Expectations

Let all I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him
the psalmist says.

A bucket list
remains unticked.

A door becomes unhinged.

Years of life planning,
calculated
a little amiss.

Told there is no time
like the present.
You wish that were a lie.
You wish you could lie down and cry.

Oil and water.
The expected
meets
the unexpected.

The expected cries out.
For what?
A new home.

Jealousy, insecurity and acknowledging worth beyond physical appearance

Screen_Shot_2018-04-24_at_7.15.45_PM_jty89v

Recently I noticed a deep pang of insecurity and jealousy that would accompany a scroll through my Instagram feed whenever I saw a pretty girl or even in real life when I saw or heard something particularly insecurity-inducing (i.e. a recent headline where a four year old kid had managed to complete a university degree, start up a million dollar company, buy a house and not make his parents want to disappear into thin air whenever they were asked what their child did for a living).

DistantFrequentIncatern-max-1mb

Trying to become more self-aware has its pros and cons. A pro would be the ability to monitor our actions and thoughts more consciously. A con, on the other hand would be the self-denial that often accompanies trying to pretend that we didn’t just think something like ‘OMG woe is me, I’m so inferior to this pretty girl on IG’.

And so I wrote about my thoughts in my journal. And I began to connect some dots.

Yay to self-improvement.

giphy

Have I bought into the idea that my sole value as a person= my appearance? What is it that causes some girls to compare themselves aesthetically to other girls?

How many times have you heard the ‘she’s not even that pretty anyway’ line be spat out by someone in a tone so infused with bitterness/jealousy you have to wonder…

tenor.png

Karly Randolph Pitman, founder of the ‘growing human (kind)ness website‘ provides excellent remedies to deal with this tendency to feel insecure and jealous in the presence of pretty women. A particularly profound observation in the article is that:

This competitive drive, this need to label – am I beautiful? am I pretty? how pretty? where do I fall in the beauty spectrum? – keeps us from honoring our unique beauty. It squelches our individuality. Instead of enjoying our beauty, and trying to be our best selves, we act like junior high girls who all have to dress alike, talk alike, and look alike.

Pitman encourages the unleashing of our unique styles and beauty. She seems to acknowledge the weight that appearances can hold, citing the authenticity that comes with individual fashion choices, i.e. her friend’s “courage to wear a skirt and knee high boots in the middle of a Montana winter”.

This got me thinking.

On this journey of becoming more secure in ourselves, there seem to be two sides to the coin (or at least I think there should be). The one where we can find our own “aesthetic” and accept how we look and the one where we remember that looks are not everything, i.e. with a similar zeal to how Shia Labeouf screams…

just-do-it-funny-gif-Favim.com-4179212

,we should remind ourselves that THERE IS WORTH BEYOND PHYSICAL APPEARANCE!

It’s all about balance.

giphy

Now in saying all this cute stuff about looks not being everything etc, I feel it is important to acknowledge that in our society there is value placed on appearance.

In other words, it matters.

Look around you. Look at yourself even.

A lot us care how about we look. Some of us see our fashion choices as a form of self-expression. Some of us spend a considerable amount of time putting together the perfect outfit. We have skincare routines. We wear make-up. We style our hair. We spruce up for events.

People are judged off of appearances.

*A more extensive list of our superficial tendencies follows*

We take selfies.

tumblr_nvm6ol0BJM1s78x4wo5_400.gif

We hype up our friends when we think they look good and hype ourselves up when we feel we look good.

tenor.gif

I feel like more examples of this “value” in appearance include the fact that some of us, when we deem someone to be attractive will either think it or say it out loud.

Another example is the fact that the modelling industry wants models of a certain height and body frame.

giphy (1).gif

Looks also play a role in the job interview process, first impressions and more.

And regardless of our opinions on the previous phenomena, they happen and will probably continue to happen.

My point, however, is that there should come a point where we remind ourselves of our worth and value beyond physical appearance.  I say remind because I feel like it’s easy to forget there is more to us than our external appearances.

Pitman even acknowledges this when she states that:

Jealous feelings can arise when we’re being inauthentic – silencing our style or our beauty, or, on a greater level, the very things that bring us happiness – and we see another woman who is expressing her style and beauty.

I feel that the introduction of “the very things that bring us happiness” here emphasises the inner part of a person. The part that goes beyond style and beauty.

The way I try to remind myself of this worth beyond my physical appearance is by turning my positive affirmations into questions on the basis of the assertion that they encourage you to probe for answers as opposed to just making a declarative statement. 

