When I was a child, I learned not to make mistakes.
Now, perfectionism is a pretty complex concept. By no means am I saying i fully grasped it; my four-year-old brain didn’t quite understand what it was learning. All I knew was, “If I do things just right, grown-ups will be happy.”
Unfortunately, that’s a lesson I can’t quite shake.
I always thought perfectionism was a good thing, a motivator to make me bring my best self and do my best work. But perfectionism has a cost. If I make a mistake–if I don’t get it right on the first try every time–the criticism starts, and it doesn’t let up.
My therapist and I talked about inner-child work recently. (Apparently shit that happened to you as a kid can fuck you up as an adult–surprise, surprise.) Yesterday she asked me to find a picture of me as a child and imagine the picture was real, that I was talking to my four-year-old self. How would I respond to her if she told me she felt like she wasn’t good enough?
Would I reinforce her doubts, break her heart further?
Or would I wipe her tears, pull her into my arms, and tell her she’s spectacular–just as she is?
I’ve gone with the former for most of my life, mistakenly believing shame and criticism were effective motivators. Effective in the short term? Absolutely. But the long term damage isn’t worth it.
And four-year-old me deserves the support she didn’t feel she had.
The world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.
A few weeks ago, my therapist told me that vulnerability is something we should work on. She said I don’t trust people.
Well, duh. I know firsthand that the world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.
After our session, I tried to think of when I first learned that lesson.
Was it sixth grade, when I wrote a note to my secret crush (a white boy) and he laughed while reading it aloud to the entire class?
Was it my 13th birthday, when I planned a big party, invited everyone I knew from school, and only two people showed up?
Was it the summer after my sophomore year in college, when the man I loved dumped me but still strung me along so he could have someone to clean his apartment and cook for him?
Was it when I was publicly shamed by a dentist for crying out in pain during a root canal?
Was it the multiple instances of racism, sexism, or the brutal combination of both known as misogynoir that I’ve experienced in my life?
I truly wish that I could open up and be myself with everyone. But lessons learned the hard way are ones not quickly forgotten.
This world is not a safe place for vulnerable Black girls.
As you can tell, this blog has gone by the wayside for…a while.
Honestly, some days it’s been a struggle to get out of bed, much less come up with something to say.
If I’m being really truthful with myself, depression had me putting myself by the wayside. But, this is a new chapter.
I’m in therapy. I’m in a good place in my career and relationships. And I’m going to do everything I can to prioritize my happiness and well-being.
Here’s to new beginnings!