self-esteem

Self-Love Saturday: Developing & Maintaining Confidence...Keep Your Head Up!

Having confidence in myself has been a life long struggle for me. No surprise considering how abusive my childhood and teen years were.

The environment I lived in just wasn't conducive for a healthy dose of self-confidence to be grown and cultivated.

One way this has impacted me as an adult is that I walk with my head down and have a hard time looking people in the eye.  Even if my head happens to be up as I'm walking around my campus or down the street, it goes down as soon as I see someone approaching...it sinks lower and lower the closer they get until they pass me by.

I didn't even take notice of this habit until about a year ago. A friend of mine who's a therapist pointed it out and suggested I work on changing it. Breaking out of old habits to develop new ones isn't easy, but I've found that walking with my head up has become easier as I've gotten more comfortable with who I am over the past few months.

This week I realized I was starting to slip back into my old habit, and since it's not reflective of  how I'm feeling about myself these days, I made a concentrated effort to ensure I walked with my head held high and looked others in the eye with a smile as I went to and fro on campus, at Brennan's daycare, walking down the street, running in the park....and guess what? It felt good and gave me even more confidence each time I did.

Like I always say, this self-love and acceptance journey isn't easy, but I'm learning the rewards are so worth having and keeping in my life.

If you're like me and need help walking with your head up in  spite of how you feel or what's going on in your life, may I suggest singing and dancing to this song?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmrOB_q3tjo]

It's been on repeat in my head and on my iPod for the past two weeks....and it definitely helps :)

So what about you? Do you have a habit good or bad that reflects how you feel about yourself? What do you think it says about you and how you feel about yourself? How do you cultivate confidence in yourself and even your kids? 

A Makeover

It's amazing what a haircut can do for your spirits and self-image. There's something about getting the right stylist, one who does an incredible consult, listens to what you want done, and brings your thoughts and desires, spoken and unspoken, to reality....all while taking the time to chat and speak words of wisdom and life into you as they do so.

It's been stirring in my gut for 3-4 weeks to cut my hair. My intuition had been telling me since my birthday back in December it was time for a change and to embrace something new....so I tried accomplishing that with more hair color, more bright, bold hues...but it still wasn't enough and I knew it. I knew I needed something more and finally decided to make the chop.

I knew it was time because I could see that it wasn't as healthy as it used to be. It was starting break off and just feel lifeless...heavy even. It wasn't until this week when I realized why: I was still carrying around the baggage from the past two years...my rocky relationship and break up, my depression during and after pregnancy, my spiritual ups and downs, my struggle with motherhood, my struggle to untangle myself from and overcome my abusive past....I've been carrying all of that around with me since the last big chop I did in July 2009 and my gut told me this week it's time to let it allllll go.

Cutting off the dead weight of the past two years is just another step in the process of getting free this year (see Dance Party Friday: Get Free Edition) and I'm do glad I went for it.

I woke up feeling bogged down by heaviness and am going to sleep feeling like a new me, a fresh and renewed A'Driane. Lighter, healthier, stronger, ready to face what's coming next.

I feel like ME. I'm finally feeling cozy in my own skin and in who I am. And that's the best feeling in the world y'all.

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Self-Love Saturday: Make a Self-Love Contract

While cleaning up the disaster zone known as my bedroom this week, I came across a notebook I hadn't seen in a while. Curious as to what was in it, I started flipping through it and came across several entries from during & after my pregnancy with Alex.  I was blown away by reading what I had written during those times and it's very clear to me now that I definitely had some antenatal depression, which is something I wish I had the courage back then to recognize and seek treatment for. Perhaps if I had, my experience with PPD & anxiety would have been drastically different. But it wasn't and that's ok because I've learned valuable things from it, I've met valuable people from it, and I'm able to help others by sharing my experience, so hey at least it served a purpose right? Something else I came across that was rather interesting and rather inspiring was a sort of contract I had written out to myself. I'm not sure exactly when I wrote it, but reading it brought tears to my eyes, because it was full of love and compassion to myself, something that was missing a lot during the past 2 years.

So, since I was inspired by what I read, I thought I'd share it with you and encourage you to make up your own Self-Love Contract/Goal sheet. I updated some of it, especially the parts about beating depression since I now have a new diagnosis.

addyeB's Self-Love Contract

I, A'Driane Nicole Dudley,  agree to do the following:

  • Believe that I am an awesome person.
  • Believe that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves me tremendously
  • Believe that I am a good woman, even with all of my flaws & imperfections
  • Will be confident in my abilities as a woman, mother, Christian, student, writer, dancer, etc
  • Believe that I am beautiful. Really.
  • Battle stigmas surrounding mental illness
  • Take my medications everyday
  • Attend every therapy appointment unless an emergency occurs
  • Read God' word everyday, even if it's just one line!
  • Talk to God daily
  • Smile at least once a day
  • Be colorful-from my hair, to my clothes & accessories, to how I decorate my house...I will live in COLOR
  • Will allow myself to make mistakes & give myself room to learn from them
  • Be a strong, loving & nurturing mother for my boys without smothering them or inhibiting them from being who they are.
  • Attain my degree in social work, a masters in counseling, and a certification in DANCE movement therapy
  • LOVE myself
  • Be KIND to myself
  • Share my stories with others. Live wholehearted. Be vulnerable. Be open. Reach out. Advocate for others & myself.
  • "Recover" from Bipolar Disorder through compliance, exercise, nutrition, a structured routine, and coping strategies.
  • Dance at least 2-3 times a week.
  • Love my muffin topped, overstretched, tiger striped belly...because I'm a real woman and this belly housed my incredible boys. I will appreciate my body for what's it's gone through and given me.
  • I will paint-even thought I have no idea what I'm doing. HA!
  • Yoga...lots of yoga. Only doing exercises that work with my body not against it.
So that's my contract. It's not set in stone and is open to adjustments, additions, etc as time goes one. It's kinda like my life list, but it's a LOVE list. To me, and for me. To print out and put up where I can see it every day and remind myself to LOVE....ME.
Do you have a list like this? Would you do one? What would you put on it? Feel free to share!
p.s. A few months ago I wrote a SLS post about dying my hair and living my life in color...can I tell you that that decision was the BEST one I've made like, EVER? It's been such a freeing experience y'all. For years I wanted to dye my hair and express my creativity in that fashion but either couldn't or was too afraid of other's opinions...now? Look at me :) This is truly what it feels like to live outside the corners of your mind...