For example, instead of saying ‘there is worth beyond how I look’, I’ll ask myself ‘is there worth beyond how I look?’ and then I’ll ask myself ‘why?’

Other reminders of this worth beyond physical appearance include YouTuber Marian Ali  who hilariously discusses her quest to pursue what she describes as ‘the finest black dude she has ever seen’ on her campus only to find that ‘there was not a lot going on upstairs’.

What else can you bring to the table besides how you look? Are you a brick wall when it comes to holding a conversation? What kind of energy do you bring? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have any future plans or are you silently rotting away in a state of refined apathy?

Before you feel attacked, don’t worry, I’m talking to myself too. These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I’m going to close this blog post with a quote from a book called Psycho-cybernetics by Dr Maxwell Marx- referenced by Sean Cooper in this article:

You are not inferior, you are not superior, you are simply YOU.

He adds that ‘one’s value comes from their uniqueness’ and I think this uniqueness can and is definitely reflected externally for some people (I for instance like to wear my jeans inside out) but my point is, let’s remind ourselves of our worth beyond how we look in the midst of what they’re calling the age of social media.

Also I’d really recommend this article- https://growinghumankindness.com/jealous-of-pretty-women-turn-your-envy-into-inspiration/.

giphy.gif

 

 

 

On accepting reality and the magical world of daydreaming

To the daydreamers. To the ones who constantly find themselves zoning out in the middle of an important task. To all of us because all of us do it, albeit some more than others. I include myself in ‘us’ and I hope you can relate to my musings on the matter. I hope to communicate that the delightful nature of daydreaming should be used to propel us forward rather than allow us to remain comfortable or stagnant in the pursuit of our goals.

We all ‘space out’ and for a lot us, these momentary lapses in attention are filled with thoughts that pertain to what we’d rather be doing in that moment, i.e. succeeding in our future careers, travelling the world, having fun or even eating some good food later.

In my humble opinion, there are many types of daydreams. There are the music induced ones, the daydreams-before-sleep and the boredom induced ones where my mind strays so far I wonder how I got there and how I’ll get back and make it look like I heard everything my fellow interlocutor just said. There’s also mind-wandering whilst working on an important task like a revision or a university assignment.

In case you found my subjective account of the types of daydreams unsatisfactory, Dr Jerome L. Singer (a specialist in research on the psychology of imagination and daydreaming) has differentiated between three styles of daydreaming.

1) Positive constructive daydreaming (identified as containing wishful and playful imagery as well as planful, creative thought). I strongly feel that music-induced daydreams would fit into this style of daydream because what’s not playful and wishful about imagining you’re in the back of a car on a road trip, hands held in the air basking in the radiance of the sun?

2) Guilty-dysphoric or guilty-fear-of-failure daydreaming (identified by obsessive, anguished fantasies)
3) Poor attentional control (characterised by the inability to remain focussed on either the ongoing thought or the external task) – boredom induced daydreams anyone?
(McMillan, Kaufman and Singer, 2013).
The world of daydreaming is a vast one. For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to concentrate on ‘positive constructive daydreaming’ which has been associated with being open to experiences, curiosity, exploration of ideas, feelings and sensations (McMillan, Kaufman and Singer, 2013). These are all pretty positive associations and do not reflect the slightly more negative ones that come with styles two and three, i.e. low levels of conscientiousness for ‘Poor attentional control’ daydreaming’. I can relate to this and yes it’s slighlty concerning but hey, another topic for another day.
I make the assertion that the specific type of daydreams I will discuss here (those pertaining to one’s real life goals) belong predominantly to the style of ‘Positive Constructive Daydreaming’. This is based on the positive connotations of this type of mind-wandering. I believe that these are the daydreams grounded in the potential of a reality that may come into fruition.

For me, in the same way that psychologist Carl Rogers proposed the idea of incongruence between your ideal self (what you want to be) and your self-image (your actual behaviour) (McLeod, 2014), there seems to be a discrepancy that exists between the ‘me’ in my daydreams and the ‘me’ right now. This can feel frustrating at times.

Translation of the previous paragraph in 3, 2, 1…

Why can’t I skip to the part when all my goals are accomplished?

Wouldn’t my life be so much better if things really were like my daydreams?

Why this? Why that?

These are the questions that can accompany said frustration.

Ultimately, when I wriggle my way out of the colourful world of my daydreams, reality has a tendency to seem dreary and astonishingly bland in comparison.

