Over the past six months, it felt like life was piling on the toughest lessons it could bring me. For weeks on end, I’d find myself either crying from a new revelation that I discovered about my life or triggered by a disappointment I couldn’t avoid. There were plans deferred, frustrating rejections, and losses that shattered every “plan” I tried to make for myself — leaving me and the hope that I had for my future hanging in the balance.
While there have been previous times when I’ve found myself stuck between a rock and a hard place, this time around was even more unfamiliar than before. At the time, it felt almost impossible to get unstuck from the place and circumstances that I found myself in, and the possibility of gaining clarity seemed hopeless. What I soon came to realize was that I couldn’t change my situation until I put a name to what I was dealing with.
This season of uncertainty I was experiencing is known as a liminal space. This refers to “the place a person is in during a transitional period. It’s a gap that can be physical (like a doorway), emotional (like a breakup), or metaphorical (like a decision).” In my case, it was like life’s waiting room, where you know it’s time for a change, but that change hasn’t quite happened or manifested yet. It’s the in-between time. The middle ground. The “waiting season.”
Through all those months of processing, being in solitude, crying, and journaling until the pages caught fire, I had no idea that there was actual language to what I was living. I just assumed it was some sort of mid-mid-life crisis coupled with the final stages of my Saturn Return. But it wasn’t until I listened to an episode of The Soft Life by Saddie Baddies Podcast that I could finally put words to what I was experiencing all this time.
According to Priscilla O. Agyeman, MPH, public health professional and founder of the digital platform Saddie Baddies™, a liminal space is “the space between what was and what could be. It’s anywhere that's in between two stationary spaces,” she tells xoNecole. “On a deeper, more personal level, a liminal space can be something like a divorce, having to make a heavy decision where you're between two options, or moving to another location.”
Emotional liminal spaces can also look like a job loss, getting engaged or married, a long-term situationship ending, a romantic or friendship breakup, rejection, losing a spark of creative interest, rejection, or simply adulting.
For Priscilla, the concept of home and relocation had been a reoccurring theme when it came to liminal spaces. Specifically in 2020, where during the height of the pandemic, her landlord decided to abruptly end her lease two months early. “I remember my soul just feeling so depleted and tired. I literally had a nervous breakdown because I was like, how can you do this in the middle of a pandemic? How can you be so inconsiderate?” she shares.
That time of unsteadiness showed Priscilla the power of asking for help during the toughest moments of her liminal space, and she was soon able to leverage the support of a close friend to find a new but temporary place to live.
There she began to reintroduce herself to grounding practices that allowed her to get back in touch with herself. “I had to make really big behavioral changes. If not, I was going to slowly lose my sense of self because everything that I was working towards in terms of having my own space was stripped of me,” she says. “But in that liminal space, I got some major roots that developed my resilience, my character, and able to handle life's curve balls.”
During that time of her navigating the liminal space of moving, Priscilla recalls the inner mantras that anchored her while not losing sight of what was to come. “I had to keep reminding myself to stay present because if I focused too much on the past or too much on the future, I’d feel so much stress internally,” she shares. “Meditation helped me to quiet down the noise of worrying about the future and focus on the present moment and what was in front of me.”
“[What] I had to use was just to remind myself that this is temporary. You are doing exactly what you need to do in this moment. Everything is aligning perfectly for you. Really just affirming myself because if I didn't do that, I was really going to let my environment take over what I was feeling,” she continues. “Instead, I wanted to change the narrative. I wanted to flip the switch and learn how to adapt.”
Getting Unstuck From Your Liminal Space
When working to get unstuck from your liminal space, there is a delicate balance between planning for what you desire while remaining present in uncovering what this time is trying to teach you. One tip that Priscilla speaks to in doing so is the importance of creating an exit strategy. “An exit strategy is your plan to get out of a situation or environment that's no longer serving you,” she says. “In between the problem and the solution is a strategy. What's going to get you between point A and point B?”
When creating your exit strategy, consider the following:
1. Know Your Threshold and Make a Deadline:
“What is an action item that you can take to get yourself out of this situation? When it came to my living situation, I knew that I couldn't stay for more than six months. I knew that there was a threshold that I could tolerate as someone with specific needs for my home environment. I had to find a solution that was going to be easy for me to transition into and that could be more long-term.”