Self-Love Saturday: In Pictures

New colors in the 'do... 20120107-184528.jpg

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Tea before therapy....

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Mani....

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Pedi....(FINALLY)

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Some inspiration on how to "embrace my different kind of beauty."

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Snuggling on the couch with a sweet friend....(tasty too!)

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And that is how I've spent my Saturday, taking care of myself and allowing someone to treat me to some much needed pampering.

I needed it today. Therapy was long and intense because we started exhuming my experience with sexual abuse...and all of the emotions I hadn't allowed myself to feel about it. It was brutal...but it was worth it because it's time I processed it so I can be healed...move closer to be whole...

Wholehearted living...living and no longer just surviving...and learning to love myself through all of it. Those are the goals.

What about you? Do you have any goals or desires in the self-love department? Were you kind to yourself today?

Self-Love Saturday: My Box is Full of Color

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about the journey I'm on to make it back to my Box?

In that post, I talked about how I most of my life, what's been in that box has been dictated by other's, their needs, and how THEY wanted my box constructed. I mentioned that I'm not 100% sure what goes in my Box but I was starting to find out by streaking my way towards it....

Well, guess what? Dying my hair funky colors has helped me identify at least one thing that goes in my Box, one attribute that makes me, well, ME. If you really know me, it's probably not a huge surprise, but

COLOR...

BRIGHT...

BOLD...

BEAUTIFUL...

LOUD...

Color belongs in my life. It's at the core of what makes me A'Driane. Lots & loads of color. Gobs of it, probably so much that people would label me tacky, but I don't care anymore, I'VE GOTTA HAVE COLOR! From how I decorate my living space, to how I wear my hair, to the clothes I wear, they must have color...When it comes to fashion I'm forgoing all sorts of rules from here on out and am just wearing as many colors as possible, whatever feels and looks good. From bold eyeshadows to headbands, to scarves, to the rubber bands I place in my hair........

Or the color that adorns my fingers and Barney Rubble toes...

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I"ve just gotta have color. From my dishes  to my couch, to my lamps to my bed sheets, my apartment is full of splashes of it. I've spent years trying to downplay and even stay away from such boldness because those around me gave me the impression that it was inappropriate for a person my age. "Living out loud" and self-expression is for teenagers & kids, not for mothers approaching their thirties.....but I'm foregoing those thoughts and ideals because they aren't mine. They aren't me. Dressing in normal colors and living in clean, modern, sophisticated living spaces might be for some people and that is totally ok. For me though?

Give me color or give me death is the motto I'm adopting.

I wasn't allowed to express myself growing up, and so I thought the need to do so through what I wore or how I styled my hair was just a phase I needed to get out my system. But the more I've been thinking about it, and about my personality, I know it's something more and I'm finally in a place of acceptance about it.

Being surrounded by and wearing bold, brightly hued, rich & warm colors is a coping strategy for me as well. It creates an environment for me and my boys that breathes health and life, creativity and  expression. I'm hoping that surrounding us with a spectrum of color blinds the dragon of BP so it stays deep in it's cave. I'm learning fast that mental illnesses like BP are genetic, and being as though schizophrenia and depression run in at least one side of my family, (and I strongly suspect BP runs on the other side) I want to give the boys as healthy of an environment as possible. One that breeds creativity, love & warmth. I want my boys to have that. I want them to look at me and always know that self-expression is okay. Living out loud is okay. Passion is okay. Creativity and thought are awesome and worth pursuing wholeheartedly. Splashing our lives with color is a way to do that.

So, on this Self-Love Saturday, I refreshed my blue & pink streaks in the ol' Afro, and even added some more. I went through my closet and tossed out every drab, grey item I could find. I promised myself that from here on out, only color goes in the closet and on my body.

We only live once y'all. We only get one shot to do this thing called life. I'm determined to live mine as wholehearted and colorful as possible, Bipolar and all :)

Self-Love Saturday: Streaking My Way Back to the Box

It's Self-Love Saturday so guess what we're going to talk about today?

Streaking.

Have you ever gone streaking?  Before today I never had. Yep, that's right, I'm going streaking...actually at this moment I am streaking. It's already done, so I can't go back. Where am I streaking to?  The box. My box. Let me explain...

Aside from an insane amount of schoolwork & midterms to get through this week, in the back of my mind, I've been pondering some things.  Nearly three months after my break up, a move, a diagnosis, and starting my next round of educational pursuits, I find myself asking: " Ok....now what? Where do I go from here?" I'm looking at my new surroundings, the new people I'm meeting, the school I'm attending, my degree program, my boys & myself, and I find myself wondering how I navigate this new terrain, and even wonder if I know where I'm going. I have a map to guide me, but parts of it are missing...or rather, parts of ME are missing & I need to get them back in order to complete my journey.

