What does it take to find the love you want? To attract the love you want, to make the love you truly want to experience in this lifetime? Well, former Bachelorette star Mike Johnson says it starts with doing the inner work FIRST. And by inner work, he means rewriting and reflecting on the internal stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and using them as a springboard to attract the life and love that we deserve. And if you need help tapping into that side of yourself, look no further than his debut book, aptly entitled Making the Love You Want.
In it, the Texas native provides a toolbox for all those looking to genuinely level up their lives from the inside out through the practice of self-love. "I just want it to be a vessel that can help people with the issues that they're going through and the things that they're facing in life," he tells xoNecole in our midday chat. "By reading it, you'll be able to obliterate, and I mean, completely destroy those self-limiting beliefs. You will be able to have the courage and the strength to propel yourself to the next level of your life."
We recently sat down the 32-year-old self-love sage to talk about personal growth, romantic love, and why it's important for Black men to be vulnerable.
*Some answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
xoNecole: In your book, you really harp on doing the inner work, particularly in the areas of self-love and self-worth. Personally, I tend to think self-worth is an inside job.
Mike Johnson: It absolutely is, it's in the name.
For Black men in particular, how can they continue to cultivate that sense of self-awareness?
[I think it's in] the strength that we have, the strength that we are blessed with and the strength that society makes us have. I think that we can take some of that strength and be vulnerable as well, because it does absolutely take strength to be vulnerable. And I feel that once we can see the strength, meaning vulnerability, there's nothing that we can't do. It's more of a mindset--it's funny because when I think of this topic, I think of Eminem and 8 Mile. If you remember when he did the rap battle, he said everything negative against himself, he put it all out there. And once you put everything out there, no one could combat you. It's already out there. So, I think that's something that we have to utilize to our advantage.
"I think that we can take some of that strength and be vulnerable as well, because it does absolutely take strength to be vulnerable. And I feel that once we can see the strength, meaning vulnerability, there's nothing that we can't do."
Why do you think it’s so hard for Black men to have conversations around self-love and personal growth?
I wouldn't say that it's hard. It's just maybe something that isn't as seen in mainstream media. And I can speak to why I think that is. I feel that in our community, we put on a tough face at times but I do want to say that the color of our skin doesn't dictate our emotional levels. I feel that our environments do. And we adapt to the environment to make sure that we survive out of it. I think people like Charlamagne are doing a wonderful job of spearheading how to get out of those environments, Derrick Jaxn on Instagram, someone like myself--since I'm trying to be in that realm as well. And if something is popular, more people want to be able to do it as well.
When men start to realize that, you know, it's OK for us to be vulnerable, it's OK to talk about real issues and you're not considered a victim--I think that people relate to that more. I mean, the reason some of our biggest musical artists are so big is because they have a creative way of getting out their emotions and they speak on what they're going through, through songs.
You seem to be a very optimistic guy. Every time I come across you on Instagram, you always seem to have a smile on your face. So I wanna know, is a positive outlook a deal-breaker for you when it comes to relationships?
Not having a positive outlook, yeah. If she doesn't have a positive outlook--I don't care how fine she is. I don't care how much money. I don't really care, if you [are] a Negative Nancy, I'm not with you. I am extremely strong with that. If you're just a negative-thinking individual, I'm not going to let your negativity interrupt my energy. It's too precious.
"If you're just a negative-thinking individual, I'm not going to let your negativity interrupt my energy. It's too precious."
Courtesy of Mike Johnson
How has your time on ‘The Bachelorette’ or ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ influenced what traits you now look for in a potential partner?
No, it hasn't changed whatsoever. I still know the type of woman that I love and adore, and quite honestly with me on TV-- it doesn't change my outlook because I was able to attract the woman that I like already. The TV doesn't do anything when it comes to dating, except for if you want to be superficial and get a certain type of chick, then you can do that. But my homies still know back in the day, when I was a teenager, we would call Walmart, Club Walmart. And if I go to Walmart to this day and I see somebody that I'm into, she could be the cashier. I don't care.
