(Im)Perfect 10

I’m a recovering undercover over-loving, people-pleasing perfectionist.

Song inspiration: Reachin’ 2 Much x Anderson.Paak ft. Lalah Hathaway

Passing notes was a favorite pastime of mine when I was younger. I didn’t have a cellphone until my sophomore year of high school so you can imagine I did a lot of note passing back in my day. I just recently threw away all the notes I had saved from middle/high school after watching this one episode of hoarders that changed my life (but I digress) I was in the 7th grade when I received a note in the hallway from my crush/school boyfriend. I excitedly opened it in my 3rd period class. It was a letter written in the form of a poem entitled “My Sexy Perfectionist.” Now, I know what you’re thinking: What in the hell does a 7th grade boy know about what it is to be sexy?!? I definitely agree. I was nowhere near sexy at that age but a young boy can dream I guess. I will never forget this note for many reasons, but most importantly, it was the first time in my life I had ever been called a perfectionist. I had absolutely no idea what that word meant. But shout out to homeboy; he may not have known what it was to be sexy at that young age, but he was able to identify a character flaw in me that would permeate my life for years to come.

I am the youngest of six siblings and quite frankly I believe this is why I am a very visual learner. I had so many examples of what to do and what not to do in the eyes of my parent’s approval. I definitely didn’t have to touch the stove to know that it was hot (thanks to my sister Amber) I tried my very best to be under the good graces of my parents. I was a pretty solid rule follower, I liked to help my mom with chores around the house and I did really well in school. My dad has only had to yell at me one time in my life and I still feel like it was super unwarranted (but go off Eldridge) I was always the teacher’s helper and tried my best to be an exemplar student in the class. I would like to say I was the perfect kid, but we all know I’d be stretching the truth just a little bit.

I thought I had figured out a major life cheat code. Just follow the rules, learn from other people’s mistakes and do things differently… Duh!! Me and my bright ideas. What I was actually doing was placing such a heavy burden of perfectionism on myself at a very early age. I was committed to living a life of acceptance instead of authenticity. I was so stuck on doing the right thing at all times that when I had a human lapse of judgement, there was really no need for my parents to punish me because I would punish myself with self-loathing and despair (on top of actual punishment) Every time I felt like I disappointed my parents or teachers, I would vow to go above and beyond the next time to prove myself worthy of their love and forgiveness. In reality, it was never that deep, but my little mind couldn’t comprehend that. So not only did I strive to do every single thing with perfection, I added people-pleasing to the mix which is a dangerous concoction.

If you looked up the definition of doing too much, you’d see my picture right there with a goofy ass smile. I kid you not. I went so hard in everything that I mistook perfectionism for authentic ambition.

This mindset impacted every aspect of my life. In my educational journey, I prided myself on being academically disciplined (besides that one relapse when I almost failed the 3rd grade) When I didn’t catch on to a concept as quick as I’d like to, I’d feel like there was something wrong with me or the way that I learned. I didn’t want to be seen as incompetent in the eyes of my peers. In my personal life, I pushed myself to live up to the expectations of my family and friends. I held myself to unrealistic standards that the people around me could not and would not adhere to because they weren’t necessary. When I would do something to disappoint family or friends, I’d think of any way possible to get back in their good graces; I’d bend over backwards to prove my love and loyalty. So it constantly felt like I was giving more than I was receiving.

Unfortunately, In my love life I actually grew up to be that “Sexy Perfectionist” my 7th grade crush was talking about. I looked real good on the outside but was full of shit on the inside. You couldn’t tell me anything in opposition to what my intention was. I always went above and beyond to make sure that I was the perfect girlfriend. I learned the hard way that you don’t get a Nobel Peace Prize for simply not cheating (who knew?) I had a lot of messed up character traits that would be enough to make any guy that pursued me run in the opposite direction. When confronted with constructive criticism by my significant other, I would become stoic and hard hearted. It was hard for me to hear anything negative because I knew the major effort that I put into each endeavor so if it was misread, then clearly it wasn’t my problem, it was theirs. So eventually, my significant others would just stop telling me when I made them feel some type of way while I made sure to point out every single flaw of theirs. As you can imagine, that did not go over so well in the relationship retention department. In my career, it was hard when I worked really hard on something and felt like it wasn’t acknowledged or appreciated the way that I felt it should be. In my faith, I felt like I had to be perfect to come to God and ask for help. So a lot of the time, I tried doing things on my own because I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving grace. Perfectionism/People-pleasing was kicking my ass.

Again, I am thankful for therapy and for God placing loved ones in my life who were able to help me push past many of these isms. So as I sit here in my living room, writing to those who will read but also to myself, I am reminded that it is okay to be human. It is okay to miss the mark. We can give ourselves grace and room to grow. I used to seek approval of others, desiring to be the perfect 10-whatever that is. Instead, I try to follow a list of Imperfect 10’s (things I work on while giving myself tons of grace to miss the mark) to help me become someone I can be proud of.

