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Hello, climb into my sketchy white van.

Manipulation isn’t always in your face. Manipulative people aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’re probably highly skilled at it. Empaths, codependents, and love addicts can manipulate in order to feel safe.×https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.447.1_en.html#goog_76395756200:00 of 03:45Volume 0% 

In her book Women Who Love Too Much, Robin Norwood explains love addiction and how we twist our environment to gain love, acceptance, and validation.

While this may be subconscious, other forms are deliberate. Some manipulators don’t care if you get hurt as long as they get what they want.https://c6837228d0d8dba32104ae9dba390e2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Their tactics aren’t blatant, but sneaky. They leave you second guessing yourself.

It’s important to recognize because it can prevent you from baring your soul to those who don’t care for you. It’s okay to take your time, to step more cautiously into new relationships and evaluate old ones.

Anytime someone says anything that makes you shrink a little inside, stop dead in your tracks.

Ask yourself if they’re exhibiting any of these behaviors.

1. They give you no or little time to decide.

Manipulators invoke a false sense of urgency. They’ll make it seem like you have to decide, ‘right now’ when there’s no emergency. They’re trying to force you into a decision—usually their decision.

This is how I got duped into my second car. The pressure was heavy to decide now, get the deal right away, and hurry before it’s gone. It was urgent—but no emergency.

2. They’re intimidating.

A manipulator knows how to make you feel uncomfortable. You might picture intimidation as someone domineering over you, but this can be quieter. It can look like standing too close, taking up physical space, raising their voice or constantly questioning your opinions.https://c6837228d0d8dba32104ae9dba390e2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

If you’ve ever had anyone invade your personal space, you know how creepy this is. “Stand back Frank, I know what you’ve had for lunch.”

3. They give compliments and praise.

The ‘butter me up’ is a classic. Be wary of compliments and praise that are over the top or come right before a request.

Another way manipulators use compliments is by comparing you with someone else. “Wow, you’re amazing, my ex-girlfriend couldn’t even cook.” While it may seem innocent, it can be a way to lull you into passivity.

I’ve been hooked by this one. “You’re so happy and easy going, so many girls are mean and bitchy.” Be cautious here.

4. They frequently saying they’re “just joking” after a rude comment.

People hide what they want to say behind humor all the time. Laughing out loud (“lol”) is the quickest way to soften a blow. People will also use just joking after they’ve dissed you and your mamma to hell and back. “You dress atrociously all the time—just jokingggg.

To make matters worse, they’ll say you can’t take a joke or you’re too sensitive. Don’t let them fool you into feeling inferior.

5. They refuse to take accountability.

Manipulators and emotional abusers don’t take responsibility for their behavior.https://c6837228d0d8dba32104ae9dba390e2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

They’ll try every possible way to make it about you, not them. They’ll guilt trip you, make you feel insane, and diminish your feelings. The next thing you know, you’re apologizing when they’re the ones who’re wrong.

“If you didn’t want me to be late, you should have reminded me.” (The nerve, right?)

6. They’re inconsistent.

They may come on strong at first, listening to you, taking you out, texting and calling you, then they drop off the face of the planet. When you address your concerns they say they’re just busy, or accuse you of being needy. They may even go into a monologue about how nobody understands them or the things they go through. Here, hold my green smoothie and watch me fiddle to a sob story.

7. They use the “you’ve changed” line.

People will use your growth against you. They’re happy to see you in a place of stagnation. They might even get upset when you try to improve yourself. They don’t want to be left behind, lose a friend, or be forced to look at their issues.https://c6837228d0d8dba32104ae9dba390e2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

They use “you’ve changed” to guilt trip you or refuse to accept the person you’ve become.

How to defend yourself against manipulators and abusers.

When you’re in a situation where you don’t know if you’re being manipulated chances are you’re not going to remember a list of points.

I’d like to leave you with one thought: How do you feel in the moment? If you feel like something is off (your intuition screaming) you’re probably right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this and ignored it because it seemed too much. Even if you’re someone that struggles with poor boundaries have faith, don’t doubt yourself.

To defend yourself against manipulators, controllers, and emotional abusers pay attention to any discomfort you feel in your body.

