You are everything you need..

I’m learning to ask for what I want. To say how I feel.

I should say, relearning, really.

As a child I it was drilled in me very successfully by my mother that a “closed mouth doesn’t get fed”. But, grown up relationships seem to change the simple, easy lessons that we master as children.

Every other Saturday I sit with my therapist and she helps me find the tools to speak up for myself in personal relationships.. to build boundaries to keep out what’s bad for me and bridges to let in what makes me better. She helps me curb the anxiety of triggering other people’s discomfort.

I’m beginning to take leaps. To let the ideas I share be as big as they are inside my head.  And just the act of being authentic and intentional in how I present myself is showing me who people around me truly are as well.

For instance, someone close to me asked me what I want to be doing in 10 years. I answered nonchalantly that I’ll probably be a director of something or running an organization somewhere. The response from her was incredibly surprising… she asked “What makes you think you could do that?”.

“WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN DO THAT?!”

My immediate reaction inside was “Bitch..what?”…but I realized that she wasn’t so much expressing her disbelief in me, but in herself. She didn’t know how I could believe I could do that because she didn’t believe she could do that.

A few weeks later, after writing out a mini career manifesto to my boss about what direction I want my career to go I shared with this same person what I was committing to do. Her response was again a little unexpected. Instead of being supportive and happy for me or believing me or just being proud that I was pushing myself to learn so much more. She asked me a series of questions like “Does your organization NEED that position?” “What if they can’t pay you?”… the what ifs and questions came and I had answers for them all. But at the end of the interaction I just felt drained.

Having the closest people be the most supportive is so important. Asking people in your life to be supportive doesn’t always feel good though. How and why should you have to ask someone who claims that they love you to offer happiness and support in your choices?

But we do have to ask, honestly and clearly.

I never really thought of myself as my own biggest fan before. But now, I’m learning to be my own cheerleader and my own advocate. My support is my responsibility.

MY SUPPORT IS MY RESPONSIBILITY!

It’s my responsibility to ask for what I want and not to take what I don’t. It’s one of the best things I’ve learned in this adult life and I can feel it changing me already.

The confidence trick

I was blessed to be born a straight shooter… Nurtured by a combination of growing up in the Midwest, of having a single black mother that didn’t tolerate whining, and a prim and proper black elite grandmother who put a premium on perfect enunciation (“don’t sing your words!), and very early on in my career learning to navigate the social justice world as the youngest person in the room.

I learned to speak only when I had something to add to the conversation, not to call attention to my youth or ignorance on a subject and to lay low, absorbing all the information that I could before chiming in.
My tone, I’ve been told by friends/colleagues/lovers settles somewhere between “commanding” and “aggressive”… The latter, “aggressive”, flooded with stereotypical expectations.
But the weirdest thing I hear about my straight forward, “aggressive” way of communicating is how confident I am.
“You’re so confident!”
It always hits me like a ton of bricks. I am not confident.
I am insecure. I am anxious and afraid. I’m shy and introverted. Doubtful that I’m supposed to be here, wherever here is.  I do power poses in the middle of the day behind closed bathroom doors. I flake out more often than not because I can’t muster up the courage it takes to be out and about in this world consumed by so much self doubt.
Imposter syndrome… I’ve got that. I’ve got breathing exercises for the generalized anxiety and depression that can’t be medicated away. I’ve got scribbles in notebooks about fear because I have to get it out. I’ve got meditation apps and adult coloring books to help me escape.
Cognitive dissonance is a strange reality.
I always wonder if people only appreciate this confidence they say they see because they actually do see the fear too. Like, would they think I was too arrogant if I truly believed and expressed that I was exceptional? Is my humility only because of an internal disbelief? Would I be a jerk if I shed the shell of self doubt?
Would you call me a bitch if I didn’t look away and blush when you told me I did such an amazing job?
So many of my peers are on the “fake it till you make it” or the “be as confident as a mediocre white man” plan through life. I admire them. They are getting gains from a conscious decision to not let the world get into their heads.
Me. I’m just confused but grateful that my confusion works to my advantage. I guess I’ll thank my mom for making me a bad ass on the outside and my therapist for helping me make the inside just as awesome.