The Dear Wednesday February series, Victory and Vulnerability after 30 ends today with one last blog. First up was the halftime show that reinvigorated women worldwide, followed by the deeply honest and straightforward post on dating post-30. Last week, the blog followed the chronicle of baby making without a guy around.. Keep reading on for the last installment in this series. It's been incredibly honest and fun to write from the heart and inspire people to believe for greater creatively.
Since when is being assertive and confident a bad thing?
Growing up I often felt conflicted between being a “proper” young lady and the bad a** I knew I could be (sorry to the pew folks in the front of the church). My grandmother was the epitome of class and a lady of faith and style. While I was running around with the other kids outside of the church, she would slip me a slice of cake and a soda from the church bake sale. My mom is a peacekeeper and conflict avoider. She takes the path of least resistance and tries not to rock the boat, unless it’s with me. She rocks my boat and pokes holes in it, then rescues me before the boat sinks. That’s a mom.
I wanted to fight against injustice in the world and win. I knew I couldn't do that with a closed mouth.
My mom generally says to stay calm and all will be well. Even when it wasn’t.
When I finally grasped the concept of lady-isms I was in high school. I think I vaguely remember cussing a boy out on the bus and getting in trouble for it. I wasn’t supposed to use profanity, but it sounded so good coming out. And, it felt good. He played too much and needed to be put in his place that night after band competition. That night I wasn't a lady. I was just me, defending myself.
I did get in a little trouble, but I was not afraid.
I simply was not afraid. I said what I said, and that’s that.
You know what lady-isms are like, right?
Back straight. Head up. Walk with care and class. Please and Thank you. Know what fork to use and when. Dress appropriately for every occasion. Learn to be seen and only heard about the issues that matter in your home, not out in the streets. Show control always, because ladies never become unhinged or forget a birthday.
While I fit in to that lady world - southern, sweet, and sassy - the reality was that my self, my true self, felt quite unhinged. It seemed that my experience in college toughened me up (and I also gained the freshman 15 + 40 for good measure). In college, I was around a lot of big fish, and I was too. However, because everyone is a big fish, where the ego ends and the learning, processing and self-assessment begins is quite interesting. You realize your writing wasn't as great as you thought. You become, for a moment, unsure of yourself because suddenly there's a marked up paper, which you never saw in grade school.
At 21 I entered the work world full-time two weeks following graduation. I didn’t take time off to find myself or to keep trying to live a college life. I had dreams and plans, wanted to make my mark. Around that time, there was dialogue about women having to choose between climbing the ladder of career success or having a marriage, kids, and a minivan. Why make it a choice? Is she any less woman because she’s doing both or simply choosing to focus on her career?
Then, came my most private/public battle daily ever. The body which I rely upon suddenly stopped working and started attacking itself. For the first time I felt vulnerable, less invincible. Enter lupus. Lupus has been the unfriendly frenemy that will never go home. Its been a betrayal. Why would my body ever attack itself?
The thing is, as much as I could dwell here, the part of me that was screaming to come out did. I learned to speak up, to advocate for myself and my needs, to be assertive, and to defy the odds. Now, I had to add another choice to this equation of womanhood. Instead of the focus of a marriage or kids solely. I had to decide how best to navigate a mysterious diagnosis, too. I love wedding cake, but I also had to decide daily how much energy was in the tank. Generally, not enough energy to entertain anything part-time or wishy-washy. I also didn’t mind the idea of ladyisms, but if I was going to win, I had to push harder and go higher. Sometimes that’s a brawl.
I became a killer at 24, which really meant that every time someone counted me out, I counted myself in. A killer how? Funny you would ask. I was like a hawk. I made sure that the medical community and beyond did not disregard the uniqueness of me in the crowd of patients. I said “Oh no, you’re not going to forget me.” I had to educate clueless guys, too (which is extremely embarrassing). The other day, someone told me that lupus was the third leading cause of death among African Americans. I nodded, not because I agreed but because that was not my reality. I can’t afford to acknowledge those statistics and live a life of significance. However, I nodded because he was well-intentioned, but I was not having it. While in my twenties, I wanted to grow into a force, a voice for the voiceless and the hidden gems that accepted, and never questioned.
Now in my 30s, I'm wiser and do not take less than I know I deserve. I continue to learn and grow and push forward. There might be a little extra weight or flabby skin. There might be a few more miles on this car, but hey world, look at me. Take a good long look at progress.
That’s the thing women warriors; for far too long some have accepted the shadows. They’ve accepted mediocrity because they don’t want to rock the boat. They’ve accepted relationship positions that relegate them to the cheap seats. They’ve endured sexual harassment on jobs because they needed to keep up their livelihood. They’ve accepted certain diagnoses without question. They’ve settled that what they have is good enough. They’ve accepted and quit. They have gone silent, when they have the capacity to speak up.
Oh no. I came with a match and some gasoline, ready. I knew I could do better. I challenged myself and the systems that were designed to keep me from advancing.
Post 30, there was a roar inside me that never went away. Ever. And it never has.
I’m ending the February series with a question and a statement.
The question is: Where is your roar? What did you do with it? Is it hiding in your closet beneath fear, guilt, condemnation and shame?
When you are tired and hungry for more than you’ve accepted and complied with, there a deep pit of fire within you that will come out.
I wasn’t created to comply. Were you?
To all the women who read this. I want you to know that you have done an excellent job complying. But, I’m going to pass you a match so you can blow sh** up. Everyone’s expectations of you. Your past view of yourself. The mistakes you made. The life you prayed for that hasn’t come yet. The job you’ve settled for. The man who leaves you hanging. The acceptance of inappropriate jokes in the workplace. Even, your hypercriticism and self-betrayal. Take the match and gasoline and go boom.
There is nothing stopping you but you.
There is nothing stopping you but you.
There is nothing stopping you but you.
It’s time to show up and stop running, avoiding and making excuses. It’s time to build your own table and forge your empire. Let the flame burn bright, unapologetic and true. Now onward and upward to a more confident you.
May your fire burn bright!
This Dear Wednesday Letter was hand-crafted by Dr. Joy. Dr. Joy Well, mental health clinician, confidence catalyst, professor, self-sabotage solutions and avid researcher is one of the quintessential experts on the connection between the mind, body, and immune system. Her doctoral work explored the experiences of women of color living with autoimmune diseases and how they function and experience the medical community and beyond. Once a shy, small-town girl with big dreams, Joy has found peace and purpose working with women of all ages to develop a fierce, faith-filled identity, personally and professionally. She is a clinician and entrepreneur in mental health private practice, seeing all ages, backgrounds, and genders. In her spare time, she enjoys music, movies, writing, and getting into mischief with friends. You can find Dr. Joy on social media @captivatingjoy, @drjoywell (like the fb page) and @confidentsoil.