The content of my daydreams (the bright colours, the happiness, the success) doesn’t seem to be mirrored in my daily life and sometimes in all honesty, my behaviour isn’t even conducive to some of these dreams.

I haven’t set deadlines for my goals. I’m not taking any tangible steps towards them. Empty boxes waiting to be ticked stare at me from where they’re hung on my wall, as well as a gazillion bookmarked pages on my laptop waiting to be read and a vision board that once seemed like a good idea appears sickeningly idealistic upon second glance.

For me, in moments like these, accepting my reality can be a way of escaping this frustration. Accepting that I have a 4000 word essay due in two days (4000 words of which only a shambolic introduction has been written). Accepting that it feels like my shift has only just started even though several hours have passed. Accepting that it’s 4am in the morning and I’m sat at my laptop eating (insert extremely unhealthy food item here) whilst knee deep in the weird side of YouTube. Accepting that I’m not where I envisioned I would be having zealously written a to-do-list the previous night.

Acceptance.

Now, not to contradict myself but some of you may be able to relate the following. As much as accepting our current reality is good, for me, when I accept what could be a relatively mundane or disheartening reality, I also acknowledge the comforting role that daydreaming plays. Daydreams remind me that my current reality will not or does not always have to be a certain way. They help me create a mental picture of my goals. Further benefits of daydreaming are substantiated by the following observations,

“We mind wander, by choice or accident, because it produces tangible reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful. Having to reread a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has allowed us to access a key insight, a precious memory or make sense of a troubling event.

(McMillan, Kaufman and Singer, 2013)

Nonetheless, I also feel that it is important for those of us who find ourselves lost in our daydreams to realise that our dreams don’t get accomplished by just thinking about them. Well at least that’s my personal experience. You might have superpowers.

There is definitely a euphoric sense that accompanies the painting of the perfect mental picture. But I’m sure it won’t compare to the feeling of transforming a dream into actual reality as opposed to something that just exists in my weird little mind.

I also think it’s good to remember the importance of being present (something that I honestly find quite difficult). For example, sometimes I feel excused for, say, daydreaming about my future career whilst writing an essay. And then I remember that if I don’t ‘come back to earth’, hours will go by and the essay will unfortunately remain unwritten.

“Focus on the task at hand and return to the dream later, not just to dream though but to think about what you can do to make the dream tangible”. –A quote by me.

I would hate to grow old and regret not having taken any tangible steps towards achieving my goals. Can you imagine?

TEN YEARS FROM NOW:

Person (insert name of someone whose opinion you hold somewhat dear to your heart): So what’s your proudest achievement?
You: Erm, becoming the world’s number one ‘chubby bunny’ competitor.
Person: Oh cool.
You: (suddenly plagued by the fear of appearing disingenuous) I mean I never actually accomplished it. But I dreamt about it.
*tumbleweeds blow across the plains of an empty desert*

Let’s dream and do people.

References
McLeod, S. (2014). Carl Rogers | Simply Psychology. [online] Simplypsychology.org. Available at: https://www.simplypsychology.org/carl-rogers.html [Accessed 11 May 2018].

McMillan, R., Kaufman, S. and Singer, J. (2013). Ode to positive constructive daydreaming.Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 4. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00626/full.

The curious case of telling someone you study an arts & humanities degree

This is going to be a fairly short blog post, just on what I’ve noticed recently. Some of you may be able to relate…

The small talk at the end of a church service or a social gathering, or perhaps a relative, maybe a family friend is round your house. They’re preparing to leave and then from the mouth of a friend of  a friend, a family friend, an uncle, an auntie (the list goes on), comes the question,

‘So, what are you going to study?’.

So, depending on the person comes either a reaction of praise and respect or one of disdain that artfully morphs itself into an ‘ohhh’ and a forced smile that’s not quite convincing  enough to mask the confusion, disapproval or even judgement in their eyes.

What I’m trying to do these days is not be so easily swayed by the reaction that ensues my answer to the ‘so what are you going to study?’ question. Because, as with any or most arts and humanities degree students, you’re either met with a response of appreciation, maybe even a little ‘ooh’ or people who inadvertently tell you that your degree is useless.

So the next time you have to answer this question, don’t pay too much attention to the reaction – whether good or bad. Because this temptation to care too much simply makes us even bigger slaves to the opinion of another person who’s (let’s be honest now) essentially calculating how important or smart we are on the basis of our degree choice.

Don’t take it too seriously.

Let’s just see how far we get with these ‘useless’ degrees of ours.

 

 

 

Seems to be

‘She seems so this’,

‘She seems so that’.

