It's that time again! #CenteredThursdays is back and this week we're talking about the decision to be selfish. Know that it's easier said than done, but listen, when I tell you that I feel so much better already! I have been accepting minimal effort while providing maximum benefits to those whom I supported. But day by day, my friend, I will heal from this. I will enter this next chapter in my life with confidence, reciprocal support and sure footing because I am FINALLY putting myself first and making my life a priority! HalleluYAH!
Lemme tell y'all about Lil JB.
Born in 1989, I was the oldest of my mother's children. Soon after came brother 1 and brother 2, and we're all more or less a year apart.
One of my earliest memories consists of my dad telling me not to be selfish. Can't remember if it was about sharing toys, or something more trivial, but whatever it was, it was selfish. Honestly, as much as my brothers and i fought, as all siblings do, I don't remember anyone else being called selfish. It got so bad with the criticizing of my behavior as a child that my dad (and brothers, subsequently) would take turns calling me Angelica. Yes, the bossy brat from the iconic 90s cartoon Rugrats. now we all know how terrible she was. was I really that bad? It didn't matter then and it doesn't matter now. I internalized that I was selfish and that was something that i needed to change about myself. Enter: childhood complex #1.
No one ever asked me how I felt as a child, because being a Black kid in America means that your feelings don't matter (#shoutout to Candace Denea for that revelation). Things just are how they are and your feelings are not and will not be accounted for. So instead of being taught emotional intelligence, we're taught not to be crybabies or we were made fun of because we showed feelings. Feelings make you soft, and you can't be soft when you're trying to survive in poverty. Does it make sense? I get it. But that doesn't make it right. Show no feelings: childhood complex #2.
Being the oldest and being a girl meant that I had to be tough. I had to fight and simultaneously defend my brothers. Sure, I had barbies and other dolls growing up, but nothing too stereotypically feminine. Couldn't paint my nails anything other than clear to "keep me from being fast". Being the tough oldest meant that I was also punished more for being a kid and making mistakes. So the goofy shit that kids do? That wasn't flying with me because at 5 and 6, I had to set an example for my brothers. We're a year apart. What experience could I really have had to understand life enough to set an example? So I am relegated to excellence, maturity and leadership at age 5: childhood complex #3.
I lied a lot as a kid. a lot. Little things, big things. It didn't matter. I couldn't articulate this as a kid but I get it now. wrong as lying is, I saw it as a way to protect myself and my feelings. I had already had the experience of my emotions and feelings being shitted on, belittled, and ridiculed, so why would I ever be that honest and vulnerable with people who did not support emotional intelligence? So how did I get through all the emotional challenges? I bottled up my feelings, I started journaling [couldn't have a "diary" because ain't nobody keeping secrets in a place they ain't paying bills at], I started to confide more in my school friends and I developed depression, often labelled rebelliousness and teenage angst because the parents are too busy or too caught up in trying to make it to really check in with their kids. Enter childhood complex #4.
As I developed and matured as a young woman, I was extremely self-conscious and insecure with myself. Body image, self-esteem, hormonal craze and having crushes, all of that. And when visibly hurt by something someone said or did, my father remarked, "you've gotten soft. you used to be tough." Although one of the ONLY things my father boasts about, he had no idea how much hurt went towards presenting myself as tough all the time. All of the disappointment I accrued from life at home not being fair or the summation of my parents' empty promises, all of the responsibility and consequences only applying to me, all of the tears I cried alone, all of the feelings of anxiety, unworthiness, doubt and depression... all of that comprised this facade of toughness that I needed to survive my house and the outside world. I can probably count on both hands the number of times my father called me beautiful or said that he was proud of me. I was expected to excel, to not be affected by hormones or the depictions of teenagers in the media, to be chaste and to be tough. Expectations: childhood complex #5.
