Stop Being What Others Expect You To Be
I unapologetically and literally love Hebrew culture. Since I strive to be the non-white evangelical version of a Bible follower (some of y'all will catch that later) and Christ was King of the Jews (a king whose family fled to Egypt at one point in his journey; I'll leave that right there—Matthew 2:13-23 and 27:11), that's a huge part of the reason why. Anyway, because of that, I have quite a bit of Hebrew art in my home. One is a picture of a baby, in the womb, with Scripture in Hebrew surrounding them. When I asked the Jewish artist what it meant before I purchased it, she said that, according to Jewish culture, it is believed that a child is perfect while inside of their mother; this includes them having all that they need to know about the Torah (which is basically the first five books of the Bible). Once the child is born, it is simply their parents' responsibility to remind them of what they are already aware of. I adore that. A child is just how they should be on the day of their birth. Parents are simply supposed to make sure they thrive with what is already within them.
Lawd. If only more parents looked at raising their children that way, right? I've shared the quote "adulthood is about surviving childhood", numerous times on this platform because, it's right. Between a lot of us having narcissistic parents or parents we had to raise, our boundaries being disrespected or even violated at a young age and then encountering people along the way who try and turn us into anything and everything but a dope ORIGINAL individual—it can be a daily struggle to avoid being what others expect/want/sometimes even demand, so that we can simply be freely—whew—ourselves.
If hearing all of that hit you somewhere in the pit of your stomach, let me first offer up a Scripture that I hold dear within this particular lane—"He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." (Psalm 33:15—NKJV) Then, I'd like to share some things that I've done to make sure to unlearn how to stop being preoccupied with, on any level, what people expect me to be—so that I can be who I was meant to be.
Cue Diana Ross’s “Mahogany” Song, Please.
I don't know when it started that, whenever I think about this kind of topic, I hear Diana Ross singing my ear, "Do you know, where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?" That's the hook from the theme song from the classic film Mahogany starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams. The reality is that, when it comes to discovering and then settling into the reality of who we really and truly are, it's important to ask yourself the same types of questions that Ms. Diana did in that song. See, it's been a little bit of my observation, sprinkled with some personal experience too, that when you don't have some clear desires, plans and goals for your life, it is so much easier for people to try and get you to be or do what they want or they feel is best for you.
Case in point. I grew up Seventh-Day Adventist (the same faith that Megan Good's husband, DeVon Franklin and, according to her Twitter bio, TLC's Chili is too). Right around my mid-20s, I decided that I didn't want to be a part of a religious denomination so much as I wanted to gain as much biblical knowledge as possible. There are a whole lot of Adventists who tend to think they've got all of the information that anyone needs to know (a lot of denominations and even religions think that way). And you know what? If I had listened to family members, church folks, etc., I wouldn't have come into so much of the knowledge that I have now; stuff many of them have never even considered because they believe they've got all of "the truth". Because I had a particular goal (to get as much knowledge as possible), it was easier to tune out the people who were trying to get me to think how they do, simply because that's how they were raised. I can promise you that, on the spiritual tip, my life is so much richer, fuller and even clearer because I stuck to what I knew was best and right—for me.
Someone once said that if you don't know where you're going, any path can get you there. If you know you have a struggle with living the kind of life that others expect of you vs. the life you know that you should be living, take some time out to think about what where you want to be, in virtually every category—six months, one year, three years and five years from now. The sooner you blaze a path, the easier it will be to stay on it. Even if you've gotta be on it alone.
Then Remember What Murch Said in ‘The Best Man’
If you're a fan of the movie, The Best Man, I'm willing to bet you've seen it a couple of dozen times by now. And if that is indeed the case, I'm sure you recall the scene when Murch and Candy exchanged a particular quote by Audre Lorde—"If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive."
Defining yourself. A part of the reason why I'm all for people writing personal mission statements (annually, if necessary) is because, it's important to have a self-definition; something that you can say is "definite, distinct, or clear" about yourself. Think about it. If someone were to ask you right now to define yourself physically in two sentences, what would you say? How about emotionally? Spiritually? Professionally? Relationally?
One of the reasons why a lot of people fall into the straight-up trap of conforming to others' views and perspectives is because, when you aren't self-defined, it's easy to blend into other people's thoughts and expectations. That's why the people, who are very firm in their identity, oftentimes get the most pushback from others. It can be hard for humanity to embrace those who don't simply agree with something because it's popular or "what everyone else is doing". Yet hear me when I say that when you are the kind of chameleon who becomes whatever you're around, best believe that Audre Lorde's quote will come back to haunt you, one way or another. We're not here to be someone else's fantasy definition. We're here to express the reality of our genuine nature and being. Are you doing that? Are you sure?
Why Do People’s Opinion of You Matter So Much? Really.
