As far as I'm concerned, there's rarely a moment when Tracee Ellis Ross doesn't say something quotable or that makes me unshakeably exclaim, "Preach" accompanied by six or seven snaps of my appreciation of her unfiltered and deeply resonant truths. Though I admire her talents and what she has contributed to the culture with iconic characters like Girlfriends' Joan Clayton and Black-ish's Rainbow and the gift to the natural hair community that is PATTERN, I am in awe of Tracee Ellis Ross as the woman.
Doused in self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-mastery, and all around deeply connected with herself, Tracee is the embodiment of a marvel of a woman who is always true to who she is. And upon listening to a recent appearance of hers on the popular podcast, We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle, I was reminded of that fact yet again. Keep reading for some gems the 50-year-old multihyphenate shared while there.
On unpacking messaging of needing to be chosen being her sole purpose as a woman:
"We go back to this model that you are sold, that we not only are we sold it, but we are fed it. And we have to drink it, and it’s everywhere. And if you are not careful, you actually think it’s true. And it’s the only bit of news for you, which is that my job as a woman is to learn to be choosable, having nothing to do with who I am, what makes my heart sing, floats my boat, makes me feel safe, makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel good, makes me feel powerful, makes me feel smart, any of those things, but really [my job as a woman] is more about how I might be seen so that I might be chosen so that my life could mean something as a 'chosen woman' who then gets to have a child and then be a mother and do that for a child.
"So our culture sells us this and there’s nothing wrong with that journey. But [there's nothing wrong with that] if it’s a chosen journey, as opposed to the one that you think is going to make you worth anything. And then everything starts to fall into that messaging.
"I have been grateful enough to have found places where there are eons of tools and different ways to unpack that crazy messaging, [and] make sense of it in a way that actually gives me a shot at genuine happiness and a robust life that’s actually mine. And it’s like a daily reprieve. Some days are better than others. Some days, the old messaging comes in, sweeps in and I have got a really nice matching story that goes with it of my unlovability. That narrative that just kind of travels along with it. And if I am not careful and go into that thinking alone, I get stuck there. And then, you come out."
On the self-connection strategies that stop her from believing everything her mind tells her:
"Friendships. I have practices of healing and support that I lean towards. Therapy, some of which I keep sacred and private, some of those, but I don’t share them necessarily publicly. But friendship has been the biggest [strategy] and the willingness to be completely transparent. And to be able to call people when I am on the floor, whether it’s metaphorically or physically on the floor... I think it’s friendship, the tools that tether me... tether me to what I like best about my life, which is the basic things. Like, my favorite part of my life is my life.
"I love all the stuff, but I really like making my bed in the morning or doing laundry or making my food or taking the garbage out, like just the basics that really tether me to my own humanity and my own sense of self, and being able to show up and be of service and all of those things. ... It’s honestly like my mind is a wonderful place. It gets dangerous when I get connected to the really bad horror story that I have been stitching together since I was young. And somehow if I fall back into that groove, it is so dangerous up there. And then everything’s colored by the wrong information. Everything!"
On learning how not to abandon herself and hold space for unlovable moments:
"It’s interesting. I have really learned how to do that. Because I think that I have abandoned myself way too many times. Way too many times. But each time in the aftermath of the hurt, I do ask myself the question of how do I not end up here again. And what I have discovered is I will end up here again.
"...It’s funny, I just, I have been nursing another, just deep disappointment. And my little inner child was, she was just crying, just crying so hard. And for the first time, I was able to sit with her. And I was like, 'Here’s the thing, my love, I am not going anywhere. I am not going anywhere. I don’t know. I don’t know how to be anybody else. I just don’t. But what I know how to do, is to be me. And to just hold that space with as much compassion and curiosity and gentleness as possible, and to find all the things even if it’s a bag of frickin Funyuns.' Like, what is it? What is it that we need today to just try and hold that space of love?
"I think that’s the thing we are sold. That’s wrong. I don’t know that life is supposed to be a thing that just feels good all the time. But how can we hold the spaces and the days and the periods when it just doesn’t feel good? And I just feel so unlovable, and like how can I have the hurt without deciding it means I am unlovable? How do you not give meaning to it? And that’s where the work is like in that little space."
On being a mother and defining womanhood and fertility for herself in her own life:
"I am a wonderful mother. Wonderful! And I am very mothering. And it’s been hard for me to claim that. In a world where I don’t have the thing that says, I mean, what did I...? What was I just writing...? [It] was [a] journal entry from like three or four days ago:
"'I can feel my body’s ability to make a child draining out of me. Sometimes I find it hilarious as if there’s a fire sale going on, in my uterus, and someone’s in there screaming, 'All things must go!' ...As my body becomes a foreign place, to me that doesn’t really feel safe or like home and I don’t know how to manage or control or fight the external binary narrative of the patriarchy that has hunted me and haunted me most of my adult life. Is it my fertility that is leaving me? Is it my womanhood? Or is it really neither? But I have to fight to hold my truth. Because I have been programmed so successfully by the water we all swim in, by the water, we all are served.
"'And I feel fertile with creativity, full of power, more and more a woman than I have ever been. And yet, that power that I was told, I must use was not used. A power, I mean, just trying to figure out sort of what that means, like, because my ability to have a child is leaving me but like, I don’t agree that that’s what fertile means. I don’t agree that that’s what woman means..."
Listen to the podcast episode in full below:
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