Confess and be healed. Indeed. My confession for the day is that I used to be somewhat of a control freak. As with most things in life, there are layers of reasons why.
Many of my relatives are/were control freaks. I also suffered abuse which can make you fearful and fear can turn into control because you never want to feel like someone else is violating you again. I also have a pretty strong personality, complete with very strong perspectives and opinions; when those are not balanced by temperance and respect for others' views, that can also come across as being controlling. I used to not be the most patient person on the planet; impatient people can also come off as being pretty controlling individuals. And, according to my mom, after the standard "dada" and "mama", my next words were a full-on sentence—"I do myself, Mommy." So yeah, there's that. Plus, I can relate to a lot of what Janet Jackson was talking about in her song "Control".
When you feel like everyone is trying to run your life, in order to feel empowered, sometimes you can become consumed by that; that too can make you pretty controlling.
The reason why I'm sharing all of this is because we don't come out of the womb being super-controlling folks. Life happens and it turns us that way. That's the bad news. The good news is, if you happen to be a control freak yourself, just like you've been using all of your energy to try and run everybody and everything, you've got the power to redirect it so that you can control the only thing that you should be controlling—yourself.
How do you know if you are someone who is more controlling than you probably give yourself "credit" for? It's a lot easier to spot the signs than you probably think, sis. And, if you do recognize that you fall into some of these habits, I've included a recovery tip for each of 'em. There's no time like the present to break free!
You’re Always Right. Everyone Else Is Usually Wrong.
There are three things that I think social media has created more of—trolls, narcissists and control freaks. On the control freak tip, it's like so long as you're agreeing with someone, it's all good. Oh, but the moment that you have an opinion that is contrary to theirs, suddenly it's time for you to be berated, denounced and canceled.
There's not enough time or space today to get into the fact that if you can't handle an opposing view without going on the attack, it tends to come off as a form of insecurity more than anything else. But what I will say is it is its own form of being a "mean girl" and extremely controlling if you somehow believe that you are the one who is always right and everyone else is always wrong. For one thing, that perspective is steeped in a profound level of delusional thinking. Secondly, not everything on the planet garners a right or wrong. Some things are just…different. And all of us are just that—different.
Recovery tip: Learn how to listen. Accept that not everyone is going to agree with you and that's fine. Oh, and if you're a pop-off on social media, take a fast from time to time. Sometimes it's better to grow than to be right. Hearing others out will help you to do that.
Everyone Should Respect Your Boundaries. Meanwhile, You Can Railroad Theirs.
Is it just me or are some of the nosiest people on the planet also the most private? It's like they have no problem asking you anything and everything about your life, but the moment you inquire about theirs, on any level, suddenly they are cryptic and vague (if not flat-out annoyed). This is one example of what it means to deal with someone who wants their boundaries respected, even though they choose to totally disrespect yours.
Boundaries are limits. Control freaks couldn't care less about them because any limit that stands in the way of them saying or doing what they want is one that they will totally ignore.
It's basically like they have a sense of arrogance and entitlement simultaneously. They also tend to be pushy and overbearing. An example of this would be our current president. If that visual doesn't make you want to do some quick reassessing, I honestly don't know what will.
Recovery tip: One of my favorite quotes is something a writer by the name of Anne Lamott once said—"'No' is a complete sentence." If someone tells you "no", respect that (this includes respecting that any explanation they give you beyond the "no" is privileged information; you are not owed it). Also, if you have been railroading people for so long that you don't even know what a boundary is, cop two boundaries books by two of my favorite authors, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The first read is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life. The second one isSafe People: How to Find Relationships that are Good for You and Avoid Those That Aren't. They both are total game-changers for you, and those who have been putting up with you all this time (just sayin').
You Are a Perfectionist. (Even Though No One Is Perfect.)
Signs of a perfectionist include the following—freaking out over making a mistake, being extremely critical of other people, setting unrealistic standards, having an "all or nothing" mentality about everything under the sun and being uber defensive (and that's just for starters!).
While it's OK to want to do things well, the problem with having a perfectionist mentality is you tend to leave no room for error with yourself or those around you. The problem with that is it's basically a form of self-sabotage because the reality is that you and others are going to make mistakes, you and others are going to disappoint one another on occasion, and you and others are worthy of mercy and forgiveness because of that.
Non-control freaks are fully aware of this, which is why their life tends to be a lot more peaceful and drama-free. Control freaks think that everything I just said is totally ridiculous. And that is why they are miserable (and oftentimes lonely) a lot of the time.
Recovery tip: When you or someone else makes a mistake, take a moment to assess if it's an honest misstep or a toxic pattern. Choose to forgive either way and then make decisions from that space. You'll be calmer, so you'll be able to better trust how you choose to handle the matter.
You Tend to Micromanage EVERYTHING
Is there anything worse than a micromanager? Personally, I can't think of too many things. Micromanagers are the kind of people who let you think that they trust you, but they really don't, because they've got to stand over you—whether literally or symbolically—until a task is done.
It's kind of easy to detect how a micromanaging employer acts, but if you're wondering if you have this issue in other relationships, a helicopter spouse definitely comes to mind. These kinds of people are overprotective (to the point of being possessive). They are constantly delegating and being hypercritical. They think it's their job to double-check every little thing that their partner does from cleaning the bathroom to paying a bill. In short, they act more like they are their spouse's parent than their partner (for the record, helicopter parenting isn't much better either).