Opinions. While most of us know that one definition of the word is "a personal view", another definition that I really want you to sit with is, "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty". What I really like about that second definition is, it's a reminder that a lot of people who have opinions, whether it's about our personal or professional life, oftentimes, don't even have enough information/data/facts for it to even matter.
I remember when I first decided to go natural and get the tattoo that is on the inside of one of my forearms. While I was out discussing my plans with a few other people, one of them (who I'm cool with but am not close to) went on and on about how both decisions would affect me professionally (it was a Black woman, by the way). When I asked them why they thought that, they went on to talk about how corporate America struggles enough with "alternative looks", so why would I make things harder on myself? When I shared with them that I haven't stepped foot into an office since 2000 and didn't plan on doing it ever again, they shrugged their shoulders and nursed their drink. Yeah, you do that.
I also recall when I went into a particular church, right after getting my nose pierced and someone in leadership said that it was unbiblical to have one. "Really?" I said, "Because a lot of brides in the Bible had nose rings." (Rebekah in Genesis 24, for example) And actually, there is a passage in the Bible about God putting a ring in the nose of Jerusalem that inspired this." (Ezekiel 16) They were silent (at least to me) after that. Good.
Listen, only a really arrogant—or super insecure, which is usually one in the same—person would think that they should never care what anyone thinks (check out "Should You Really Not Care About What Other People Think?"). Yet if you constantly battle with people pleasing or having poor boundaries with folks in this particular area, the next time someone offers up an opinion, revisit the definition of the word that I share with you—does that person even have enough information to come at you with what they are going on and on about? Not only that, but is their opinion about to help or harm? Not your ego (because sometimes we need to hear something that will humble us real quick); I mean, the core of your very being. If the answer to either of these questions isn't a beneficial one, I wouldn't care too much about their opinion, if I were you. Their evidence is too limited for it really to matter in the long run.
Can You Filter Perspectives and Advice Properly?
On the heels of what I just said, what about the people whose insights you do care about? How do you handle those? Well, let me start off by saying that I've been very open on this platform about the fact that I'm about an 85 percent recovered control freak. I grew up around way too many of them and so, I've come to realize and accept that, once I put some serious distance between myself and those individuals, I was better able to ease up on those I was trying to control in return. The space has helped me to realize that when you feel like someone is suffocating you via their controlling ways, you oftentimes will turn around and take your frustration out on others by trying to control them too. Being less controlling made me much calmer. Being much calmer has helped me to have healthier filters when it comes to processing perspectives and advice, as well as giving them.
Sometimes, even those who you love and trust are gonna say things that you're not gonna agree with or perhaps even like. That doesn't mean you don't need to take what is said to heart, though. First, ask yourself if this person has a track record of having your best interest at heart. Next, ask yourself if they are intruding into your life or are they welcome in the areas they are speaking on. Third, if something they say triggers you or even flat-out pisses you off, ask yourself if it's about them or is it really about you and your stuff that you need to deal with.
Self-aware individuals know that no one is perfect and we all need accountability. And so, they are open to hearing what can help them to become better people. At the same time, they can tell the difference between hearing something that will improve them vs. what will change them. When hearing from others, make sure you know the difference between listening to what will improve you vs. what will totally change you. The first is helpful. The second? 9.5 times outta 10, it's straight trash. Real talk.
Know Your Purpose. Embrace Who Supports It.
Whew. Please Lord, make sure that this particular point resonates with all who read it. Amen. If there is one thing that I am super passionate about, it's people being extremely intentional about discovering what their purpose is. After all, your purpose is "the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc." and, I don't care what your religion is, if you are a person of faith on any level, it's important to recognize that spiritual warfare is designed to keep you off of your purpose. Because if you're not out here living out the reason for why you exist, what exactly are you doing with your life?
That's why, once you are clear about your purpose on this planet, it's vital that you surround yourself with the people, places, things and ideas that embrace, support, nurture, encourage and value your purpose. On the people tip, these will be individuals who don't try and distract you from fulfilling your purpose. They won't challenge you about manifesting your purpose. And they definitely won't serve as distractors or deterrents when it comes to your purpose.
Some people spend way too much time, effort and energy caring about what people think who aren't allies of their purpose; they are actually enemies. Allies aren't going to stress you out, plant seeds of self-doubt or try and get you to live your life in a way that solely makes sense to them or makes them feel more comfortable. If these are the kinds of individuals you've got in your life, they are toxic—to you and your purpose. It's time to do some serious shifting. Not later—NOW.
Care About What God Thinks. What You Think. AND THEN ONLY OTHERS WHO TRULY MATTER.