Identify the manipulators’ sneaky tactics so you can address them.

Don’t be afraid to call them out or act shocked or appalled at their behavior.https://c6837228d0d8dba32104ae9dba390e2f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Train yourself to feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t act on them at first. It takes practice. It takes time. Stay encouraged—you’re learning and getting better each day.

You don’t have to be shamed or victimized into control, manipulation, or emotional abuse. You’ve already taken the first step by identifying some of the signs. It will start to feel more familiar, and from there you will become empowered. From there you continue to heal, and from there you grow.

Originally published on Thought Catalog

Stagnation happens when you don’t have anything in life that motivates you enough to take sustained steps towards it.

You feel exhausted when you take on too many things that don’t come naturally.

We all need a certain amount of challenge in life for growth, but this shouldn’t be the bulk of what life is made of.

A stressful lifestyle leaves you empty, passionless, and without coping mechanisms.

Stress is whatever you say it is. It’s whatever causes you mental or emotional disruption. Too many times, we’re invalidated because our stressors are seen as insignificant. It doesn’t matter where the source of stress comes from; the effect is the same. You suffer.

Your mind becomes stuck on negative thoughts, your self-esteem plummets, you never feel good enough. Thus, you trigger your stress response, leading to heart disease, high blood pressure, and respiratory illness. It activates your inflammatory response, causing skin break-outs, and weakens your immune response, leaving you prone to infection.

If this doesn’t change, the world misses out on you, just as you are. You start to feel at a standstill.

Stagnation happens when you don’t have anything in life that motivates you enough to take sustained steps towards it.

This can be caused by,

  • Uncertainty
  • Avoidance
  • Fear of making mistakes
  • Feelings of inadequacy and hopeless
  • Indecisiveness
  • Feeling uncomfortable with trying new things and getting out of your safety zone
  • No longer feeling curious about life
  • Self-neglect by putting others’ needs ahead of your own
  • Impractical self-imposed expectations

This stress is different than the exhaustion you feel from starting a new chapter in life, such as having children or starting a new job. Those changes are mingled with some excitement. Small amounts of stress prove beneficial. It pushes you to achieve your goals.

When it gets out of hand, it creates more ominous results. It drains your soul. It threatens all aspects of your health and can push you into depression and suicidal thoughts.

You know you’ve reached your limit when the joy starts leaving your body. Your eyes begin to sink, your skin becomes dull and dry. Seeing friends and daily routines become a chore.

It’s when you can’t sleep, or you sleep through the entire day. Your body craves comfort foods-pizza, pasta, sugar. You welcome any distraction, whether drugs, alcohol, or sex- anything that will numb the pain.

Sometimes you have to try something different. You have to challenge what you’ve always done. You have to envision a new step that will get you where you want to be.

When we clutter our lives with too many unnecessary things, projects, or work, we become burnt out. We try to reach goals that nobody has pressured us to achieve. It’s when we force results instead of having them happen effortlessly.

This isn’t to say that they don’t require hard work, but some skills come more naturally than others.

Here’s how to get motivated again.

1.Increase your options.

Sometimes increasing your options means seeing what you can let go of. Expanding your possibilities means working efficiently to get the maximum benefit. Maybe a job doesn’t pay that great, but you’ll gain a specialized skill that will advance your career in the end. Perhaps you’re struggling with depression, you might try natural recovery options, such as light or pet therapy, in addition to your medication. Maybe you’re fearful of the future, start saving more and spending less. Increasing options increases choice. Choice offers you empowerment. Empowerment gives you the motivation to take the next step.

2. Maybe everybody’s grass is actually purple.

Change your perspective. New perspectives bring new light and ways of thinking. The quickest way to change your outlook is by identifying with someone who has a similar story. You may be grief-stricken or suffering a loss, which can feel very isolating. You feel like no one in the world understands. Hearing similar stories, such as what other people have learned and how they’ve overcome, can renew a new sense of hope. You can do this by joining a group or talking to like-minded people. If you’re more private and cringe at the idea of a group meetings, read articles, listen to audiobooks, or watch YouTube videos of people’s stories. Sometimes taking the focus off your pain and identity with somebody else’s brings more healing than you expect.

