Knowing & Growing: A Reflection on Emotions

“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”

Eckhart Tolle

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time thinking about my attitude – the good and the bad. Reflecting on why I think, behave, and react the way I do. It’s not fun to look within and realize that sometimes you’re the problem. For instance, there are some people who annoy me for a reason that usually takes me a while to identify. I have taken time to sit back and think about what aspect of their personality has triggered me and why.

My negative emotions react before I have time to even realize what the trigger is and then I spend time apologizing. It sucks to react with negative thoughts and emotions when nothing has been done to me. After spending time reflecting on my emotions, I’ve realized that I don’t like to be disrespected and I want my voice heard. I was often silenced growing up or made to feel as if my emotions didn’t matter, so now that I feel I have more of a voice, I respond quickly. Responding quickly doesn’t mean I respond calmly or with grace, empathy, and compassion. That could be to myself or others. 

Also, it’s tough being a Black woman. We (generally) want to live unapologetically. The world doesn’t always support our desires. So we’re too loud, our hair and nails are too ghetto, our clothes are too sexual, we’re too quiet or anti-social. We can’t just be. Did I mention how often these qualities or external factors are policed? I didn’t, but if you know then you know. If you don’t, then I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on how often you may criticize or diminish the experiences of Black women. 

“It is shown all throughout history how black women are constantly out here on the front lines, yet we are treated as disposable.

We are at the planning tables.

We are creating real solutions.

We are confronting the police.

We are challenging the status quo.

We have your backs during protest and outside of protest.

But, if y’all don’t have us…

then who does?”

― Jamie A. Triplin

Self-reflection and arriving at truths about yourself isn’t always comfortable. I can say that it’s completely exhausting to be unhappy and to have joy missing from your life. I don’t want that for myself anymore. So where does this all come from? After reading studies on the effects of trauma on the brain and toxic stress on the body, I understand how my life experiences have impacted me and my ability to just be. One thing I’ve noticed is how quiet I am. Not because I don’t have thoughts, but I wait for people to call on me.

I remember being told that I talked too much and I even got detention in grade school for talking too much.

People wouldn’t believe it now because I’m quiet, but it’s true. I love to talk when I’m surrounded  by the right people – people I feel like I can trust. I also don’t speak if I don’t feel confident enough. Yet, I see folks who are mediocre talking a lot about nothing. This situation made me think about how freeing it is to be allowed to talk, think, question, and explore. I know as a parent that some folks want to keep their children in line or in a child’s place, but it’s really oppressive when you think about it. At a time when children are soaking up information like tiny sponges, we’re limiting their possibilities and capabilities. We don’t give children enough credit. 

I have been thinking about my formative years and the constant fear, shame, and lack of confidence I experienced. I’m not at the point where I don’t want to care what people think of me because I spent so much time limiting myself because I wasn’t perfect or the thing I worked on wasn’t perfect. It really is frustrating to be in that cycle. For a part of my life, a lot of these issues were a part of my survival. I just had a conversation with my partner about my ability to read people and respond accordingly. While it’s a great skill to have, it’s a trauma response. I grew up walking on eggshells and putting others before myself. I’m not the greatest decision-maker, but I’m awesome at detecting emotions because of it. 

Moving On

Now that I’ve begun to identify some shortcomings and emotional responses, my next step is to become uncomfortable by trying things. I will include myself in activities that scare me (in a safe way) – ones that I would let others do because I was too terrified to do or doubted myself. Another thing I’m committed to doing is to remove judgment. As a part of a virtual training, we participated in activities that encouraged participants to remove judgment and do an activity. Instead of worrying if something was right or wrong, we were allowed to be creative and contribute to the group. The strategy was great for brainstorming and also letting go of fear. I know these changes in my life won’t happen overnight. I know I will need to be more patient when I make mistakes. I know I may still shrink from time to time. I know that I am capable and will do great things despite my fear. Life is a journey and change takes time.

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” – Socrates

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