2. Get Clarity and Don’t Move Out Of Desperation:
“It's really about simplifying the process, taking a time to step back from the situation, and motivating yourself because you want to get out of this space. But doing it in a way that does not move out of desperation. Be diligent and strategic. You don’t want to get yourself back into another shitty situation. Take a step back and reevaluate what is actually going on with you and what's going to be the desired outcome.”
3. Embrace the Quiet Moments:
“If you want to discover what your liminal space is trying to teach you, the first thing is having some quiet time. When I came to those moments of clarity, before I was able to develop a strategy or do anything, I had to have quiet time. For me, that's going on a walk, being outside, figuring out what it is that I'm currently feeling, and then letting those emotions come up.”
4. Talk to Someone You Trust:
“Talk about it with someone you trust. It doesn't need to be your entire Instagram feed. But I think finding at least one or two people in your corner that you can talk to, whether it's a friend, whether it's your partner, whether it's a family member, whoever, just talk to a therapist. Obviously, talking to somebody who can really help you to see another perspective because they might also have solutions. They might also be able to offer help.
5. Be Observant:
“If you really want to see what your liminal space is teaching you, be observant. For example, if you've been itching to move to a new city, have you been seeing signs that this is a place where you could thrive? Being observant requires you to be present. So what are the things that you have been seeing repeatedly, whether it's actually seeing them or having recurring dreams, thoughts, or people mentioning certain things in passing? A lot of times that could be God showing up in ways that you may not have even noticed.”
Having been in a liminal space myself, I can attest to how challenging it can be to stay encouraged and motivated when you’re unsure of when your number will be called from life’s waiting room. It can have an impact on your mental health and become emotionally and physically taxing. But in order to get to the other side, you have to lean into that discomfort and receive the lesson that life earnestly wants to teach you through this liminal space. Because it’s not happening to you, it's happening for you.
“See the possibilities. I tend to say that this is proof of concept that good things can happen and that better things are on the other side,” Priscilla says. “When you look at your life, where have you been stuck and gotten yourself unstuck? That's proof of concept. That's proof that you are able to get out of it,” she says.
“Look at your own experiences as data, proving to yourself that I've gotten out of this before, and I know I'll get out of this too.”
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Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
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.
If you’ve ever wondered what type of mindset it takes to reach icon status like Oprah Winfrey, it’s probably best to start by knowing which one she’s managed to avoid over her long-standing career.
And let’s just say imposter syndrome didn’t make the cut.
While promoting her new book, Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier, with her co-author Arthur C. Brooks, Oprah shared in an interview with People that when it comes to imposter syndrome, it’s one emotion she hasn’t experienced.
"I don't have any of that imposter feelings that so many people have," she says. "I didn't even understand it, I had to look it up."
According to the acclaimed talk-show host and media mogul, she attributes this to her early life experiences, specifically the impact of her father's influence as a child. "I remember as a young girl being a strong orator in the national competition for speaking and winning the local championships, then the state championships. And then placing, I think it was No. 3 or something, in the nationals," Winfrey shares.
"And I remember after every contest, the families whose kids were just in the contest were going to celebrate and their families were all excited. My father's thing was, 'Get your coat.'"
She continues, "I learned, in all these years, every exciting thing that would happen to me it was always, that's good, get your coat. Get your coat. I don't know if that was ingrained in my personality or I just learned that nobody's going to be excited about it, so you might as well just get your coat and go. I don't have high highs and I don't have low lows. Which is a good thing, because no matter what I'm going through, I know I'm going to come out of it and be okay."
Impostor syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon, is a psychological perspective of persistent self-doubt and the feeling of being a fraud despite evidence of one's competence, skills, or accomplishments. People experiencing imposter syndrome often believe that their success is due to luck or external factors rather than their own abilities and fear that others will eventually discover that they are not as capable or knowledgeable as they appear to be.
With over 40 years of accolades and history-making impact, it’s clear that Winfrey doesn’t shy away from the fact that her success is due to her hard work and diligence, with everything in her life being that of what she earned — which she finds deep value in: “the ability to live in the space of true appreciation for a life, not just well lived, but well-earned."
From coming from the lineage of an enslaved great-grandfather who earned 80 acres of land in exchange for labor, to becoming the first Black woman billionaire in the world without the foundation of generational wealth, Winfrey beams proudly at her ability to shift her and her family’s legacy for the better.
"I didn't have a grandfather, a great-grandfather who could give me land. But now...I am able to have my own and to know that I work for it. And it wasn't a husband that did it. It wasn't a brother or an uncle, or whatever did it, but I did it," Winfrey says.
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