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In Order To Evolve, I'm Breaking Up With 'Healing'

The way we obsess over fixing ourselves can be damaging too.

Her Voice

Are we obsessed with healing?

Is the culture curated around healing perpetrating one's need to "fix" themselves?

Is our need to be constantly "working on ourselves" causing us to find new things to be anxious and depressed about?

What started out as individuals seeking to move beyond traumatic experiences, fears and insecurities has become individuals drowning themselves in healing practices but being stuck in the same cycle.

Once I became aware of my own issues, I couldn't stop finding issues. Every day, a new one would pop up. Initially, I thought this was great. I figured because I was so self-aware, I would be able to fix all of the things I believed I needed to fix about myself. Then, I would finally be happy and free from the chains of past experiences. I was committed to going through the baggage I had accumulated over the years but it started to take over my life. I am actually in the beginning stages of this realization, meaning I am currently in the process of reshaping my relationship with personal development. So, I am not writing this article as an expert. I am writing this article as someone who is currently moving through the experience.

Learning and adjusting as I go.

A lot of things started to come up for me during my journey; most of these things stemmed from childhood. Actually, all of them stemmed from childhood. Healing requires you to go down memory lane and, depending on your experiences, you may or may not spend a lot of time there. While this can be helpful, venturing down memory lane tends to be in direct conflict with the concept of being and staying present. One can easily get stuck in their own memories which can end up triggering mental loops and cause you to put yourself in a destructive emotional cycle.

During my various healing transitions, I found myself having on-again off-again experiences with anxiety and depression. I was beating myself up mentally and emotionally when it came to the changes I knew I needed to make but was finding myself falling short. This was a symptom of me raising my awareness. I became aware of everything. Awareness is a very beautiful and necessary thing but I do think it's important to note that it could end up doing more harm than good if it isn't applied in the most nurturing way.

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I was constantly at war with myself. I felt split, like I was two people in one.

One side of me, I will call her the "evolved side", was attuned and aligned, trying to live her best life. While the other side of me, I will call her the "default setting", was clinging to the traumas, fears, insecurities and false narratives. I would go back and forth between these two states but most times, I just found myself feeling depleted. I call this the healing vortex. I'm not sure if you have ever experienced this whirlwind I am describing but it was trapping me in old storylines and causing major stagnancy when it came to moving forward with the new stories and beliefs I had created.

This healing vortex made me feel like I was always taking two steps forward and three steps back. So my obsession with "healing" or relieving myself of this stagnancy resulted in me diving deeper into my addiction with trying to fix myself. Let's examine this frame of thinking for a second. To believe that you need fixing would imply that you think you are broken. This thought automatically starts the healing process off on a negative note.

Dr. Crystal Jones, a friend and spiritual advisor has built her platform around disempowering this broken narrative and leading with the empowered concept of humans being fundamentally perfect, whole and complete. I encourage you to look her up. I love this ideology because I believe it gives us space to focus on self-allowance, rather than thinking we need to dismantle ourselves.

I now believe healing is a perspective shift. I don't believe healing is this life-long experience, at least I don't believe it has to be. It also doesn't have to involve pain and self-torment. The concept of healing seems to have become something we drag out, just like many of us do with traumas. We trade one addiction for another, which can be a common thing for addicts.

I have decided to break up with healing as I move more into evolving.

Healing implies you are recovering from something. Evolving is more so about growing and moving forward. One is rooted in attempting to put oneself back together and the other is rooted in embracing the next phase of who you are, regardless of who you have previously been.

This switch in perspective comes with less stress and strain and more ease and flow. Suffering doesn't have to be a prerequisite for personal growth. Your transformation can be adventurous, wonder-filled and playful. So, I have started to "look at life from a place of play instead of climbing a mountain." (Aijt Nawalkha) Shifting my belief around what it means to change has taken the pressure off of getting that next self-help high. I'm not focused on beating myself up for not being better because better is a choice. You choose to be better, you choose to be okay, you choose to move forward and then you commit to that choice in every moment.

I no longer believe I have to heal my way through life. I choose to playfully and graciously evolve with lots of self-compassion and my sanity still in tact.

xoNecole is always looking for new voices and empowering stories to add to our platform. If you have an interesting story or personal essay that you'd love to share, we'd love to hear from you. Contact us at submissions@xonecole.com.

Featured image by Getty Images

Originally published June 30, 2019

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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