So, no TV doesn't do anything. All the TV does when it comes to dating is people feel as if they know exactly what you like. I know you didn't ask the question, but when I talked to my homies about when Black women say that I don't like Black women--I'm like, 'Why is it that way?' That's hard for me to hear because that's a damn lie. My ex was Black. And if the Bachelorette was a Black woman, no Black woman would say that. Right? So that's the only thing that actually hurts me, if I can honestly be transparent about that. That hurts my heart because I'm like, 'Hey, I love y'all period.'
Who is Mike Johnson as a romantic partner?
Mike Johnson is a loving partner. I'm the guy that your girlfriends hate because you are going to be saying all of these positive things and they don't have a good man like that (laughs). I would say that I'm pretty damn good at relationships. I definitely have no problem with someone putting me in the check but if they do something crazy too, I'm going to let them know. I don't like that either. I'm definitely someone that will motivate you just by you just watching how I act and how I move in life. I have goals all the time and so that will rub off on my partner. And I am definitely a sexual being.
Speaking of, kind of. Do you know your love languages and if so, what are they?
Yeah. So at first, before I read the book by Gary Chapman--amazing book-- I thought my love language was physical touch. But after reading the book, doing the quizzes, I ended up going deeper and it turns out my love language is actually quality time. But my dialect is quality communication. So when you speak to me, tell me what your heart is telling you, tell me your thoughts, be transparent with me, be loyal to me, that brings that trust like nothing else.
Are you single? How would you like for a woman to approach you now?
Oh wow. Well, I will say I am dating someone right now. I'm making a love that I want.
Shameless plug. Lastly, what's one thing you know now to be true about love?
One thing I know to be true about love. If you're loyal to a person, that person is loyal to you, if you do everything to make that individual happy, and if you have an open communication, open dialogue--there's nothing that you guys can't get through.
Making the Love You Want is available now, wherever books are sold. And to keep up with Mike, be sure to connect with him on Instagram.
Featured image courtesy of Mike Johnson
Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
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You're A Good Woman. So, Why The Heck Won't He Marry You?
Uh-huh. Clown the Tubi app if you want to, but some of those Black indie movies make some pretty valid points. Take one that I recently watched about a man who seemed to love his wife yet couldn’t stay faithful if his life depended on it. While talking to a therapist about his pattern, he said something that every woman on the planet should hear when it comes to romantic relationships and especially wanting to get married: “You should want a man who wants you, not one you have to pressure for anything.” (He was saying this in the context of him feeling pressured to get married before he was ready, which is a part of the reason why things played out the way that they did.)
And to me, this line is a perfect way to intro this particular topic. Why? Because when it comes to so many women driving themselves absolutely up the wall when it comes to trying to figure out why they are good, and yet their man (or who they want to be their man) seems to be treading water (at least) when it comes to making a lifelong commitment — baby, not only should you want someone who wants you to be their wife (if marriage is what you desire)…you should also let yourself off the hook when it comes to stressing out about why it might not be panning out that way.
We’re gonna tackle this, yet I’m gonna give you a heads up now: this may not go exactly like you think it should; however, I do think that if you go in with an open mind, a bit of humility, and some determination to focus on your needs more than his moves, you very well may find the clarity and freedom that you need in this area of your life. Ready?
Before getting into him, how about we first talk about you — “you” specifically meaning what it means to be a good woman and, shoot, a good person, in general. Because you know what? There are a lot of words that we use, thinking that we know the definition, when, after (re)visiting them, we realize that there is usually more to what they require than we realize on the surface.
To be good is to be morally excellent. To be good is to be virtuous. To be good is to be kind, righteous, gracious, humane, and benevolent. Some synonyms for good include words like positive, pleasing, honorable, and admirable. Yeah, once upon a time, I found myself being pretty pissed about a guy who I desired back in the day not wanting what I did. I went on the “But I’m a good woman” soapbox, my conscience told me to look up the word, just to make sure that I was sure — because if most of us were self-aware and humble about “good” (not either or but both), we’d realize that being good is more like an ultimate goal than an actual status.
