true superpower.
Ask Yourself If You Can Stand by Your Actions a Month from Now
Because I've learned all of what I just shared, I'm going to leave the details out. But something happened to me recently that, let me just say would've had Shellie from two years ago using some of the dirty cuss words. Shellie circa 2019 is like, "I don't even feel like dealing with the fallout later." Avoiding the drama that could ensue from me "getting things off of my chest" makes it worth it to just…leave things where they are.
Back to the whole doctor hitting you on the knee thing, when something or someone gets underneath your skin, it's a natural reaction to what to do something. Don't feel bad about that part. All I'm saying is they already used up some of your precious energy and time, even if it's just internally. Before giving them even more of it, decide if you want to possibly deal with the consequence of your knee-jerk reaction a month or even a year from now. If the answer is "no," then do what you need to resolve the matter without making it bigger than it already is.
Knee-jerk reactions are understandable. More times than not, they are also totally unnecessary.
As someone who used to be the queen of doing what was unnecessary, please choose wisely, y'all.
Featured image by Getty Images.
In My Feelings: Why You Can't Let Your Emotions Control You - Read More
The Empath's Guide To An Emotionally-Balanced Life - Read More
10 Things That Are Making Your Life Unnecessarily Complicated - Read More
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Here Are The Best Plus-Size Resort Wear Pieces For The Season
Your destination getaway is right around the corner. Everything is nearly together – travel excursions planned, hairstyles selected, and you have found the perfect plus-size swimsuit thanks to Gabi Fresh, but what about your outfits, specifically plus-size resort wear? And no, ladies, we are not living in chaos this summer and relying on rush shipping to provide pieces that may or may not work. So, if you need options, we got you covered.
First, researching current summer trends is a great way to select resort wear options. Some of our favorite travel girlies gave us the scoop on resort trends to look out for this summer. This includes sheer, crochet, and of course, the classic all-white pieces.
Next, look for interchangeable pieces. I love to mix and match to create a look, and I want to wear items that can carry into other seasons. Luckily, finding trendy plus-size resort wear that matches these criteria is easy. So, whether you are searching for something flowy or more revealing, you won’t be disappointed because we have curated a list of this year’s best plus-size resort wear.
Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets ($39.90)
Rebdolls will always be a favorite due to their sizes, ranging from 0 to 32. Therefore, we are starting this list with the Lissette Sheer Tropical Print Wide Leg Pant W. Pockets These are the perfect sheer pants to add to your vacation wardrobe. It is a part of the “Intro to Summer” Collection and can be dressed up or down. These wide-leg pants are ideal for rectangle and triangle body shapes.
Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt ($39.90)
Of course, we needed the matching button-up top to match the pants. The Lisette Sheer Tropical Print Button-Up Shirt is the perfect combo with its wide-leg companion above. Whether you wear it over matching pants or as a twist-tie top with a pair of jean shorts, this shirt will not disappoint.
Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress ($24.00)
Boohoo is a hot spot for summer options and consistent sales, making them extremely affordable. Their Plus Crochet Ruched Beach Dress is great for relaxing at the pool or beach. The material is lightweight, and the ruched detail is flattering for all body shapes.
Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress ($34.00)
(Via Pretty Little Thing)
This is for the girlies who love a high slit. The Plus Rust Linen Look Ruched Side Split Midi Dress from PLT is a must-have glam piece for your getaway. Heads will turn as you walk through any resort or new destination, and it’s flattering for all body types.
Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress ($30.00)
Asymmetrical is in this summer! And adding the Curve & Plus Satin Floral V-Neck Ruffle Hem Dress from Cider is the statement piece to add to your plus-size resort wardrobe. In addition, an asymmetrical dress is flattering for rectangular body shapes.
Satin Duster | Orange Mix ($62.95)
(Via Divno jé)
There’s something about a duster that makes you feel like you’re gliding while you walk. The Satin Duster (Orange Mix) from Divno jé is a showstopping piece that will compliment your tank dresses, shirt, and jeans. This long duster is flattering for all body shapes.
MakeMeChic Women's Plus Size Casual 2 Piece ($40.99)
The MakeMeChic is a cute, casual addition every girl needs. You can add a cropped or regular tank or nothing underneath. The fabric is comfortable and perfect for a beach day or island excursion. Depending on how you choose to style, this set is excellent for all body types.
Gabi Fresh Swim x ELOQUII Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit ($119.95)
Gabi Fresh has done it again with her latest collection at Eloquii. This Ring Front Cutout Coverup Maxi Dress with High Slit is a relaxed fit, and the cinched-waist maxi dress is gorgeous. It has cut-outs and a high slit. This dress would work well with an hourglass body shape.
Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set ($47.95)
This dazzling set is ideal for any cruise, beach day, or stroll through a seaside town. The Mini Challis Off Shoulder Hi-Low Skirt Set gives “main character” vibes. Another two-piece set that can be worn together or separately.
Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt ($24.00)
Two fashion trends that are in this season are cargo pants and maxi skirts. And Pretty Little Things gives us both with their Plus Khaki Twill Cargo Midaxi Skirt. Style with a combat boot or heel. This is another piece that suits all body shapes.
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