Jazmine A. Ortiz is a creative born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn and currently living in Staten Island, NY. She started in the entertainment industry in 2012 and now works as a Lifestyle Editor where she explores everything from mental health to vegan foodie trends. For more on what she's doing in the digital space follow her on Instagram at @liddle_bitt.
By now we know it takes vulnerability to establish long-lasting and healthy relationships of all kinds. For someone like me, who is aware of this but a hot mess when it comes to execution, this is easier said than done. So, I spoke to a professional on tangible tips to explore my vulnerable side. India Douglas, LMSW works at a school in Brooklyn, New York teaching underserved kids the fundamentals when it comes to understanding feelings.
She also became a teletherapist at Brooklyn Center for Psychotherapy for all ages and genders during the pandemic at a time when vulnerability issues became a hot topic of discussion. Her background with the building blocks of emotions, I felt was perfect to break down the root of my vulnerability issues and how to move forward.
While she has never treated me, for the purposes of this story, I did share with her a few intimate details about my struggles with opening up wholeheartedly to those I care about. "Your diagnosis would probably be somewhere within the anxiety wheelhouse. It sounds as if you have issues opening up because you fear the response of what would happen if you did and the what-ifs," she explained. "If you get treated at Brooklyn Center for Psychotherapy, you might get an unspecified anxiety disorder diagnosis (found in the DSM-5). Later, they might put a specifier in there, based on whatever past experiences you share with your therapist."
Below find her tips for myself and others like me to navigate the ins and outs of being vulnerable.
How you should work on being more vulnerable:
"Before you get vulnerable with someone else, that vulnerability needs to start with yourself. You have to start by asking yourself the questions that you've been dodging in the back of your head. Begin journaling and really thinking about any traumas that you've had. Also, if something that you struggle with is anxiety—which is just the fear of the unknown—write down a list of what you're afraid of, and then the possible outcomes. Ask yourself, 'What if that did happen? Is it the worst thing? Is it the end of the world? What are you fearing from being that vulnerable? What reaction am I afraid of getting?' Write it down, look at it, stare at it and then figure out, 'OK, if this happened how would I respond to it?' It takes away that fear of the unknown.
"Vulnerability lies a lot with understanding your triggers. A lot of people are triggered by things that are attached to trauma or situations that happened in their childhood. When another person doesn't know these triggers, their reaction can come off negative. But when they do, then you open up a conversation and better communication between each other. So, if you're not open to understanding what your triggers are, how can you possibly be open to being vulnerable with somebody else? That's why people need to take time before they get into romantic relationships to get to know themselves—which can sometimes take years. That doesn't mean you can't date in the meantime, but it does mean that the more you know about yourself, the more you can share with your partner."
How to be more vulnerable in your relationships:
"When it comes to a romantic partner, I suggest taking each other out on dates. One takes the other out on a date and on that date, that's the date planners' day to be vulnerable and talk there about things. Don't approach the date like 'I got a bone to pick with you.' It shouldn't feel like a meeting or something you're dreading. It should be more like, 'This is my date day so I get to pick the spot and choose the topic of discussion this time.' And then next week is your date day to go where you want to go and discuss what you want to discuss. You can do this with family members too if you're trying to build or repair that relationship. Maybe not indefinitely, but for a period of time that gets you both to a better place.
"The number one thing I recommend is couples counseling. The best relationships are where you're in therapy, your partner is in therapy, and you are jointly in therapy. That is the best way to move forward. [Also,] there are card games like We're Not Really Strangers. That's a fun way to kind of get to know someone that you're interested in a bit deeper, and literally laying your cards on the table."
How to be open and expressive if you’re afraid of being vulnerable:
"For someone who is not good at being vulnerable, it might feel like, 'I want to be vulnerable with you but I'm scared of being vulnerable with you, and by me having even this conversation with you, is me being vulnerable.' Lean into your strengths instead of focusing on your weaknesses.
"If your strength is drawing, draw a picture that expresses how you feel; if your strength is music, play a song that expresses how you feel; if writing is your strength, write a letter or a card—everybody has certain strengths. You want to play off those strengths, they will empower you."
Being vulnerable with someone who is not receptive:
"If you do step out of your comfort zone and are vulnerable with someone, and they're not receptive, then that is a sign that this person is not ready to be vulnerable back with you. It takes two. Instead, focus on why you're seeking validation from this person who's incapable of giving you what you're giving of yourself. If you feel like this is a person that you want to work on things with, speak to them about it. Have them own up to it. And if they're unable to do that, then move on to somebody else who's willing and ready to be just as vulnerable as you, because it doesn't work if one person is putting in all the work."