Parts of me are missing...M.I.A....hidden.....lost....buried under the tangled webs of other's opinions & expectations. Smothered even, under layers of guilt, shame, sadness, and anger over things I've done and things that have been done to me. Parts of me are missing. Important parts. Vital parts. Parts that make me who I am, parts that complete the picture, complete ME.

My therapist must have been reading my mind. When I walked into her office on Tuesday & we started chatting, she asked me if I had "the boxes." Huh? Boxes? What boxes woman? She reached in her desk and pulled out sheets of paper that had several boxes with word in them....the first box looked like this:

The other boxes had lots of stars, arrows, more words, & more lines, like this one:

And then the final one looked like this:

As I sat there staring at the piece of paper with boxes on it, she gently said to me," A'Driane, do you know what happened to your original box?"

Ummm...no.

"You see, inside the first box is everything that is important to us, what we value, what makes us who we are...it's US. And we place a boundary around those things.  But sometimes, as you can see from the second picture, when we are involved in friendships & relationships with significant others or family members, that boundary line gets distorted and moved."

Ok, I get that...but how do they get moved And where did the extra boxes or lines come from?

"Our boundary lines shift as we interact with those in our lives. The shifting is sometimes necessary but it can get ugly and become unhealthy very quickly if not shifted for the right reasons. You see, the more you do something that you don't want to do, the more you do things that make who YOU are at the core uncomfortable, the more you compromise yourself for someone else & their feelings & comfort, the more your own boundaries shift, and the further away from the box you get. Make sense?"

I think so...so what I've been doing most of my life and in my relationships...and family is shifting my boundaries around in an attempt to get validation, love, acceptance, or anything like that?

"Yes. How do you feel knowing that?"

Well it explains why I'm angry with people....angry with my ex...matter of fact with all the men in my life except my boys.

"Do you think it explains anything else?"

It explains why I don't have a box anymore...or if I do, it's buried under all this other crap I've been doing & what I've been basing my life off of.  I've been compromising myself thinking doing so would make  a person change or make people change their opinion of me, but....

"But?"

But it hasn't...it hasn't gotten me anywhere but....but feeling trapped inside all these boxes I created by ignoring my own....and being angry, hurt, & disappointed about it. Feeling lonely because of it...

(sigh)

(silence)

"I think you know what you need to do, don't you?"

Yep. Gotta go back to the box.

My original box. The one that houses all things A'Driane & who God made her to be. Good, bad, whatever, it's all there. And I've got to stop shifting my boundaries in a way that's detrimental to my well being. That's not self-love, not at all.

At the beginning of the year, I didn't make any resolutions. Instead I chose one word: COMMITMENT. That one word has been my quiet focus all year-even during my lowest moments. God told me that He will give me beauty for the truckloads of ashes I have in my life (Isaiah 61:3) but only if I would be committed to Him sweep them up & carry them away. It hasn't been easy-it's been pure hell to be honest. But even during my lowest & darkest moments, He would remind me of His promise, my word, & I would keep going.

Today I solidified that commitment by going streaking. I've always been a woman who loves to express herself through her hair. So it only makes sense that I would finally put blue streaks in my hair. Why blue? Because a group of bloggers have been going blue since last month to raise awareness for mental health & suicide prevention, and I am proud of and have been emboldened by their efforts. Because I know what it's like to live with a mental illness. Because I  want to help those who have suffered trauma, abuse, & mental illness like depression or bipolar disorder. I'm going to school for counseling, and I want to be a dance movement therapist who helps people heal & cope through movement & dance. I'm committed to ensuring my mental health is where it needs to be & to helping others do the same.

I also put purple/pink streaks behind the blue ones. To remind me & to show others that there's always hope, there's always LIFE, there's always LOVE, there's always joy behind the blue-we just have to work to see it...to live it...to be it.  The purple/pink also symbolize my commitment to self-love, owning my story, & living a wholehearted lifestyle. I know I can, and I believe that the past 3 months I've gotten the tools I need to live it.

But in order to do that, I've got to get back to the box. To what makes A'Driane, A'Driane.  So I can find the parts of me I've put away on shelves & wipe the dust of abuse, of mental illness, of mistakes, of pain, of anger, of LIFE away. So He can make me whole.

I'm streaking my way back to my box, but what about you? Is there a part of you lying in storage or up on a shelf somewhere? Something you put away because life shifted your boundaries & you never shifted them back? Do you feel trapped by all the boxes you see around you now...do you wonder what happened to yours? If so I would encourage you to take some time to reflect and take inventory...if you're missing some parts of yourself, I'm sure you can find them again-you just have to go back to your box.

Self-Love Saturday: Focusing on the Good Things

I don't know what it is about Friday nights. We just don't get along. Nearly every Friday night since I've said I was going to start doing "Self-Love Saturdays" some craptastic event happens where I find myself struggling to either not fall into the gravity well of depression, negativity or miry yuckiness, OR I fall in and am struggling to climb out. It's like once I put it out there, the universe or elements thereof decided to throw everything my way to see if I will stick with it.

Last Friday night was no exception. It tried my patience, I had a mild panic attack, and it ended on a pretty awful & frustrating note.  Today, I woke up to find Depression sitting at the foot of my bed asking if I wanted to hang out. I didn't answer, but that didn't keep him from following me around, clutching my ankles, making it difficult to be motivated to move. I've spent my day emotionally eating everything in sight, chocolate cupcakes included and although I have a mountain of homework to do, I can't concentrate on it. Oh & I went to therapy today. Met with a "Christian" counselor up at my school's counseling center. I'm not sure how it went to be honest. I say that because I spent the whole session snotting up tissues, hiccuping, & babbling through tears that wouldn't stop spilling over my eyelids. So..I don't know how that went....