Ceaseless speculation on the tips of their tongues as they try to figure out who I really am.

But, pause, wait- take note of the word seems,

A word that represents an image of who or what they think I am,

An image formed by fragments.

Fragments taken from the meaningless conversation we had a year ago,

Fragments taken from an observation of me across a crowded room.

But they don’t know me and they never will,

For in their heads lies the false image of who they think I am.

When I act out of character, breaking up the superficial image they formed of me, all I hear is ‘I didn’t know she could get like that’ or ‘is that really her?’

Now, the people that say this are usually the talkers, bystanders and assumers,

Usually on the outside of your circle peering in,

So they confuse fact with fiction,

And refuse to appreciate that to know someone is easier said than done.

So I’m sorry if I’m too quiet,

I’m sorry if my behaviour does not correlate with your false hopes and expectations.

For it is you that has chosen to form an opinion of me from afar.

And until you know me, I will continually seem to be in your eyes.

 

THE CONSTANT CHATTER AROUND BLACK HAIR AND WHY I STOPPED CARING:

We (black girls) never seem to win.

It’s not like this wasn’t apparent to me before… but on that particular Friday when I had left my earphones at home- a particularly interesting conversation between a group of black girls and guys caught my attention. They were arguing about hair. According to some of them, weaves and wigs were simply for insecure girls too ashamed to wear their real hair. Others argued that weaves were a blessing for those of us with “the more tightly curled hair”.

Sorry what?

Opinions on black hair within the black community are divided. From the strange look you get from a ‘concerned’ relative when you decide to rock your fro to the debate of natural versus relaxed.  There is always a point of discussion.  There is always something to be said. Like a tweet I read, which mocked natural girls on the premise that being natural was for broke people. Or- if we flip it around- the black women who argue that fellow women who wear weaves are basically “trying to be white”.

There seems to be a kind of pompousness that has trailed behind the wonderful going natural movement. This pompousness has caused some members of the movement to look down upon any other black woman who are not natural. It’s almost as if being natural comes with a sense of enlightenment which means that any woman with a wig, weave or the like is instantly seen as a problem.

This is where I have a problem. It is one thing to acknowledge that some black girls may feel insecure because of their hair and it is another to link this insecurity with simply experimenting with your aesthetic.  To assume that all girls who wear weaves are insecure is too broad a generalisation (IMO). Because, let’s be honest, when it’s cold outside, some of us would like to keep those ends wrapped up and look good whilst doing so.

To clarify, we should not ignore the fact that some black girls feel insecure about their real hair, NEITHER SHOULD WE ASSUME THIS IS THE CASE FOR EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US.

I know for a fact that some of us may use wigs, weaves and braids not as a protective style or simply as an aesthetic change but as a ‘cover-up’. I know some us cannot get our heads around the fact that *Jane* over there is rocking her tightly curled hair up in a high puff. I know some of us may agree with the girl who said being natural equates to being broke because you can’t afford to buy any “inches”. But I also know that for some of us, wearing wigs and weaves is not a reflection of our insecurity.

And for the black women and the black men who criticise those of us who wear our natural hair out… Well then. Remember that your comments may affect the woman, who, on the basis of your words decides to “go natural”; only to become subject to even more negativity.  Let’s take, for example, the guy who asked a friend why she doesn’t just “do something with her hair” as if the flat twist out she’d spent her morning perfecting was not “done” enough.

Sorry, but I beg to differ.

The focus, in my humble opinion, needs to be on the maintenance of the health of our hair– as opposed to shaming and condemning others for the styles they choose.

I love my natural hair. I love the tight curls. I love how I can experiment with its texture using bantu knot outs or twists. I love how I can rock a fro if I feel like it. And I also love the fact that if I wanted to get a weave or braids I could- provided my bank account isn’t looking a lil’ bit…

So there is no team this versus team that debate in my eyes. This means that you do not tell me that my natural hair looks “nappy” or “too bushy” nor can I assume immediate superiority over another woman rocking a wig.

Choices will always be criticised or ridiculed. A black guy once told me my hair looks like pubes. Well, let me just add in the adverb “cute” there…  A black girl once asked another why she wears weave. But in reality, her enquiry was more like an inquisition. When there are already numerous ways in which black hair is discriminated against- externally– there is no need to perpetuate these attitudes against ourselves.

Just remember that when we take out the braids, the weave and the like- what we are left with is what we should love.

 

And with this realisation comes the ability to justify exactly why I stopped caring.