How to receive someone’s vulnerability when being outwardly emotional doesn’t come naturally:
"By saying to them that you hear them and you are appreciative of them being vulnerable with you. Then add that you need some time to digest what was just said to you so that you can give them the proper reaction to that vulnerability. Sometimes when people have a hard time being vulnerable and then other people being vulnerable back, they go into a shell. That's something that needs to be shared with the other person so that they don't feel like, 'Wow, I just laid it all on the line and this person just blinked at me.'"
Patterns, behaviors, and language that should be established to create a space for vulnerability:
"Setting boundaries is a good place to start because once you establish your boundaries, you can figure out who you can trust. Once that trust is established, then the vulnerability just spills out. I feel statements which go something like, 'I feel like this and because of that, I would like this from you moving forward.' Ifeel statements are good because you're starting from the feelings and it's not an attack on that person. It's just you talking about how you feel."
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Featured image by SDI Productions/Getty Images
Originally published on March 31, 2021
Vaginal discharge is one of those topics that doesn't really make it to the dinner table, but being informed can save vagina owners a lot of worry and confusion. So we know fluids are secreted from tiny glands in the vagina and cervix but different colors and smells can be unnerving.
To avoid any pre-mature freak-outs or to approach an unpleasant situation in a calm, cool, and collected way, we called in an expert. Below, Dr. Karyn Eilber, founder of Glissant lux lubricants and professor of urology and gynecology at Cedars Sinai answers our pressing questions about vaginal discharge.
What Is Vaginal Discharge in General?
"Vaginal discharge in general is a combination of fluid secreted by the vagina, cervix, and uterus," says Dr. Eilber. "The discharge helps clean the vagina — kind of like a self-cleaning oven." Although vaginal discharge happens every day, the way it looks and smells can vary.
What Is Normal Discharge?
"Normal discharge is typically thin and clear to white in color," says Dr. Eilber. That means anything else out of the ordinary should be a sign that something is going on with your vagina.
What Are Different Kinds of Vaginal Discharge? What Do They Each Mean?
"Generally with less hormones, there is less discharge," says Dr. Eilber. It's normal for vaginal discharge odor, color, and/or consistency to change with hormonal changes like those that come with a menstrual cycle or perimenopause, or menopause.
"Thick, white discharge associated with itching can indicate a yeast infection. Greyish or yellowish discharge associated with a fishy odor can be bacterial vaginosis or bacterial imbalance in the vagina," she explains. "Bloody or brown discharge not associated with infection or a menstrual cycle, especially in a menopausal woman, may indicate something serious like cancer."
Editor's note: Remember to always consult your doctor if something looks or feels off, but this speed course in vaginal discharge should give you the clarity and confidence you need to take charge in any situation.
To learn more about all things vaginal health and wellness, check out the xoNecole Women's Health section here.
Featured image by Getty Images
Here at xoNecole our "summer body" goals consist of two things: confidence and strength. The physical perks that come along with those are just added bonuses, but still, it feels good to look in the mirror and have those reflected. If you feel like you need to get on track to finding your inner and outer hot girl as Megan Thee Stallion would say, we've got the workout for you. We promise you'll be rapping, "Handle me? Who gon' handle me?" in the mirror before you know it.
Tone & Sculpt trainer Danyele Wilson is a HIIT master and specializes in creating quick, effective workouts that are more about gaining confidence than losing pounds or inches.
She designed a powerful HIIT circuit exclusively for xoNecole readers that will have you feeling like the stallion that you are before any end of the summer soirées. Follow her instructions below for a mid-summer burn and then check out the rest of her workouts on the Tone & Sculpt app.
Perform each move below for the number of given reps. Repeat the circuit 3-4 times for a quick HIIT workout that will get your heart racing!
Dumbbell back lunge to knee drive: 10 reps each leg
Start with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Keeping your upper body straight and gaze forward, step one leg backward, lowering your hips until knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
Keep your weight in your front heel and drive your back leg forward, bringing that knee into your chest. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
High knee run and stick: 30 seconds
Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left knee to your chest. Quickly alternate and lift your right knee to your chest, then your left knee, and finally stick with your right knee to your chest. Hold for a few seconds before alternating legs to repeat the same movement.