BUT. Even though the pendulum has swung me a little left of the middle, and Depression has shown up for a visit, I'm trying not to let him unpack his bags and get cozy. It's taking all of my energy, but I'm trying to just relax, absorb everything that's going on with me emotionally & just....BE.  And focus on the GOOD things that have been going on in my life. There's a scripture that came to me about an hour ago as I sat here at the desk vegging out on Twitter:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phillipians 4:8

It pretty much reminded me that it's ok to feel crappy on a day that I've designated to show myself some love & acceptance. That's part of loving yourself right? To accept the good & the bad and allow yourself the space to feel & sort through things? To allow yourself to just BE? I think it is.  I've come to accept that I'm not going to be all rainbows & sunshine every Saturday, but I've also determined to not let it get the best of me. I'm learning how to balance the emotions & listen to what my gut is trying to tell me. I"m allowing myself to feel, and when you're trying to untangle the stickiness of past trauma or recent hurts, feeling is part of that process-you can't escape it. Especially if you're on medication-for me meds have started to stabilize me, but that means since I'm not preoccupied with swinging back & forth between raging, intense emotions, I'm finally starting to see what's around me. The dust in my life is settling & I'm seeing tons of boxes that need unpacking. Each one that I unpack in an attempt to recover & live a healthier life mentally & emotionally is going to expose me to facing some things that I haven't before....or revisit some tangles I thought I had processed and unraveled.  Staring these issues face to face may cause me to feel some pain, may invite Depression or Anxiety to stop by for a visit, but that doesn't mean I have to let them stay-or let their voices ring louder than the Truth. I may not be able to keep them from coming over during this season of my life but I can definitely ensure they don't stay for very long or get to cozy in my space.

So today I'm doing that by choosing to do like the scripture says and focus on the good things. That doesn't mean I"m ignoring the negative or painful feelings I'm having. I'm acknowledging them,but I'm keeping them in their proper context and space-making a conscious choice to meditate on my successes & the tiniest of victories enables me to do that.

What are my "good" things? Well for one can I just say that being on medication is FINALLY working?! I haven't been swinging through the bipolar jungle like Tarzan for the past few weeks. It hasn't been easy, but the rage, the uncontrollable mood swings, the sweaty anxious moments & panic attacks? Cut down significantly since I adjusted my meds last month. YAY!

I made it through my first month of school! It was crazy, overwhelming, & financially painful, but I made it! And I did it all while still seeing my therapist & psych at the VA, AND taking my meds EVERYDAY. YAY! I struggled, but I also recognized when I needed a break & gave myself one. I acknowledged my limits & still kept trekking along.

I have finally started to get over my ex and have let go of some old dreams & desires to embrace new ones. YAY! I've been listening to my instincts and trusting my own judgement when I make decisions-turns out I'm not as bad at it as I used to be or as I thought I was.

And the best part? I've finally bonded with Alex. I mean REALLY bonded. Bonded as in he comes up to me and gives me hugs, holds my legs, laughs & giggles when we play, I actually WANT to play with him....we've developed this closeness in the past 4-5 weeks that wasn't there before.  It took me 17mos, but I have officially fallen in love & feel connected with my son. All of my worries about whether or not I had "ruined" him or our relationship because of my PPD, anxiety, & bipolar madness have disappeared. All of that frustration & agony I felt this summer, when I said it felt like I was stumbling in the dark? Gone. God has flipped on the light switch & all I can see is the love & beauty is placed in my life through my boys.

Speaking of beauty, last thing. I've mentioned before that I've struggled with my self-esteem my whole life & it's taken a severe hit since having Alex. As you know, I've been working on that, and guess what happened?  This week, when the Plague was starting to release it's grip on me, I took a picture:

 When I looked at it, guess what I saw? BEAUTY. No makeup. Frizzy hair. Unwashed face. Swollen eyelid. Funky breath :) I was so glad to feel healthy again that I snapped this picture to celebrate & I captured a snap of myself full of joy & beauty. I mean, I actually SAW it. I wish I could articulate it. It was as if I had a blindfold on, or blurry contacts or something and all of a sudden they just fell away & I could see the real me. Flaws & all, but beautiful none the less. That's not being vain is it? I hope not. It's okay to say "I'm beautiful" with out being conceited, right? I hope so. Because that's how I feel & what I see when I look at myself now. And when I buy a pair of Spanx next week-WATCH OUT! I'm bringing sexy back ya'll....or at least my confidence! :)

Ya'll God & His love are lifting & carrying me through this...it always has. I can't tell you how grateful I am for it, for Him & how comforting it is to know that despite what I'm going through or what I feel, His love is there, like a banner over me, guiding me through the rubble. So that's why I'm choosing to focus on the good things. I know He'll help me manage the yucky stuff if I just keep my mind stayed to the right & not the left. :)

So those are my thoughts for today. Acknowledge the bad, but focus on the good. Meditate on what's good. Celebrate the smallest of victories or otherwise insignificant moments. Embrace YOU. Just BE. And continue to love yourself through the process.

Don't worry. We'll get there. We're on our way.

Sweatpant Crotch

Last week, I was watching this video my friend Susan  posted on her blog of her baby moving around in her belly. I know that sounds very alien-ish and icky, but it was absolutely adorable! It made my empty uterus feel the hollow yearnings of being pregnant and I started to feel the pangs of "Awwww, I miss being pre-" I hadn't even got the sentence out of my mouth before Alex let out a wail mid-sleep and my right ovary tied itself in a boy scout knot...I took that as God snapping me back to reality & I left la la land immediately!