3. Be a flying acrobat if you want to. 

Find your passion. Somewhere along the way, you lost your love. It’s still lost because you keep looking back at what should have happened. How your life should have turned out. You’re feeling passionless because you haven’t tried anything new long enough to know if you like it. You just assume it’s whack. You’ve lost your passion because you think everything has to give you fireworks and butterflies. Sometimes the right thing doesn’t feel good at the time, but you know it’s best. Push past the discomfort. Lead with curiosity, exploration, and child-like playfulness-not pressure. Remember, your passion doesn’t have to be your job. It doesn’t have to make you money. It can simply be something you enjoy.

4. Unsubscribe from an email or two. 

Deleting an email is something you can control. Clearing your inbox is synonymous with clearing your mind. Having clarity in one area of your life while the other parts are going to hell can motivate you to keep going. This is because how you do one thing is how you do everything. Follow the patterns. If your inbox is out of control, most likely, your finances are disorganized. Most likely, you have dramatic relationships, a hectic schedule, or emotional eating tendencies. Taking power back in one area of your life that requires less effort can give you the momentum to keep going.

Remember… 

Stagnation happens when you don’t have anything in life that motivates you enough to take sustained steps towards it. This is temporary. You’re feeling stuck because you can’t see a way out of the situation you’re in. You think it’s going to last forever. It won’t. You can find your passion through exploration, letting go, decluttering, listening to peoples stories and being open to new perspectives. Sometimes you have to create your own way, no matter what, take rest when needed, but keep going.

~Arlene~

Beliefs aren’t set in stone. You have the power to choose, change, or reject them. Beliefs become our reality.

Photo by Marlon Schmeiski on Pexels.com

You’ve heard time and time again that nice girls finish last in society.

Society normalizes a plethora of habits that don’t make any sense: debt, foods that make you sick, and only two weeks vacation- ugh.

It becomes discouraging to stand your ground when everyone seems to hold some contempt toward how you show up.

People say nice girls finish last because they think you’re weak, that you live in a place of naivety, and victimhood. I mean, not saying you haven’t been there, but now you’re over it.

You don’t have to stop being a nice girl. You need to clarify your beliefs.

Step away from the chaos, the noise of life. Take time to sit in silence, to really think about what’s important to you.

Being a nice girl is censoring yourself to make sure you come across perfectly lovely, without offending anyone. You want to be liked. You don’t do drama. No arguments, speaking your mind, or clashes. Your signature meme is, positive vibes onlyConflict causes extreme anxiety.

Being nice is based on the thought that if you please others, behave, keep quiet, smile, and nod, then people will accept you.

A belief is having trust, dependence, and confidence in someone or something. Beliefs stem from what you’ve heard about yourself and your world since childhood. This may have come from your environment, learned knowledge, behaviors, past experiences, and imagination.

Beliefs aren’t set in stone. You have the power to choose, change, or reject them. Beliefs become our reality.

When you clarify your beliefs you start to live your life, not other people’s. You start to heal from past trauma. You start to take responsibility for your emotions not everyone else’s. You start to create boundaries.

As a child, you didn’t have much choice about what to believe. Your thought patterns have unconsciously shaped your whole life, until now.

Nice girls have been internally wired to think:

I’m not good enough just the way I am, without doing and giving or being someone else.

Disagreements are unsafe. If I engage in conflict I will get physically, or emotionally hurt.

If I voice my opinions I might get yelled at, shut down, talked-over, shamed, rejected, or have love withdrawn.

I’m responsible for other people’s emotions and making them feel comfortable.

Choosing myself, jealousy, anger, sexual expression, and other emotions I think are negative makes me a lousy person.

The opposite of nice is nasty- someone who is unkind, and unpleasant. You don’t have to become these things to set boundaries.

I guarantee someone’s going through a similar experience, with similar thoughts as you. You’re not alone in your aspirations, fears, and struggles.

Instead of having confidence in what others say and believe, find the courage to create new beliefs about yourself. You’re the best person to decide what you want.

How do you do this? By working on creating new thoughts about yourself.

Take a pause from everyone who has a direct influence on you. Your family, religion, friends, and traditions. Differentiate your beliefs from theirs. You will either strengthen old beliefs or explore new ones.