Any of us who grew up in the Church, we oftentimes heard that it's important for us to put God and others before ourselves. Personally, I'm a huge fan of how Scripture says to "love your neighbor as yourself", and I honestly don't know how we can do that unless we love our own selves well…first (Mark 12:30-31). Either way, when it comes to breaking the habit of being who others expect you to be, it's definitely important that you put them at the bottom of your priority list when it comes to your self-identity. Care about what you creator thinks (where God is, there is peace; that's a great way to gauge). Then care what you think (being at total peace with yourself is important too). And then, when you are good with those two relationships, you'll be able to better discern who is a good fit for you and your life.
One of the most challenging things in this world is learning how to be your best self and not get caught up in what others expect, simply because they expect it. Oh, but once you master this particular skill, the sky really is the limit on oh so many levels. You won't wait for others affirmation or applause because…you've got your own.
Determine today to be what you were called to be. Not what others expect of you. Then watch, sis. Whew…just you watch!
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Different puzzle pieces are creating bigger pictures these days. 2024 will mark a milestone on a few different levels, including the release of my third book next June (yay!).
I am also a Professional Certified Coach. My main mission for attaining that particular goal is to use my formal credentials to help people navigate through the sometimes tumultuous waters, both on and offline, when it comes to information about marriage, sex and relationships that is oftentimes misinformation (because "coach" is a word that gets thrown around a lot, oftentimes quite poorly).
I am also still super devoted to helping to bring life into this world as a doula, marriage life coaching will always be my first love (next to writing, of course), a platform that advocates for good Black men is currently in the works and my keystrokes continue to be devoted to HEALTHY over HAPPY in the areas of holistic intimacy, spiritual evolution, purpose manifestation and self-love...because maturity teaches that it's impossible to be happy all of the time when it comes to reaching goals yet healthy is a choice that can be made on a daily basis (amen?).
If you have any PERSONAL QUESTIONS (please do not contact me with any story pitches; that is an *editorial* need), feel free to reach out at email@example.com. A sistah will certainly do what she can. ;)
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.
The Fall Equinox begins on September 23, 2023, and it’s time to embrace abundance, gain clarity, and know that you are worthy of your desires. The Fall Equinox marks the beginning of fall and the end of summer and is a turning point of the year, where things settle in and come to fruition. The energy that fall brings is one of harvest, but it is also one of release, letting go, and finding your ground. Coming from a summer of intensity, drama in love, and overall moving through a space of deep spiritual growth- now that fall is here, we are ready to decompress, dream, and enjoy that which we have created for ourselves.
What Is the Energy of the Fall Equinox 2023?
The energy this fall is opening up new doors of abundance and is a time of reaping your rewards in life. Fall begins at the same time as Libra Season, and a lot of these blessings have to do with love and the relationship developments that will be taking place over the next few months. With a New Moon Solar Eclipse in Libra occurring a few weeks after fall begins on October 14th, something enchanting is happening in romance right now. The scales are coming into balance, new beginnings are occurring, and clarity prevails.
Relationships over the next few months are about focusing on the gifts and gratitude you find in them and accepting where things need to change as well.
By the time winter begins, most of the planets that are currently in retrograde will be direct, and this signifies the change of pace that fall is bringing. This fall highlights Eclipse Season overall, and the Full Moon Lunar Eclipse in Taurus on October 28th will be a time of creating boundaries, honoring your values and energy, and closing a chapter in your life that doesn’t align. Financial worlds are growing and finding new ground, but with Jupiter still in retrograde in Taurus until December 30th, patience is needed here.
Over the next few months, give yourself the space to gain some new perspectives, make room for love, and grow in abundance.