When we chatted a couple of days later, we talked about.....SWEAT PANTS! I mean we talked about other things, but we talked at length about sweatpants. About how awesome they are...how comfortable & warm they are...how easy they are to just slide on your body-there's no tugging, inching, heaving & holding of breath to get them up & over your hips, or any of that craziness you have to go through when you want to rock a pair of jeans (let's not even MENTION skinny jeans OK?!) Try sliding a pair of jeans on over hips that have birthed children...go head. I'll wait.....

Now, when you're able to pick yourself up off the floor & catch your breath, slide them back off somehow and slide into a pair of sweatpants. See & FEEL the difference?

Now, don't get me wrong. I like fashion. I like to dress a certain way. I have style. It's a nerdy, bohemian, tomboy kind of style but it's a style...one that I'm comfortable with. I like wearing makeup, especially brightly hued eye shadows...but let's keep it real here people.

I LOVE SWEAT PANTS.

Period. Jeans are cool, but look if I happen to be in Wal-Mart or Target and I see sweats on sale for $6-8, I'm buying 10 pair easily. In different colors. I REALLY enjoy wearing male sweats because some less-than-bright crayon in the box decided women's sweats should be form-fitting. NO THEY SHOULDN'T! That defeats the purpose! Sweatpants can be sexy just as they are, IF you wear them appropriately. And I do. So does Susan. In fact, it was the video she posted that made her realize that she's been wearing them alot lately....AND LOVING IT. We also both realized that in the video was a perfectly aimed shot of her....sweatpant crotch. HAHA

From that moment an idea was born. We decided to try something.  As mothers, as women, there's this pressure to always look put together, like you can do & be all. We all know that's not the case. But I bet nearly all of our Facebook, Twitter, professionally designed blogs & About Me head shots don't give a complete picture of who we are. I'm guilty of it! I'll admit to only taking pictures when I think I look presentable. But let's be honest. I have two kids under age 5 and I'm a full-time college student. I spend the majority of my time picking cheerios up off the floor, buried in homework, and chasing after my kids. And I do it in sweats and comfortable sneakers, chucks or puma's preferably. I admire Mamas who can strut around in the latest fashions and the young girls I see coming to class looking like they H&M threw up on them. But as for this mama? I'm all about the sweats, baby, especially with fall lowering the temps & winter just around the corner!

So Susan and I are starting a revolution. All you have to do to partake is throw on your favorite pair of comfy sweats, snap a pic & post it. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it, instagram it, whatever. Just snap away and feel liberated & supported knowing there are at least 2 other women out in the world who are letting it all hang out there with you. You aren't alone. You are beautiful no matter what you wear. You are gorgeous & sexy. Own it regardless of your attire.

I've posted my #Sweatpantcrotch snaps....head over to Susan's place to view hers & read her post...then go dig in your drawer or reach up to the top of your closet shelf, grab your sweats & show them some love...they've missed you.

Let the revolution to ditch perfection & embrace acceptance begin!

A Brief Manifesto

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself" - Harvey Fierstein. Move from being a victim to a victor. Own your story and share it. Be authentic, live wholehearted. Do not allow your circumstances or pain from the past or present define you. Don't let a mood disorder define who you are. Define yourself in truth, in God's truth...come to know who He says you are and let that be the foundation upon which you build your identity, let it become the lens through which you see yourself. Your beautiful, worthy, and loved self.

I challenge you to read these words and whatever else comes to your heart in front of a mirror, looking yourself directly in the eye as you say each word. I did. Difficult but empowering to say the least....if you do it, feel free to share how you felt and the impact, if any this had on you.

Self-Love Saturday: Accepting What I See (Body Image) pt1

I have a love/hate relationship with my glasses. Things between my glasses and I have been complicated since I first started wearing them in kindergarten. See, there are pros & cons to this relationship.

The Pros : I'm a geek. A nerdy gal. I enjoy being so. I'm a writer, I create, I've grown to loving the ability to pick out a pair of specs that reflect different aspects of my personality....well at least nowadays. Back when I first started wearing them in 1989, they weren't so uh...stylish. Whose glad times have changed and so have the fashions in the eye wear department? THIS NERD.  :) But let's be real, the most important pro of all is the fact that I can FREAKIN SEE. How blind am I? Let's just say I'm grateful for the guy who has to sand down my lenses at the lab-he always does a phenomenal job and I can see all the way to Jupiter!

The Cons

My glasses are always outrageously expensive because my eyes don't like me and are shaped like grains of rice. My astigmatism in both eyes is severe and gets worse every year apparently. The other con? They let me FREAKIN SEE. Everything.

Why on earth do I count that as a con? Simple: without my glasses on, the vision I have of myself is never complete, and for someone who struggles in the self-esteem department, there's an unexpected comfort that comes from that. Not wearing my glasses allows me to not see the physical things about myself I don't like. At least not in telescopic, 3D fashion. It's like editing a photo, you know where you can use photoshop tools to blur out or cover up what you don't want seen? Not wearing my specs is like that for me.

So it goes like this. I get ready to go somewhere or just you know wash my face if I'm staying home for the day. When I'm done, I look at myself in the mirror...sometimes I may have a little (mineral) makeup, most days I don't, but I'll look and give myself an assessment. You know...how I think I look on a scale of "OMG UGH-oooooh girl, you look FIERCE!" It usually falls somewhere in the middle...most days. But then I grab my specs, look at myself again, and all I can see are all the things I don't like about myself, everything that I think is a physical imperfection glaringly staring right back at me. In plain sight. However I was initially feeling about my looks usually slides a few pegs down the scale at that point....