Get comfortable with feeling dread, shame, or mortified about your bad thoughts. They’re normal. What matters is if you keep them or not.

You were groomed to act perfect but that’s a lie. We are imperfect humans, we are complex, yet still deserving of love. Feeling uncomfortable challenges you and clarifies your values.

I believe I can fly.

Here’s how to create new thoughts:

1. Ask, “What types of beliefs do I want to have?”

Do you like having thoughts that emphasize not being good enough and shame? What ideas would you like to have instead and why? Maybe you want to support concepts about self-love because that’s when you feel your most relaxed and creative.

Sometimes self-affirmations don’t work because at the core you haven’t changed your beliefs.

Affirmations can feel forced. Your beliefs should feel authentic, like a sense of knowing.

Here are some prompts to get to the core of new beliefs.

What ideas did I grow up believing to be true?

Do I still agree with them? Why or why not?

What are some new ideas I want to create about myself? Why is it important?

What happens to my mental and physical health if I keep holding on to negative thoughts about myself?

How has holding on to these concepts kept me safe?

What am I thankful for about being a nice girl?

What happens if I don’t have beliefs that I feel aligned with?

What’s the worst thing that will happen if I don’t agree with the beliefs of my childhood? Am I alright with that? What support do I need?

These questions are the stepping stones to understanding your values.

2. Download your emotions, check for viruses

Trying to sort through emotions can be overwhelming. There’s no rush.

You’re processing other people’s feelings and have a hard time sorting through your own. Download an emotions list to explore exactly how you feel. Expanding your emotional range can give more insight into behavioral patterns and triggers. Journaling is a practical exercise to work through this.

You may need to practice expressing how you feel because for so long your emotions have been shut down and invalidated. People pooh-pooh you for speaking too soft or being too emotional. Understanding your emotions gives you better identification about who or what pushes you over the edge.

3. Well this is uncomfortable… and I love it.

Expose yourself to small doses of being uncomfortable. Expect this to happen, you haven’t built up a resilience to emotional pain. Processing emotion is about:

Allowing yourself to feel all emotions, not just the good ones.

Creating compassion by saying phrases like, “I’m still learning, silly me!” or “I overreacted,” creating a lighter attitude about relapses instead of beating yourself up.

Not taking it personally. Emotions are like your period. They’re expected. Sometimes they come easy, other times they’re a pain in your side; they’re messy.

Acknowledge that you have a nice side and a dark side, you need both.

Exposing yourself to discomfort allows you to differentiate between unease about things you don’t value versus unease about things you value but aren’t used to, like expressing thoughts, opinions, or boundaries.

Project your voice, hold your head up, speak your piece.

Another new normal.

Once you gain clarity about your beliefs set boundaries around them.

The old nice girl believed that she wasn’t good enough. She let her partners call her rude names, speak down to her, even hit her because she thought it was her fault. She thought she couldn’t do better. She didn’t have enough examples of what safe people looked like.

The new nice girl vocalizes her stance. She says, “If this doesn’t stop I’m leaving.” More importantly, she believes that she can find love in a million other places.She makes it her priority to love herself first then surrounds herself with people who treat her with respect.

The nice girl with clarified beliefs thinks:

I can accept or reject the thoughts that come my way. I choose to believe positive thoughts about myself.

I make decisions that support my best mental, physical and emotional health.

I don’t have to hold on to my childhood beliefs. I may be met with resistance, especially from my family, but I’m able to stand it.

She treats others with respect and kindness but she doesn’t allow herself to be belittled or used until she is burnt out.

She sorts through and manages her emotions effectively. This helps her reduce stress, empathize with others, communicate better, and resolve conflicts.

She is self-aware.

She uses the tools at her disposal such as journaling, healing through creative dance, writing, drawing, and music. She listens to her body and takes rest when necessary.

Final Thoughts.

You don’t have to stop being a nice girl you need to clarify your beliefs so you can live your life, not someone else’s. This means you can share your gifts, talent, and authenticity with others. This means you are no longer taking on the emotions of others but managing your own.

You can design the life you want.