Your guidance this fall is to take those first steps toward the goals you have been pondering over this year. There is a Full Moon in your sign a week after fall begins, and you get the opportunity to enter this season with less baggage and more closure. You will possibly be starting a new position or working in a new field, and you need all the good energy to back you right now. Know that you can count on your skills and talents to move you further in life and that help will be there when you least expect it. This is a fall of abundance for you, Aries, claim it.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 29, Oct. 13, Nov. 13, Nov. 21
Patience, patience, patience, Taurus. You are creating something beautiful in the world right now, and the time it’s taken to get you here will all be worthwhile. Your guidance this fall is to nurture your world and your dreams and to bring more love and compassion to your life. You are preparing for a new reality but need some more time to dream it up and define that which you want for yourself and your future. The Full Lunar Eclipse happening this fall is occurring in your sign, and you are moving through some major closures in your life right now. This is a creative time for you, Taurus.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 28, Oct. 29, Nov. 6, Nov. 20
This fall is all about taking care of yourself and valuing your time and energy, Gemini. The way you see yourself and your life are coming up for review right now, and you are being urged to look at yourself in a better light. Your ruling planet, Mercury, goes retrograde for the last time this year on December 13th, just before fall ends, and this time is all about taking what you have learned and choosing better for yourself. You may be tested to be more confident or true to yourself right now and over the next few months, and it’s about owning your part in this life and standing up for what you want.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 21, Nov. 20, Dec. 12
This is an abundant fall for you, Cancer. You have worked diligently on claiming the opportunities and new doors that have been opening for you, and you are feeling free to be your successful self. You are encouraged in your independence right now, and you have proven to yourself just how talented you are and how much you have grown. No major aspects are happening in your sign this fall, giving you the space to breathe, create, and receive your rewards. Happiness fills your world, and even though you still feel like you are just getting started in a sense, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the gifts that are presenting themselves today.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 13, Oct. 15, Nov. 12, Nov. 13
This fall is a turning point for you in love, Leo. New developments are taking place in your relationships, and you are being received especially favorably. This is the time to open your heart to growth and new possibilities and to get creative with what you are looking for right now. The Last Quarter Moon happening in your sign on November 5th will be a turning point for you this fall. Your unique charm and charisma are enough, and you attract many to you through your natural energy and love for life. Your ship is coming in this fall, and your heart is fulfilled.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 1, Oct. 31, Nov. 5, Nov. 14
Virgo, this fall is a blessing for the heart space. You are feeling in tune emotionally, and there is positive energy coming your way and into your love life. You have spent a lot of this year healing, forgiving, and finding your voice, and over the next few months, you will be creating the spaces you have been looking to enter in your life. Venus enters your sign for a month on October 8th, and there are some pleasant surprises in store for you during this time. Fresh starts are coming in for you, and spiritually, you are awakening to the gifts within you and in your heart. Your beauty is showing, and love is coming in for you this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 25, Oct. 22, Nov. 5, Nov. 20
This fall is a new beginning for your financial world, Libra. Autumn begins the same day Libra Season does, and you have some extra motivation and energy within you right now. You are ready to put the action behind the intentions you have been setting for yourself financially, and this is a time of plans coming together and falling through to success. The more you stay focused and diligent, the more opportunities that can come for you right now. The first month of fall, the Sun is in your sign, and this is really the time to get things moving in your life, especially with a New Moon Eclipse in Libra on October 14th happening as well.
Your lucky days this fall are: Sep. 27, Oct. 14, Oct. 30, Nov. 20
It’s all about the vision for you right now, Scorpio. You are focused on the future, your path ahead, and manifesting your dreams, and there is something passionate about the next few months for you. You may be taking some risks this fall as you test the boundaries on how far you want to go with something and what worlds are opening up to you now. Mars is in your sign from October 12th until November 24th, and life is exciting for you right now. You have your eyes on the prize and are ready to move forward toward the things that are lighting you up right now.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 12, Oct. 13, Nov. 6, Nov. 13,
This fall is about taking a leap of faith, Sagittarius. Your guidance over the next few months is to do the things that you would do if you knew you would be supported in doing them. Less self-doubt is needed now, as you are walking on new ground. You are moving towards personal healing you have been wary of from the beginning, and you are ready to let go of some energy that has been holding you back. Trust that once you decide on something, the universe instantly begins to make it happen for you. Your season begins on November 22nd, and it’s time to put yourself first more. Have courage in yourself this fall.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 8, Nov. 22, Nov. 24, Dec. 12
This fall is all about clarity for you, Capricorn. You are a wise soul, and you are owning this energy about yourself right now. Over the next few months, you will be developing spiritually, helping those who need your sound advice, and evolving in life. You have found a new sense of enlightenment and are enjoying the clear perspective that has been gained. Mercury goes retrograde in your sign on December 13th, right before fall ends, and this is when you will be feeling more tested to take the lead in your life and use your voice. Overall, fall 2023 is your time to surrender to the good within you and in your life, Capricorn.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 10, Oct. 23, Nov. 4, Dec. 1
Things are moving fast for you this fall, Aquarius. This is a successful, harmonious, and passionate time for you, as many opportunities come your way at once. It will be hard to settle down with all the energy flowing through your life over the next few months, as you have so much to do and so many people to see. Overall, however, this is positive energy that you have been looking forward to in your life, and everything is coming together and moving forward where it was once stagnant. Fall is giving you the closure and the opportunity to reinvent yourself and start on new, solid ground in your life.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 30, Oct. 31, Nov. 20, Nov. 28
Your guidance for fall is to have balance in your life. There is a lot of new coming in for you, but you are also working on letting go of what has fallen. You have grown in many ways this year, and financially, you have seen growth as well but may be feeling the weight of responsibilities this has come with now. To move through this season with the most grace, give yourself more time to rest, to be, and allow things to fall into place on their own. Saturn has been retrograde in your sign since June and goes direct this fall on November 4th, Pisces. This is your opportunity to see things more clearly, protect your energy, and feel more in tune with your internal guidance system.
Your lucky days this fall are: Oct. 22, Nov. 4, Nov. 6, Dec. 12
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