Okay, but what about some of the other words that define it? Things like being valuable and worthy. Things like being beneficial. And how about synonyms like wonderful, agreeable, precious, great, and exceptional? Yeah, before we touch on any other points, if you don’t get anything else from this article as it relates to these descriptions of good, it’s more important that you know if you are a good woman in the sense of what you have to offer — and that it is exclusive of if someone agrees or not. Because what’s good for one may not be good for another, yet that doesn’t mean that you’re not good anyway (more on that in a sec).
Look at it this way — if you walked into a jewelry store today, a lot of diamonds are going to be looked at. Know what else? They’re also going to remain in their display cases whether it’s because they’re not specifically what someone is looking for, they are more expensive than what someone can afford, or — please catch this too — someone never had the intention of purchasing a diamond in the first place; they were simply window shopping…no more, no less. Yet a diamond is still a diamond.
So yeah, before going any further, purpose in your mind to assess where you are good regardless of your relational status, situation, or circumstances and where you can stand to grow in the area of goodness. Because the truly evolved know that if they want a good man, they will forever be preparing for him until he arrives on some level because “good” is a super high standard.
Now let’s get more into what I’m sure you really want to know about…
What Kind of Relationship Did You Think You Were Going Into?Giphy
Okay. Remember how I said that some people will go into jewelry stores just to look around? While it could be because they have a goal of purchasing something in the near future, so they want to see their options and also save up, there are others who literally have no plans of doing anything but trying stuff on, admiring it, and moving on with their day.
If you choose to see yourself as a diamond in this story, let's not act like some men aren't proverbial window shoppers — and honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not a character flaw to not want to be married or even in something serious (check out "Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON'T Desire Marriage?"). In fact, it's pretty arrogant to try and imply that just because you may want a spouse that, everyone else should automatically follow suit and/or those who don't have some sort of "issue" for being that way.
Marriage is serious — VERY MUCH, SO. It's not the same thing as a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic (no matter how much our culture tries to prove otherwise), and whether you choose to see it from a spiritual (Malachi 2:14-16, Matthew 19:1-12, I Corinthians 7:10-11), financial or legal perspective, it comes with a lot of guidelines and, if it doesn't work out, ramifications. Indeed, mature people get that two folks don't just throw a big party called a wedding, and it's all peaches' n cream from there. So yeah, I get why many people — men included being that 70 percent of divorces are initiated by women and alimony is still alive and well out in these streets — would semi-hard pass on it.
That's why I am a huge fan of grown folks getting it out in the open, as soon as possible, what the game plan is for dating (check out "The 'Pre-Commitment Interview' Every Dating Couple Should Have"). I don't mean interrogating a brotha on the first or even second date. What I mean is you definitely should feel okay with putting it on record that marriage (or a serious relationship) is the reason why you're dating these days — and the sooner you get that out into the open, the better because you don't want to wait until you're so mentally, emotionally and/or sexually invested that you try and rationalize staying with someone who may not be on the same page (or even in the same book) as you are. You also don't want to do what so many women I know have made the grave mistake of — thinking that because they are a good woman, that even if a man wasn't considering marriage, he will suddenly change his mind, all because of how awesome they are.
Definitely, one of my favorite quotes as it relates to this particular topic is, "You'll never be good enough for a man who isn't ready," and that really is the truth. In other words, being a wife to someone who has no desire to be a husband (check out "Why You're Always The One Who Prepares A Man For His Wife") isn't honorable; honestly, it's risky at best (trust me, I would know) because you are literally putting the cart before the horse.
You know the saying, "There are levels to this thing?" It applies to dating too. A man doesn't need to be taking care of a woman who isn't his wife as if she is; otherwise, why get married? Marriage represents taking the relationship to the optimal and ultimate level, so there are certain benefits and privileges that come with it AFTER vows have been said. Same goes for a woman in how she treats a man who isn't her husband. That's why I loathe (yes, literally) when singles talk about women needing to submit before marriage. A good woman is feminine regardless of her relational status (or at least she should be); however, submission is a wedding present (Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-33, I Peter 3:1-7).