Arlene

Originally published on Medium

Photo by Marlon Schmeiski on Pexels.com

You never thought life would’ve taken you in this direction.

You always thought you were a smart girl with a head on your shoulder.

Sure, you love to have fun. Dance a little, shake your hips. Even get wild, but you’ve mostly been a responsible, multifaceted woman.

You were naive. Maybe you got into a relationship that you thought was love. Maybe you derailed your whole life in pursuit of it. Now it’s left you battered, broken, and just a shell of a person you once were.

Maybe you were blindsided by sickness or disability that’s left you much more than physically limited. It’s left you with the tauntings of depression and the incessant chatter of anxiety. You’ve become socially awkward, obsessive, and on the brink of a mental breakdown.

You got in too deep. You started looking to love, sex, food, sugar, cutting, attention, likes- anything to make you feel alive.

It’s brought you to a place where you feel stuck. You didn’t plan on being here. You wish life would fast forward so you could see your future self.

But, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.

Everything good and bad that’s happened has created the person you are in this moment.

Yes, it might have been the difficult way.

Yes, you’ve made mistakes, but have also gained blessings along the way.

Everything you’ve been through wasn’t fair. You’re still here because you’re a fighter. You have resilience, a skill that’s needed in the world.

The thing is, you want everything to fall into place right now.

You’re stuck in a defeated mindset. You’re thinking about the things that could have happened. You think you’re too broken, too sick, too damaged, and too far gone to achieve your version of success.

The problem is, you’re stuck in the past. You’re thinking about what could have happened instead of focusing on little changes you can make right now to create the life you want.

How to play catch-up.

To change everything, to get exactly where you want to be in life, to make up for lost time…

You first need to decide.

Your brain believes what you repeatedly tell it. It will look for opportunities to accept or challenge your core thoughts.

Take control of the narrative by sticking to the script. No matter what happens, no matter how temporarily defeated you might feel, tell your brain the same story. You need to decide what kind of life you want and don’t look back.

The only way out is through- Robert Frost

The truth is, you can’t be trusted. Not your old thoughts, anyway. You will self-sabotage.

Create rules.

Creating rules will help you get ahead, maybe even further than you’d ever imagined. Take the guesswork out of how to recreate your life.

If you want financial freedom, your rule might be that you don’t spend more than you make.

If you want more self-esteem, your rule might be, that you surround yourself with people who uplift you, not make you feel defeated-including friends and family.

If you know you easily get attached to men, your rule might be, that you won’t sleep with them or put yourself in a position to do so until you explore their character.

If you want to get ahead in your creative art, your rule might be that you remain consistent in producing your work. It can be once a month to several times a week.

I know, it sounds simple in theory, you’re prone to old habits, and may slip up on a rule or two, heck maybe even three. The key is not to beat yourself up. The key is training yourself to get back up, to keep moving ahead. With time, this becomes easier.

You may not have the skills and support to get where you want to be, but skills can be learned. You need an unwavering mindset with your vision constantly in mind.

Somebody has already created your vision board.

How do you keep your vision in mind? Of course, there are the conventional ways like journaling, vision boards, and affirming words.

Though, to have a cutting edge, ideally, you need a mentor. You need reminders of someone who has already been there, done it, and made it through on top. You’re not trying to be that person but it’s a reminder that your dreams aren’t delusional or far-fetched. Find someone who is compassionate, not who leaves you triggered, and explore their story. Keep moving forward to your new start.

A new start

You feel like you’re behind when in fact, you’re right where you’re supposed to be. You’ve learned lessons, you’ve become the person you are today. You continue to embody your future self by making small decisions towards it. Don’t expect to get it right immediately. If you stumble, take notes and get back up, but the first step in catching-up in life when you feel behind is to decide to.

What do you need to decide? I’d love to hear from you.

Arlene

Originally published on Medium

Click, a video from the Dave Ramsey show popped up on my YouTube recommendations, My family is shaming me for not giving them money. Okkuurrrr.

Dave Ramsey is a controversial financial advisor that believes in living debt-free, period.

He helps people reach financial freedom through 7 baby steps.

This caller had reached baby step 2- she and her husband were finally debt-free. They had initially told their family about their financial freedom journey but now that they were debt-free her family was shaming her for not giving them money.