Romanian DeadLift to Dumbbell clean: 10 reps
Hold onto dumbbells and stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. With a slight bend to the knees and keeping them stationary, start lowering the dumbbells by bending at the waist and keeping the back straight.
In one swift motion, explosively extend through your hips and bring the dumbbells up to your shoulders, keeping the dumbbells as close to your body as possible the entire time. Lower the dumbbells to move into the Romanian deadlift starting position and repeat.
Broad jump to back-pedal: 30 seconds
Stand straight with your hands by your side and your feet hip-width apart. Extend your arms back while explosively jumping forward, landing 4-6 ft. in front of your starting position. Shuffle back to the starting position and repeat.
Side plank thread the needle: 10 reps each side
Start in a side plank position with your hand raised. Lower your arm in and twist it under your torso, keeping the core engaged. Control your arm back up into the starting side plank position and repeat.
Editor's note: Remember, it's always best to consult your physician before making any extreme changes to your fitness routine.
To work out with Danyele, visit www.toneandsculpt.app to download Tone & Sculpt's free 14-day trial.
Featured image by Mike Tittel courtesy of Danyele Wilson
It's no secret that Alicia Keys exudes inner peace and bares the succulent skin of our youth that we're spending $$ in adulthood trying to re-capture. So when sis listed her commandments to balanced beauty and wellness in Elle, you better believe we took notes. Adding to her credibility as a skincare guru, the star launched a wellness brand—Keys Soulcare—in the midst of the pandemic that included a line of facial products.
Now, the 40-year-young mom of two is launching an equally soothing body care line we're deeming essential. The newbies to Keys Soulcare include a Renewing Hand and Body Wash, Rich Nourishing Body Cream, and Sacred Body Oil.
First Things First, Rituals and Affirmations Are a Must
According to Alicia, affirmations have the "ability to remind ourselves how incredible we are." She believes this so much so that each product under Keys Soulcare comes branded with an affirmation. The idea is that even taking just a moment for yourself by reciting one of these affirmations while using your fave product creates a ritual that brings you one step closer to inner peace.
One of her most popular face products was the Golden Cleanser, which she reformulated for use all over as the Renewing Body + Handwash. "The mantra of this product is, 'I love myself as I am.'" She also shared her thoughts on her personal fave, the Sacred Body Oil. "When you get out of the shower, put some drops on your damp skin and say the mantra is 'Everything I do is an act of creation,' which is powerful. Think of that as you're creating this moment for yourself and your day."
Be Kind to the Skin and Body You’re In—It’s the Only Set You Have
Alicia says she suffered from "skin issues for a long time" and classified herself as having been a thicker girl. "I had a lot of curves early," she explained while adding the added attention was an insecurity of hers in her younger years. But she says it's important to note that the body and skin are ever-evolving. As she got older she had a new set of insecurities to embrace.
"When I had kids, I felt like, 'Oh, my gosh, I'll never look the same ever again.' And that creates insecurity. It fluctuates and flows, but I feel like today, right now, I feel really good about my body. Every day, what your body does is a miracle. We're like the walking embodiments of miracles, and I like to remember that."
Her point? Beauty is not only skin-deep, and finding things that bring a healthy beauty perspective is important. She shared, "I feel really beautiful after a hard hike. My strength and ability is sexy and sensual. Or laying on a beach chair with some sun beating down on me. And I feel beautiful when I'm just with my family and my sweatpants on a couch, and we're all just cuddled up and hugging, watching a movie—that feeling of pure bliss and love."
Always Be Gracious and Always Celebrate
Don't forget to thank yourself for how far you've come, which is a practice that Alicia enforces with herself regularly. "I'd have never thought 20 years ago [when I released my first album] that I'd be here flourishing and more creative than ever and creating the best music of my life, making the best connections of my life. When I look back [at my 20-year-old self], I'm just profoundly appreciating her because she helped to create me now," says the singer.
She adds, "The advice I would give my 20-year-old self is, you already have it right. You don't have to change anything. You don't have to fix anything, you don't have to try to fit in anything or be whatever people want you to be. All you have to do is keep doing you."
Featured image by Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp
This past year was a wake-up call for many of us, and Tamar Braxton knows this all too well. On July 16, 2020, the now 44-year-old star was rushed to the hospital after a suicide attempt that sent the media into a tizzy and gave her family the biggest scare they could possibly imagine. She recently spoke to People about the re-surfaced childhood trauma that led her to that very scary moment nearly a year ago. What opened up old wounds was her experience being molested as a child being brought up in a 2018 taping of her WE tv docuseries Tamar Braxton: Get Ya Life! without her consent.