Okay, but let me stay on track. So, when it comes to trying to figure out if a dating relationship is headed towards jumping somebody's broom, first be honest with yourself about if the two of you started off being very clear with one another about why you started dating one another in the first place and, if all goes well if the end result is to be marriage — for you both…TOGETHER. Because if you're only assuming that, well, we all know that assuming doesn't tend to go very well.
When it comes to something as serious as marriage, clarity must be had, and that comes with having very open and honest discussions about both people's wants and needs — not just stating them but hearing them from your partner too (my subtext here is not only hearing what you want to but listening to what he's actually and literally saying…even if you don't like it).
And if you're not gelling…what in the world are y'all doing? Next point.
Now, What Kind of Relationship Are You Actually In?Giphy
There is a guy I know who was once dating this woman who was totally into him — Lawd, you could tell. Yet there were certain things about how he moved that gave me the impression that the feelings weren’t exactly mutual. When I finally flat-out asked him about it, this guy said, “I mean, I might be her boyfriend, but she’s not exactly my girlfriend.”
Get triggered all you want, but when I asked him how he came to that conclusion, he said that it was because she took it upon herself to go above and beyond, to not date other people and take on a lot of his wishy-washy-ness. He never asked her to. He never told her that he wanted her to be exclusive. He never changed anything about how he operated. She simply decided that she wanted to engage with him on that level.
Now before you say that he is the villain in this story — is he? Or is she someone who decided to go all in without talking to him about it, knowing that it’s human nature for people to want to benefit from things while putting in as little effort as possible? I mean, let’s not act like a lot of men don’t get upset on the regular about paying for expensive dates where they end up getting friend zoned as soon as the check is paid (right, it goes both ways).
And that’s why this point is also a super valid one. Just because you might care about or even love a man in a way where you could see him as your future husband, that ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT mean that he feels that way about you. He may like you. He may even love you. Still, that doesn’t mean that he sees a wedding, a white picket fence, some kids, and a terrier up the road with you. Yeah, someone can like having you around or even love you as a person and still not want to spend forever with you. It’s a harsh reality. It’s still the facts, though.
That’s why it’s always important to ponder right after asking yourself what kind of relationship you wanted (and if that was discussed on the front end) if you know what kind of relationship you are in…with him. Because listen, I also know a married couple (of several years) that includes a wife who constantly says that she dated her now-husband for close to a decade while he “counters her” and says she was never his girlfriend because he never believed in having one (and he pretty much treated her like the other guy I just mentioned during that time too).
Bottom line, when two people are on the same page, it’s hard to find yourself getting frustrated…because you are on the same page. You might struggle with being patient when it comes to budgeting, reaching certain career goals first, or getting life in order before marriage— still, you won’t be out here asking why he won’t marry you because you know that someday he will…BECAUSE HE TOLD YOU SO, AND HIS ACTIONS ARE CONSTANTLY LINING UP WITH WHAT HE SAID.
And what if it doesn’t feel like the two of you are seeing eye to eye on this thing? Good question.
“Good” in General, Doesn’t Necessarily Mean RIGHT for Him. AND THAT’S OKAY.Giphy
Let me just tell you right now that some of y'all aren't gonna want to hear this, but as the Good Book says, it's the truth that has the ability to truly set us free, chile (John 8:31-32). Another definition of good is "suitable or efficient for a purpose." What's revelatory about that is if you go back to the Bible where Adam's wife was BROUGHT to him (he did not chase or pursue; God brought her to him — Genesis 2:22), before that happened, God, himself said this:
"Now the Lord God said, 'It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him.'" — Genesis 2:18(AMPC)
(Y'all wanna talk about how even if you think that you are good for someone, that may not mean God automatically or necessarily agrees? Or did I just say enough that we can move on?)
Okay, so did you peep the word that is bold and underlined? SUITABLE is more than a notion, y'all.