With my glasses I have a more realistic view of how I look....but my body image and self-esteem pretty much suck. Always has since I was a little girl. I'm sure talk therapy would reveal the root of it is steeped in daddy issues. He never validated me, he always pointed out what he thought was wrong with me physically, was always trying to change how I looked, he controlled how my hair was done & what clothes I wore. To this day I have a complex about my feet because this man took me shopping for sandals and embarrassingly laughed at me when I tried on a pair-I was 11. I thought the entire store could hear him describe my "ugly feet" that weren't "sandal feet". I've since grown to accept how my feet look, but I have insecurities about them still. Getting a pedicure is like torture, I can't take the anxiety about what Sally thinks of my toes.

But anyway, my point is this. For years, especially the past year, I've been hating the way I

look. I mean HATE. I look in the mirror and man, I just see a body that resembles nothing the one I had at 21. Or even before my last pregnancy. My breasts, my girls, they sag. Forget eye of the tiger, I've got his stripes. Have a slew of stretch marks too. I look like my dad, so I see his features. I'm at the highest weight I've ever been in (175-181 range), so my face is round and puffier than I'm used to. I just don't like what I look like. Hated putting my glasses on & having what I hate stare back at & taunt me.

That is until today. All day today I thought about acceptance. About what it means to accept my body...what having a healthy body image means. I generated a lot of thoughts about it, but to start I'll just say that I made  a decision today to just accept what I see.

Just accept it. Face it. Embrace it. Whether I like it or not. Just accept everything about me

that I think keeps me from being beautiful or desirable. I made a vow today to love my body and everything about it no matter what state it's in.

Accept me. Own me. Embrace me.  So, to show my commitment and to officially sign my pledge if you will, I took some pictures. To show that I'm no longer hiding behind blurry vision or despising myself.  As you can see I've, posted them among these words...

Here's to the conclusion of another Self-Love Saturday and me striving to see myself through a healthier, wholesome lens.

I'd like to thank Shape of A Mother for helping me take this step....

What lens do you view your physical self through? What do you think distorts or sharpens it? Feel free to share below....

Dance Party Friday: Square Biz Edition

Ok. So. Inspired by a chat with one of my amazing Twitter mamas (@momgosomething) I thought to myself, "Self, what makes you feel good?" Music. Dancing. "Wouldn't it be nifty if you could have a dance party with other people online, people like @momgosomething, who loves to crank up the volume and dance in her kitchen as much as you do?" Wow. Yes. Yes it would. I mean people have #Wineparties & Twitter chats, & GNO's on Twitter. Why not have a dance party? On a Friday. Just because it something that makes me feel good. Gets me moving, gets my heart pumping, makes me feel ALIVE and forget about the daily grind I'm in. Makes me forget that I struggle in the mental health dept,and makes me feel free.  Feel joy. Feel good about myself, reminds me that yes, there is a funny, silly goofball of a geek inside who. just. has. to. dance. Why not use dance as therapy? (I am after all planning on becoming a dance movement therapist) Use it as a tool to help me shed some insecurities about myself ? Use it to learn how to love & accept myself in whatever state I'm in or weight I'm at ? Plus they say exercise is a good way to battle depression & other mood disorders. It's a proven coping method.

So. Yes. I've decided to dance. Every Friday, I will post a new video of myself getting down with the get down & groovin to my fave tunes. Any song, any genre, anything that strikes my fancy I will be shaking my fanny to. And you, my dear readers will get to see it. See me make a fool of myself but see me really go after this self-love thing with a vengeance.

But I don't just want you to be a spectator. I want you to participate. They say that if you want to see real change and want to make a real impact then throw down a challenge. So here is my challenge to you: Dance with me. Let's find a way to Skype, Facebook Video Chat, or hangout on Google + and just DANCE. We can pick a song, maybe two and just have a dance party together, in good fun, just to let loose at the end of the week. If you want to send me a video of yourself getting your groove on & want to post it, email me a link: bconfessions (@) gmail (dot) com.

Below is my first video. Don't worry, I'm buying a better webcam, so I'm working on the video quality. And I was super nervous so forgive the deer in headlights serious looks I have at times. Just me fighting the urge to quit and go vomit in the toilet HAHAHAHAAAAA. I'm serious.  Enjoy!

http://www.vimeo.com/28127940

I'd really love to thank Kimberly for inspiring me & giving me the courage to post this. You should really read her blog (see how her name's in pink? click on it!) Her owning her story and sharing her experiences helped save my life. Seriously. And I also want to thank Joy Tanksley for giving me the push as well to run with this idea. Not only is her blog awesome, but she posts videos of her boogie-ing too! Check it out.......and then, make urself some room where ever you are & just dance baby. :)

http://vimeo.com/26590850

Happy Friday!

Self-Love Saturday: I Love Who I Am But I Can Be Better

Today I'm SUPER EXCITED for 2 reasons. One: This is my first post in a new series I'm doing here on 'Confessions called "Self-Love Saturdays" where I share my journey to learn how to love myself through thick & thin, for better or for worse. I want to have a better relationship with ME and I'll be exploring topics that cover body image, self-esteem, self-improvement....you get the idea. My hope is to also share insights from other bloggers who talk about these subjects on a professional or personal level and that brings me to reason for excitement number Two:

See that beautiful Mama up there? Her name is Jaime and her blog James & Jax is one of my top three FAVORITE blogs to read, hands down. Even though we haven't met in person yet, she is fast becoming an IRL friend: She's a Prince fan, a writer, & loves PB sandwiches with bananas & honey just as much as I do, so how could we not?