London’s List of Imperfect 10’s

  1. Accountability: I try my best each day to take responsibility for my words and actions. I am willing to allow others to hold me accountable without using self-loathing as a defense mechanism when I go against my word or my actions in ways that can be harmful to my boundaries and others around me
  2. Boundaries: I practice creating healthy boundaries within myself and those around me. I practice saying no. I am willing to have conversations about what I will and will not allow and understand that although I cannot control who will or will not adhere to my boundaries, I will stand firm in my commitment to protecting my heart, time, space and energy
  3. Forgiveness: I remind myself daily that just as much as I make mistakes and mess up, others do as well because we are humans-flawed and imperfect. We are all facing our own battles and situations. I practice daily the ability to forgive and show grace to those who have hurt me because I want to be forgiven too
  4. Humility: I wake up each day with the understanding that I do not know it all. I am capable of learning new things and gaining new perspectives until my time on earth is done. There will never be a time where I am a proclaimed “expert,” of life and I am okay with that
  5. Courage: I want to live life without fear as much as possible by examining why something scares and and formulating ways to overcome fear with help from God, family and friends
  6. Integrity: I strive to do the right thing even when there’s no audience or reward to acknowledge my efforts. I want my life to leave behind traces of authenticity, respect and honest ambition
  7. Vision: I never want to stop dreaming. I pray for my purpose to shine through me daily and that new ideas to spring up in me. I don’t want to be discouraged or take rejection so hard when doors/opportunities don’t happen. Instead I hope to be rerouted and wait in excitement for the next window of opportunity to come
  8. Love: I truly believe that love conquers all and if I approach people and situations in my life with love at the forefront, I am off to a good start
  9. Gratitude: Each day I start off with words of thankfulness to God for my life, for new opportunities and for another chance to impact those around me. I even created a gratitude jar where I write down things I am thankful for and open them after 6 months to a year to remind myself that no matter what, there are things I can be grateful for
  10. Patience: I used to want to rush certain processes and now I try my best to go with the flow, trusting that what’s for me is for me and nothing and no one can stop me from receiving what’s truly mine. I strive to get through things, allowing myself to feel and acknowledge each emotion instead of getting over things through avoidance and stoic expressions

I truly believe that many, if not all of the good/bad experiences that we go through are not only for the benefit of ourselves but for others as well. That’s why I do my best to be as open and honest in this blog. As painful and embarrassing as it was to go through these things, I get so much joy in the feeling of release and reflection on how far I’ve come. I hope my words are received with as much love and encouragement as I write them in.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What’s a character flaw you’ve overcome or are still working on overcoming? Feel free to comment below!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

An Ode to Self-Care

self-care /ˌselfˈker/

The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress

Song Inspiration: Cranes in the Sky x Solange

So we’re going through a global pandemic, constant reminders that our nation has a long way to go in achieving true social justice, the severity of climate change, and a resurgence of sexual assault experiences and allegations being shared across almost all social media platforms. YIKES is an understatement. I wanted to do a quick but meaningful check-in on the current status of our mental health because I consider y’all my family and I care about you! The issues that we see unfolding around us are extremely important, and require our attention, but I also think it’s important to know when to step back and take some time to replenish yourself. I just want to take a moment to talk about the importance of self-care, especially through stressful situations.

I started my self-care journey on February 14th, 2019. Prior to that, I was struggling, BAD. I had graduated from an accelerated master’s degree program the summer of 2018 and started working two jobs during that fall. By September of 2018, I was waking up at 6 am to start my full-time job from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm and then picking back up with my part-time job from 4:30 pm until 9:30 pm during the weekday and a few hours on the weekend. I was working a total of 70 hours a week. While balancing my work load, I tried my best to keep up with my relationship, friends and family while struggling to take care of myself. I began to distance myself not only because of my crazy work schedule, but also because of the internal battle I was having with myself about how to utilize my free time when I actually had free time. I wanted to spend time with family and friends but my body was physically tired and my mental state was crumbling slowly but surely. Although I tried my best to mask how I was feeling on the inside when I did choose to spend my free time with my significant other, family or my friends, I felt like I was the furthest thing from a joy to be around. It felt like I was a walking zombie, like I was drowning in broad daylight and nobody could see. At the same time, I was afraid to talk to my friends and family about what I was experiencing because I felt like they had other things going on and didn’t want to add the “burden” of my problems on them.