Suitable: such as to suit; appropriate; fitting; becoming; appropriate; proper; fit
Something else that this same chapter of the Bible talks about is two BECOMING one (Genesis 2:24-25). "Becoming" requires a certain level of incomparable compatibility. It's not just about having deep feelings for one another. It's about having similar values. It's about complementing each other in a very profound and unique way (check out "If He's Right For You, He Will COMPLEMENT Your Life"). It's about (and folks really miss this one) if the two of you can do the day-to-day of living together well — cleaning the house, paying the bills, and providing each other's needs on a very basic yet super relevant level. It's about being each other's right "fit" — and as much as it might hurt to hear, you don't get to tell a man if you are the one to do that. He and God have to figure that out (which means that his caring about how a Higher Source factors in helps immensely with all of this, too!).
And that's why I'm also a huge believer that just because someone may be a good person, that doesn't mean that they are RIGHT for a particular individual — whether that is "right now" (if it's not "right now," there still shouldn't be a lot of anxiety, drama or stress) or ever. Because someone who is right is someone who is suitable — they complement and fit. They also are pretty adaptable, which speaks to them being flexible. They are built that way because again…they are suitable…they complement, and they fit.
And here's what else — when you're RIGHT for someone, it means that you are "in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle; correct." Your standards and principles are similar. There are some hardcore facts about how the two of you gel that BOTH OF YOU can see. There aren't truths about the relationship that are being ignored or deflected. You both get the reasons why marriage is meant to be.
Whew. Okay, so after processing all of this, ask yourself (and be honest with yourself while you're at it) about whether you are RIGHT for him even if you are a GOOD woman. And shoot, beyond that — is he RIGHT for you? Is he? Or do you just want him to be because you love him and/or he's a GOOD man?
You know, sometimes we think that the Universe is playing some kind of cruel trick on us when, actually, it's being merciful as all get out. It knows that while we think life should be going one way, when we really tap into things beyond a surface level, we start to see that it's looking out for us while waiting for us to see past what we want and into what we actually need — and deserve (deserve means to "qualify for," by the way).
So yeah, it's not only okay to think long and hard about it but encouraged to bring the word "right" into the chat. Yes, you are a good woman. Still, are you the right one for him? IS HE THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOU? Because if you were, if he was, do you really think that RIGHT feels and/or acts the way that you're currently acting or feeling?
Do you really?
Don’t Miss the REAL Issue Here: That You Need to Do What’s BEST for YouGiphy
It’s kind of wild — the build-up here. Basically, without even intentionally doing it, we’ve gone from “good” to “right” to the finale — BEST. So with that said, ask yourself something and be as honest about the answer as you deserve (which is 100 percent): have you been so focused on trying to convince him that you’re a good woman that you haven’t stopped to consider that all of the convincing could be a super huge warning sign that he’s actually not what’s best…for you?
Best: of the highest quality, excellence, or standing; most advantageous, suitable, or desirable
Synonyms: first-rate, outstanding, leading, incomparable, finest, champion, 10
For the record, I don’t mean this from a lie-to-your-ego-to-make-rejection-feel-better standpoint either. I mean…I talk to a lot of women who are now ex-wives about how they were either so caught up in getting married or making a specific man their husband that they never really even thought about if he was BEST for them. Because here’s something else: if you’re a good woman and he’s a good man, yet the two of you are not the BEST for each other, the relationship is not as good as you think (or you want it to be). Straight up.
I know we covered A LOT of ground on this, yet, to me, all of it was necessary. If you want to be married, there is nothing wrong with that. If he doesn’t, there is nothing wrong with that either. Where potential drama comes into play is if you know where things stand, and you decide to waste precious time, effort, and energy, knowing that the two of you are not the BEST for each other because you both want different things.
Bottom line on this: being a good woman is only one part of getting someone to marry you. He must be good. You both must want the same things from one another. And most importantly, you should put what’s BEST for you above all else.
Do that, and suddenly wondering what’s up with him won’t be nearly as relevant as what’s BEST for you.
Now exhale. Freedom has revealed itself, sis. What you need to do next will be very shortly as well.
Good needs BEST. Remember that.
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