I'm honored that she wanted to grace 'Confessions with her awesomeness. I could probably spend an entire paragraph gushing about how much I love reading her stuff & how the writer in me digs her writing style, but I don't want to seem like a stalker so....do yourself a favor & don't take my word for it-read her post here, go visit her blog, and chat with her on FacebookTwitter. Read the 411 below, & show her some love ya'll :)

Meet James: I’m a first-time mom, making my way through breastfeeding, co-sleeping, my version of attachment parenting, PPD, working full-time, and still trying to figure out who I am now that becoming a mother has totally rocked my world. Want to know more about me? Read this or thisMeet Jax: My son, Jax, is turning 2 this month, the day after me (no, I’m not telling you my age!). His current obsessions are Yo Gabba Gabba, balloons, “nummies,” and pizza. And he doesn’t sleep well. Sigh.

James & Jax is a parenting blog, but more than that, it aims to present my belief that we’re all in this together. What I mean is that by sharing my personal experiences while raising my son, I hope that those reading feel less alone and lonely, and more like “Wow, I went through that, too!”  It is my ultimate goal that reading my blog feels like chatting with your high school girlfriend over a glass of wine, now that we’re both moms.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

"Growth itself contains the germ of happiness."

Pearl Buck said that, and I believe she was right! I love all things self-help, I must admit. I'm on a lifelong quest for self-improvement. It's not that I think I am a bad person with lots of room for improvement. I think I'm a (mostly) fabulous person, but all people, fabulous or not, have limitless growth potential. Because it is my birth month, during which I always try to reflect on the past year and the year ahead, I've devoted the month of August to becoming a better me.

To help with my goal, I've signed up for the 30-Day Be a Better Me challenge on The Personal Excellence Blog. I'm slowly working my way through the 30 days a little behind the rest of the gang (at last check, there were over a thousand of us participating), but speed is not the mission. The mission, as I determined on Day 1 of the challenge, is to weed out the traits I consider my worst so that I can become a better wife, friend, mother, daughter, sister, and so on:

  • Negativity
  • Anger
  • Impatience.

Those are my 3 worst traits--which I've now told the entire internet about. Yikes. Yet telling the internet is the best way to hold myself accountable, so there's that.

As someone who's recovered from postpartum depression, I now realize the value of self-care and self-love. There is an analogy common among those who have suffered from PPD: Self-care is the oxygen mask you put on when the plane's going down. And just as the flight attendant instructs, you must place your own mask on before helping others (even children). Because if you’re not well, you can’t care for others. As a mother, this is hard to do--that pesky momma guilt is quick as lightning when it strikes. But self-care and motherhood MUST go hand in hand. You cannot love your babies to your fullest capability if you do not love yourself, for they are part of you!

So my current take on self-care is this 30-day challenge. By spending a half hour to an hour each day this month to work on improving myself, I am proving that I care about and love myself and I am thus being a positive role model to my son.

The last thing in the world I want for my son, Jax, is a mother who is negative, angers too easily, and is impatient. No, scratch that, the last thing I want for Jax is to be negative, angry, and impatient himself because he learned it from me. And I don't really want that for any of my loved ones, either.

I have to defend myself for a second, lest you get the wrong idea. I'm not outwardly negative, angry, and impatient 100% of the time. Not even 50% of the time! But that 10% of the time is enough, and I don't like how it makes me feel. I don't want to carry my anger with me and hold grudges. I don't want to immediately think of the 10,000 cons (or dangers) of any situation, even good ones. And I don't want to rush through my (and my son's) life. I would much rather feel how I do that other 90% of the time--happy, calm, at peace and enjoying my life, even the quirky stuff. Life is too short to not live as my ideal self!

For me, this August will be a month of self-reflection, self-love, and self-care. And come September, I will be changed. Maybe the transformation will be subtle, but as I mentioned, it's not a race and self-improvement is a lifelong journey.

Won't you join me?

Skin Color, Nappy Hair, & Other Black Girl Hangups

Stop.

I'm serious. Whatever it is you're doing, STOP IT RIGHT NOW and watch the video below. DON'T skip it, glance over it, say to yourself, 'I'll watch this later,' or jump past it to read the rest of this post.

Just.

STOP.

WATCH:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrtkNk1-48U]

Now....take a couple of minutes or however long you need to and just ABSORB what you just watched...

Digest what your eyes just witnessed.

Let the pain, shame, & other emotions you just heard travel from your ears to your heart.

And if you are feeling your eyes sting & burn from the tears threatening to spill down your cheeks-

LET THEM.

I did. I couldn't help it. I couldn't stop it. The tears are flowing, and my hands are trembling as I force myself to type these words. Tears flowing for the woman who said she asked her mother to put bleach in the water, for the girl who used to scrub her face because she thought it was "dirty", flowing in anguish for the woman who sat, with tears streaming down HER face, the betrayal & shame she feels burning in her eyes as she recalled the comment her friend made about thanking God her baby "wasn't dark!".

My hands are trembling in anger at the man, well, he sounds more like a boy to me, who said he would NEVER date a dark skinned girl because she "doesn't look right next to him." Trembling in anger at the young woman who described natural hair as "nappy" & "disgusting", but feeling empathy for her ignorance, because, I really can't blame her. No...I don't blame her...

I DO blame our society & culture for her ignorance though...I blame a media and an advertising industry who has sold us their institutionalized ideals on beauty and our culture for buying them at an ever increasing rate....I place blame on celebrities who give in to the pressures & demands made by these industries and actually allow themselves to have their skin lightened (I'm looking at YOU Beyonce/Sasha Fierce/whatever you're calling yourself these days), & have their own "nappy" hair glued/sewn down, hidden under hair from women who are paid to give it away.YUP I blame them. Why? Because they would rather give in than stand out. They would rather "play the game" to make some money than use their gifts/talents/art form to encourage young black girls to embrace who they NATURALLY are. Because looking like something you're not, because "blending in" is trendy-yes, this is why I blame them for her ignorance.