I went into overdrive and my energy would spiral from being really happy and feeling good about life to really sad and frustrated with what was happening around me. It took a major toll on the relationship with my significant other. It felt like we were walking on eggshells with one another each time we were together and eventually we started seeing less of each other. With unaddressed mental and physical health concerns, daily life struggles with work and school and a stack of other issues that were lost in that black hole, our relationship was torn apart. In that moment I felt like I had lost control of everything. I thought I was doing my best to multi-task and stay balanced within my jobs, and in turn I was neglecting eating and sleeping. I thought I was trying my best to keep up with my family and friends but I would find that I was going weeks, even months without initiating an interaction and if I heard from family and friends, I would cut the conversation short.

After getting to a point of true helplessness, I decided to take the first step of getting my life back on track. I researched personal counseling offices and made my first appointment. It was a brave first step, and after a little over a year, I can honestly say that it was the best decision I could have ever made for my life. Now don’t get me wrong, therapy is not an easy process and it definitely was not fun digging deep into the aspects of my life that I had buried, never to be uncovered again. It changed my outlook on a lot of the experiences I’ve had in in life and it helped me gain a sense of strength and confidence that was missing. I have been able to be at peace with my past and have gained a sense of hope for my future.I have restored relationships with my family and friends and I have changed the way that I approach the work that I do. Therapy opened up a new avenue of my life that encouraged self-care at all costs and I am so thankful. Unfortunately, all good things eventually come to an end. Although my time in therapy was extremely life-changing and I enjoyed the experience, I had my last therapy session at the end of May. I didn’t view it as an ending, but as a beginning of a new, healthy chapter of my life.

As awesome as I believe therapy is, I understand that this isn’t a reality for many people. I would like to share some self-care activities with little to no cost that helped me practice consistency with loving myself and taking care of my needs, even in the midst of trying times.

  • Creating a self-care check-list: First and foremost, check-in with yourself!! Make sure you are prioritizing your mental and physical health by checking off some basic boxes like eating, drinking water, sleeping and bathing. Then prioritize your list by what you need in that particular moment
  • Sleeping: Finding a good sleeping schedule, especially with my workload has been helpful. there are times when I feel like I am missing out because I need rest, but I remind myself that in order to be my best self, I need to show my body kindness and let it rest
  • Keeping up with your meds: If you take medicine routinely, set an alarm to ensure that you’re taking your meds on time and when you’re supposed to. I recently started taking vitamins and it holds me accountable to eating because I have to take the vitamin with a meal
  • Setting healthy boundaries with others: As you’re processing your emotions and feelings, take time to set boundaries with others. Don’t waste time arguing with an internet troll, or feel like you have to educate the entire Facebook platform on racial bias. It’s okay to say NO! Be honest about your energy levels when others ask you to participate in activities and be mindful that it you are not obligated to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or crosses your line of security.
  • Showers/baths: Showers are one of my favorite ways to practice self-care! You can turn up the music and have a private concert, try a new skin care routine or a new shampoo. I have natural hair so I make shower time on wash days an entire event! Baths are always nice for total relaxation. Dim the lights, put on your favorite movie/show, grab a book to read or listen to some music.
  • Talking to God/reading my Bible: Those who know me, know that my faith is a huge part of my life. I have spent each day for the past 8 weeks taking the time to pray, meditate and read. It has given me such a better outlook on my life and a sense of calmness that I just can’t explain.
  • Journal/Blog/read: If writing is your thing, try journaling your thoughts/feelings day to day or week to week. In my quiet time, I like to journal my thoughts. If reading is your thing, try finding a virtual book club to connect with people across the country who have a shared love for books. I recently started this blog as a form of self-care and keeping up with it has been the best!
  • Cooking: I love to try new recipes! I search Pinterest, Twitter and other food blogging sites to try new foods and dishes. Doing this allows me to take healthy risks and it reminds me that it is okay to make mistakes and to start over.
  • Cleaning: This may sound weird but cleaning/organizing is a form of relaxation for me! I get such a satisfying feeling from seeing the before and after images of the cleaning projects that I do
  • Painting: I am not so good at it, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! I love doing Painting with a Twist. It is calming to watch it all come together
  • Exercising: I love yoga and cycling! Go for a walk! If you can get outside and get active, do it! It’s getting warmer out which makes this experience that much more enjoyable
  • Listening to Music: Music has a way of connecting us as a whole and reaching us in more ways than one. I am always down to be put on to new music and to share with others
  • Spend time with family/friends: Block out some time for positive human interaction! My friends love me and understand me so it is always nice being around people who love you and have your best interest at heart. You’re then able to drop your shoulders and truly relax!
  • Limit your screen time: This one is pretty tricky to do since for the last few months we were on a stay at home order. Although it is important to make sure you’re up to date on current events, make sure to take time away from your social media handles and news outlets.

I know that times are hard. I am here to encourage you to keep your head up. If getting out of the bed each morning is a victory step for you, celebrate that! Take it one day at a time. I’m rooting for you, wherever you are. We’ll get through this together. With that being said, check in with me! How you feelin? What are you doing to address your needs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-care during this time and how we can support each other!

Yours in Authenticity,

London