For Black Girls Who Think Love is Rooted in Their Ability to Perform
* Written by Ashley M. Coleman for YettiSays Self-Love Month | “For Black Girls” post series
photography credit – Amber Burns (1) + Ty’Rell Jones (2,3)
From the very first starred assignment you received in kindergarten, it didn’t take a fully formed mind to understand that doing well was something that pleased others. Being agreeable, not making too much noise or fuss, those things were praised and celebrated. You were easy and a pleasure and always at the top of the running. The long-term effects unknown but the dopamine hit hard like a drug.
Just like most other things in life, growing and developing has been about unlearning the harmful things that society reinforces for us. For you, this idea that the better you did, the more loveable you were. And honestly, without therapy, it’s hard to even recognize.
“People pleasing.” The word felt foreign in my mouth because I’d never seen myself as someone who cared about what people thought. But there are always deeper surfaces to be excavated. Straight A’s, Magna Cum Laude, the constant burden of wanting to get everything right. Beneath the surface, the idea resounded over and over, “They love you because of what you can do, not just who you are.”
There are these stories we tell ourselves which I learned from the work of Brené Brown. Sometimes it’s not at all the expectation of others, but the constraints we put on ourselves. Performance will not keep that relationship together or repair that friendship. It will not change the minds of those who have made them up against you or serve you in any way that is healthy. It will only leave you feeling as if you’re a constant disappointment. It will leave you in fear that one wrong move will obliterate the relationships you’ve poured yourself into.
You are doing amazing. You should know that. You should know that getting up every day in a world that wants to destroy you is a feat within itself. The fact that you not only live but thrive in this world is nothing short of a miracle. You are your own salvation. You are your remedy.
The happy that you have been searching for is on the other side of asking for what you need and not apologizing for those needs. Allowing others to show up for you the way that you constantly show up for them. It is okay to be your own project as Gabrielle Hickmon would kindly remind.
You don’t get a grade for life. The rubric of how well you’re doing can no longer come from the admiration of others. So, you can stop working so hard for the pat on the back you’ll never receive. Life is about making your own wind. Failing more for the lessons. Challenging yourself. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Knowing that the only person that can free you from the shackles of perfection is you.
Show your scars. Show your downfalls. Show the moments when you have literally been brought to the brink of destruction so that the people you love the most can see that you bleed just like the rest of them.
Aren’t you tired? It is time. Time that you find rest and put down the things that have never been yours to carry. Imperfect, flawed, and yet immensely and utterly deserving of love.
Ashley Coleman, Author, ashleymcoleman.com + Founder, Permission To Write.
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