But more importantly, I blame us. And by "us" I mean African Americans, you know, "black folk". I blame us because celebrities wouldn't do any of those things if we didn't tolerate it. Better yet, MAYBE if we weren't so hateful against ourselves our daughters wouldn't be spending THOUSANDS of dollars on things like "Remy", and eyelashes, and lace fronts....Maybe if we didn't hate ourselves, the people who sell these products wouldn't be able to capitalize off of our self-hatred & shame. Maybe all the money we spend on trying to NOT be who we are would be used instead on growing businesses in our neighborhoods, putting HEALTHY food options on the table for our kids so OBESITY wouldn't be an epidemic, and funding the arts & other education initiatives so we could THRIVE...

But who am I to think such things? I'm just a big lipped, big nosed, black girl with "nappy" hair. My heart ACHES for the women in the above video, my face burns with the shame they feel, my eyes sting with tears over their hurt. Watching it brought an unexpected flood of memories & pain from experiences & hang ups I had growing up and sometimes still struggle with as an adult.

I'm not what black folk would consider "dark-skinned". Despite the deeply hued melanin burned into my arms from spending hours in the sun, I'm what most black folk would consider "high yella (yellow)". I've been told my skin is "so pretty because it has a nice 'golden' look to it, not dark like other black girls." I've born witness to men breaking their necks & falling all over themselves to talk to one of my black friends-who's skin was even lighter than mine and hair was longer than mine too. I've heard black men have conversations about "red bone girls" they wanted to "get it in" with and heard jokes about the ones who "look dirty" or "look like roaches" because of their pigment. But even being considered "light skinned" didn't keep me from wishing I had long, flowing hair like the white girls in my class, or worrying that if I stayed out in the sun too long I'd "get too dark"....and it wasn't enough to save me from developing hang ups about my complexion, hair, eyes, or anything else when it came to black folk.

My father put a relaxer in my hair before I was 5 and I vividly remember clumps of my hair washing down the bathtub's drain...and crying because I didn't think there'd be any left once we were done. I didn't even know what my own hair really looked like up until about 3 1/2 years ago when I made my first attempt at going natural. I spent YEARS straightening my hair, applying the creamy crack to it the instant I saw a wave forming. I could never let my hair be "nappy". No way! Having "beedeebees" in your "kitchen" wasn't cute and guys (especially) black guys wouldn't want to be with you. Straight....and LOOOONNNNNGGGG. That's how a black girl's hair should be-that's what I was taught. I remember being made fun of by the boys at recess because my hair was "greasy", fielding questions from white girls about how I "got my hair to do THAT", and debating with black kids, especially girls,about who must have Indian in their family or be mixed because they had "good" hair. I was brought face to face and challenged with the hair ideals I had grown up with and everything I believed hair should be when I decided to do THE BIG CHOP and go natural. The first time I lasted 6 months. I started working in Corporate America and caved to the subliminal pressure to conform-hair included. Afterall, natural hair didn't look "professional". However in July 2009, I gave up the creamy crack, and ditched those tangled, hairy, beliefs about my hair for good. It hasn't been easy. Seeing myself, seeing my hair in it's unruly, wild, tightly coiled, Ima-do-what-I-want splendor took some serious getting used to, but I forced myself to embrace it this time around and the process has taught me alot about myself.

Having natural hair has taught me ALOT about people too. Especially black people. The looks I got when I first cut all my hair off are just as numerous as the ones I get now that it's an all out 'fro almost 2 years later. I've had several (black) people ask me why I don't "do" my hair. I've had women say to me, "but it's so much WORK letting your hair go like that...don't you get tired of it being so nappy?". I've even had the pleasure of numerous black men look at me and my coif disdainfully. I even had a guy in one my classes ask me "Why did you do that {to your hair} ? You used to look so pretty. Now you just look....I dunno." My favorite reactions and the ones that anger me come from how people treat me when my hair is straight versus when it's curly or 'fro'd out. The minute I walk into a class, pass by a neighbor, or walk around a store with my locks straightjacketed with a flatiron, the compliments flow like the tide! I'm virtually ignored however, the minute I let it coil up....It's amazing that my beauty is tied up in how I wear my hair....REALLY?!

To this day I can't watch The Little Mermaid without squirming in discomfort once this guy pops up on screen:

When I was in elementary school I had a solo part in our Christmas concert, my first ever. I LOVED to sing as a kid, so I was super excited and couldn't wait to hear how proud my dad was of me afterward. Instead of receiving praise, I was told I look like that crab pictured above. I was told that I looked like I was singing "Under the Sea" because my lips, especially my bottom lip, was so huge. I was like 17 before he stopped calling me Sebastian....or "soup coolers". (And for the record, the only black woman my father was ever married to was my mother-he's remarried 5 times since....so yea...imagine what THAT would do to your perception of black women) Not only did I stop singing, I began to truly hate the way I looked...

I may not be "dark" but I definitely grew up with hang ups about my complexion, my hair, my eyes...about BEING BLACK period, and it just breaks my heart to see that this is still an issue in 2011. And it angers me when I look at black, "light skinned-long haired" celebrities who reinforce the belief in our own culture that lighter & straighter is better, prettier, & more desirable. It shouldn't be this way, but it is because we believed the "house nigga vs. field nigga" hype White folks sold us back during slavery. We bought into the idea that if you look like 'em you can "pass" and have a better life. In the generations & time that have passed since slavery, we've allowed shame to dictate how we feel about each other & what we teach our children about beauty.

My question is: When will it end? What will make it change? Why are we so afraid of who we are?

Watching this video really helped me see that we haven't come as far as we thought....