I had to go everywhere with my brothers. School, outings, whatever. They were taught to protect me. I was taught to support them and only present them in the best light. I didn't have an identity outside of my brothers, even as the oldest child. So I acted out and expressed myself totally opposite of their styles. I literally felt like no one understood me because no one took the time to get to know me. So without support reciprocated, I learned that If I were to do anything with my life, I would be expected to figure it all out on my own and do it without asking for help. Compound that with the unreadiness I experienced moving from a black school to a white school. Its true, predominately white schools are on a faster and more advanced curriculum than Black schools, and that's by design. So with being forced to survive without support and help or otherwise be seen as weak, coping with my own way of supporting myself, and being put into a better educational opportunity in which I was more behind than I could articulate or admit, I drowned. I drowned, not because I wasn't smart, but because I wasn't prepared. So since I couldn't ask for help while growing up, I didn't ask for help in school and that sabotaged me and my academic career. I'm still feeling the affects of that sabotage to this day, and I'm in graduate school. I didn't want to be one of the only two black kids asking for extra help or tutoring, and the black kids there didn't seem to be struggling so I was really out there on my own. I almost failed the 7th grade. Only thing that saved me were my angry parents speaking on my behalf, and they arranged special work for me to complete so I could pass to the next grade. Academic inadequacy: childhood complex #6.
So here I am, going off to college. My father was told by someone else how prestigious my college was, so then he was proud of me. Go figure. My mother died the December of my Freshman year, so I did the only thing that I knew to do: support my father and brothers. My faith taught me to use this tragedy as an opportunity to rebuild a relationship with my father, so that's what I did. I reached out to him, started my healing process, and was there to help financially. Since I was taught to always stick with my brothers, that's what I did. Just like my mother, beautiful and flawed as she was, I stepped into her shoes and became the glue to hold what was left of my family together. I helped to mend relationships across relatives and generations, and i wanted to change the narrative of our family. I didn't want another tragedy to force us to act right, so i took it upon myself to be the one to check on everyone and help everyone out, no questions asked. if I had it, it was yours because we're family. Martyrdom and savior-complex: childhood complex #7.
So here we are 10 years later. What's the point of this post?
I'm here to remove the stigma of being selfish. I am finally choosing to be selfish and put myself, the family I am building and my goals first for the first time in my life. I am choosing to secure my oxygen mask first before considering to save someone else. I am choosing to acknowledge that I have done all the work to maintain my relationships with my family, and no one has ever met me half way through the healing process. i am realizing that my sticking my neck out for people has never been reciprocated. I have over-extended myself time and time again for people whom have never done the same for me. I am understanding that because I have presented myself as the martyr and savior, that I have created an unhealthy dependency on my success and blessings. I am the first to admit that I cannot take full credit for what I have accomplished or what I possess, but when will I be able to depend on someone else for support when I spend my time being the one that everyone leans on? When can I enjoy my blessings? My decisions are questioned and criticized, and for what? I am starting to do what is best for me, and that is now a problem. Its a problem now because I have always put other's feelings before mine when my own feelings were shut down and rejected. My efforts to maintain relationships are looked at funny and out of the norm, when I am the only one reaching out consistently to check up and look out for people. My concerns about people's safety, livelihood and their families are belittled to my wanting to berate or punish, and that's never been me. When I am the sole support of those who ridicule and criticize every move I make, and ANY efforts to express and articulate myself are laughed off and disregarded, I have to recognize the insanity in trying to make something work that's clearly one-sided.
This is me, raw, uncut, vulnerable.
This is me, stepping out of my mother's shoes after almost ten years.
This is me, stepping into my own shoes and walking into my purpose.
This is me, choosing myself when no one else could see beyond their own trauma.
This is me, loving me first.
This is me, choosing to be selfish because I know better.
This is me, choosing to be selfish because self-preservation is the first law.
This is me, and I hope you can figure out who you are without depending on me.
Being Selfish is an original post and appeared first on BYNKradio.com by Jazzmyn Blu.