Although micromanagers are pretty annoying, the root cause of their issue is typically tied to fear. Either they were raised by a micromanager who used fear in their disciplinary tactics, or they have taught themselves to believe that if they are not hovering over everything, it won't be done right or, at all. What a terribly stressed out way to live—for them and everyone around them.
Recovery tip: Work on developing trust with others. If you trust them enough to be in a relationship with them, trust that they want everything to go well and smoothly too. Also, it's time to implement some mutual respect. If you don't want anyone "helicoptering" over you, don't do it to them. It's annoying. Very.
You Don’t Know How to Relax. Neither Do Others Whenever They’re Around You.
I've got a male friend who alerts me to when the control freak monster in me is trying to rear its ugly head. When I'm about to go on some sort of tangent, he simply says, "Relax." Relax indeed. When someone is relaxed, they are calm and chill. Everything is not so rigid and tense. Their temperament tends to be pretty mild and they are flexible with things. They can compromise. They can listen. Their stress and anxiety levels are lower. They exude ease, composure and tranquility. Relaxed individuals are truly a breath of fresh air.
Control freaks are the opposite of all of this. This is a part of the reason why they might be a bit self-conscious about whether or not folks want or like to be around them. The answer is simple. If you could choose to be tense and anxious or relaxed all of the time, what space would you choose? Right and exactly.
Recovery tip: Be intentional about self-care. A lot of control freaks are like that because their minds are constantly spinning and that's because they don't implement self-care or rest. When your body is in a state of zen, it's easier for the rest of you to follow suit.
You’ve Been Told That You Are. More Than Once (or 10 Times) Before.
Remember how I said at the top of this that I was "somewhat" of a control freak? Here's another confession—the more that I've been releasing my controlling tendencies, the more I realize that being "kinda controlling" is like being kinda pregnant. Either you is or you ain't. And believe you me, controlling people are so irritating, so draining, so suffocating that no matter how much others may love them, eventually someone will rise up and say, "You are really getting on my nerves. Something has got to give."
I know more and more that we seem to live in an era of "I don't care what anyone thinks" and all (SMH), but wisdom will teach you that accountability is a lifesaver. You know what they say—if one person tells you that you're controlling, that may be a random perspective. If five or more do…yeah…exactly.
Recovery tip: Ask your true friends if you've got any controlling tendencies from their perspective. If they start off their reply with "Well, umm, see…", don't get defensive, hear them out. People who truly love you, they want what's best for you. And as a control-freak-in-recovery, there is nothing good, right or beneficial that comes from trying to run—sometimes over—any and everything all of the time. So, release some of that control and…don't.
Featured image by Unsplash.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Squeeze Your Way To Ecstasy: How This Masturbation Technique Can Make You Orgasm
What if I told you that you can achieve an orgasm by simply squeezing your thighs together? Believe it or not, this technique has been known to lead to some seriously orgasmic experiences and is gaining popularity among people who want to explore new ways of reaching orgasm. There's a word for this, it’s called syntribation. The act of squeezing or rubbing the thighs together to create friction and pressure until climax.
First, let's talk about the anatomy behind this technique. The pelvic nerves responsible for arousal and orgasm pass through the thighs, so squeezing them can stimulate these nerves and send a rush of pleasure to your genitals. Additionally, the muscles in your thighs tense up during orgasm, so squeezing them can replicate that sensation and potentially lead to the real deal.
How To Do Syntribation
Start by crossing your legs and squeezing your thighs. Keep going until you feel a pleasurable pressure on your clit/glans area. Another method is by putting your hands in the middle of your inner thighs. Then cross your legs and squeeze your thighs as tight as you can. Note that your hands are not doing anything - they are just sandwiched between your thighs. Using this method will provide more pressure and squeezing sensation.
You can also practice syntribation with sex toys as long as they’re not chunky vibes and dildos. Simply place the sex toy in the middle of your thighs, and let it vibrate as you syntribate.
Is Syntribation Safe?
While syntribation masturbation is a relatively new masturbation technique, it does not pose any major risks to your physical health. The one potential risk is possibly skin irritation from friction, but that can be avoided by wearing long pants or using a cushion between your legs.
The Benefits of Syntribation
As with any masturbation technique, this one will have some health benefits, including a boosted immune system, reduced stress, glowing skin, stronger vaginal walls, and so on. Syntribation masturbation can offer a new way to explore your sexuality and achieve sexual pleasure. It can be a great alternative for people who prefer not to use their hands or fingers during masturbation.
In addition to enhancing feelings of pleasure and relaxation, syntribation may even appeal to voyeurs and exhibitionists who are intrigued by the idea of public play.
Is Syntribation Effective?
The effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person. Some people may find it more pleasurable than traditional methods of masturbation, while others may not enjoy it at all. It ultimately comes down to individual preferences and experiences. However, if you are looking to try something new and explore different ways to achieve orgasm, syntribation masturbation can be worth giving a try.
Although syntribation masturbation may sound unusual, it is gaining popularity as a way to explore new methods of achieving sexual pleasure. It’s hands-free and has no major risks. Even though the effectiveness of syntribation masturbation varies from person to person, depending on individual preferences and experiences, ultimately, I think it’s worth giving it a try.
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