"I thought I had successfully buried that part of me, but it was manifesting in different ways," she said of her time on the show. "It was coming out in how I dealt with things emotionally, how I looked at situations, how I conducted myself."
It all came to a head when Tamar made a conclusion—that she now realizes was false—that her 7-year-old son Logan was better off without her. She felt the drama-filled show, which often co-starred her ex-boyfriend David Adefeso, wasn't something that Logan could be proud of.
"I didn't want to continue being a disappointment for him. How can his friends' parents respect me if this is what they see every day? I wouldn't let my kid go over to a child's house if this is what was portrayed on television. In my sickness, I thought that if I can take the embarrassment out of his life, maybe he would have a chance to have the best life."
Even in the midst of her darkest moment, she knew she needed to immediately start the steps to her recovery. After her scare and a weekend in the hospital, she checked herself into a mental health facility for additional treatment for depression and anxiety brought on by traumatic circumstances. To this day she meets with a life coach and a psychiatrist multiple times a week.
On an Instagram post, she also credits shadow work, acupuncture spiritual therapy, and mandatory workouts as part of her new wellness regimen. "I know now that that probably would have destroyed him, that the best life that I can set for him is to be the example, get counseling and show him how to communicate," Tamar says.
If it wasn't clear already how she feels about reality TV now, she writes in a caption on Instagram under a video of her People shoot:
"My job in reality tv was creating and manipulating this story for me that I absolutely hated….& just like any other abuser, there is little or no accountability and denial.🥴"
"I'm not where I was, but there's still work to be done."
Featured image by Prince Williams/Wireimage
The classic album that launched Mary J. Blige's career in the mid-'90s is the inspiration behind the newly released Amazon Prime documentary entitled, Mary J. Blige's My Life. When Mary dropped the album in 1994, it connected with women of all ages on a different level than ever before, dubbing her the Queen of Hip Hop Soul. She admittedly recorded the album during one of the darkest times in her life.
Depression and an abusive relationship (with singer K-Ci of K-Ci & JoJo) contributed to the album's timeless soulful tracks and the reason she's finally decided to tell the whole story of that period on the silver screen.
"I've done pretty much everything that I've always wanted to do," the Power Book II: Ghost star said in the doc. "But success comes when you're successful inside. And for a long time, I didn't know I was successful outside because I was a wreck inside."
Raise your hand if you've ever been a wreck on the inside. *Raises hand* It's true her relatability and the resilience that she's displayed in her music over decades has transformed her into the icon she is. In the doc, Mary also talks about being molested, her battle with addiction, and childhood traumas.
Below read Mary's best quotables while doing press for the film that shows the power in her vulnerability.
On wanting no more drama in her life...
"For years, from album to album, I was still in so much pain until I got to the No More Drama album [released in 2001]. That's when I made the choice, 'I'm tired of feeling like this. I'm tired of having suicidal thoughts. I'm tired of hating myself, and now I don't want to die. How do I live?" Mary told Yahoo Entertainment while promoting the doc.
"So it was still heavy for me when everyone else was like, 'Oh my God, this album did so much for me. This album saved my life.' When I was still stuck in hell."
On growing up in underserved communities…
Mary's parents divorced when she was just five and she grew up with her mother and her three siblings in Schlobohm housing projects in Yonkers, New York.
"I think [what] people don't understand about the families that live in the projects, is that it's like a prison… people are just suffering…. I remember hearing women being beaten. My mother was one of those women. I carried her pain. I carried the neighbors' pain. I carried people all over the environment's pain. And I carried my own pain," she said of her experience.
On her self-love journey…
"Now, I love my sharp, pointy nose. I love my high cheekbones. I love my lips. I love everything about me and, nowadays, people are buying these features [laughs]."
On the abuse she endured...
The songstress opened up about her failed relationship with K-Ci.
"It became very dark, the whole thing, and abusive," she shared. "There was a lot of manipulation," to the point where she decided, "I'm gonna dumb myself all the way down, play myself all the way down, so I don't think I'm special, so I can be with you."
"I've had to physically fight for my life a lot," she continued.
On the advice she would give to the young women out there…
"My advice would be to keep going," Blige said during an interview at ESSENCE Fest. "You're going to fail, you're going to have ups and downs, but just don't stop whatever you're doing."
Mary J. Blige's My Life is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Featured image by Rodin Eckenroth / Stringer