The agony in her voice was heart-wrenching.

The situation left her in a sense of perpetual turmoil.She sobbed, “I feel bad because, you know, they’re my parents. I don’t want to let them down”.

How many of us can relate to this? No matter how old we are there’s something in us that never wants to let our parents down.

There’s a desire to please them with your identity, relationships, career, and other aspects of your life. This can even extend to an overwhelming desire to please other people.

Dave told her straight up.

No, you don’t need to give them money. That’s adult child abuse.

She paused, then started bawling, accepting the validation.

I know, adult child abuse seems a bit of an extreme word to some of us, but it’s a form of financial abuse and manipulation.

He advised that as we become financially secure we can gift, never lend money to family. If we get any money returned it’s a bonus. His reasoning? They are capable adults.

We’re not talking about a family member who is mentally ill, or physically unable. We’re talking about healthy adults.

Your family shaming you for not giving them money is wrong.

What exactly is shame?

Brene Browne, a shame, vulnerability, and empathy researcher defines shame as the intensely painful emotion or experience of believing that we’re flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.

Other definitions go further to say that shame is self-hate, feeling distressed for doing something wrong.

Why shame is unproductive.

She says that shame isn’t helpful or productive. It doesn’t advance your cause.

Our fear of being disconnected or undervalued by people can lead to destructive behaviours.

Shame holds you back because it creates self-sabotaging behaviour- actions and thoughts that hold you back from doing the things you want to do. Behaviours like giving away money that you don’t have when your goal is financial freedom.

When you continually give your family money ahead of yourself you’ll never end your family cycle of poverty. You’ll never reach a state of abundance to create a new legacy.

This a reason to reject feelings of shame and keep firm on your boundaries.

Yes, you’re going to feel uncomfortable emotions. That’s normal. More importantly what’s your goal?

Your goal is financial freedom.

Your goal is to be in a position where you’re able to give without feeling financially strained. Your goal is abundance. Your goal is gratitude by giving back.

You have to help yourself out of poverty first. You have to be your own backup plan. Otherwise, who’s going to do it?

If I have $100, am I still broke?

If you have debt you’re broke.

If you don’t have at least 6 months of living expenses saved up, you’re broke.

If you don’t have a retirement or health plan, you’re broke.

You want to help so badly, but helping yourself is the first step.

Navigate shame by dragging it kicking and screaming from under the rug.

1. Shining a light on shame.

Dr. Brown comments, “the less we talk about shame, the more power it has over our lives.” She goes on to say that we need to raise enough awareness about shame, to call it out for what it is, to put a voice to it. Only then, can we cut it down.

The key to sharing your shame is doing it with a person who can hold empathy for you and your circumstances. People’s empathy keeps shame in perspective and helps find practical solutions to minimize it.

Minimizing feelings about shame by exposing it will keep you on track with your financial goals.

2. Separate what you do from who you are.

When asked, who are you? We often babble off our accolades. Our job, where we live, and what we represent. We base our self worth on these achievements and what people think of them.

What happens when we lose these accomplishments or when people just don’t like us?

Our self-esteem plummets.

The best thing you can do is cultivate compassion for yourself. You have to be your own cheerleader. Marisa Peer, world-renown speaker, and Transformational Therapy trainers says,

the most effective ways to boost self-esteem is to praise yourself.”

Building your self-esteem is another way to reduce feelings of shame and focus on your financial goals.

3. Decode what you’re feeling.

People shame because they were taught to. They never questioned the logic in it.

However, there are other, less destructive emotions that are similar to shame.

Guilt is more logical than shame.

Shame paralyzes and focuses on itself. In shame we feel that we deserve to be yelled at, criticized, and all the other bad things that result from our action.

Guilt is recognizing that our actions have harmed someone else.

Guilt is constructive and focuses on behaviour.

It’s important to differentiate what you’re feeling because shame has no use in making you a better person or helping you achieve your goals. It’s self-deprecating.

It attacks your self-esteem and eats away at your self-worth. Guilt can be used to create new behaviours if you’ve knowingly done something wrong.

Refusing to give a capable family member money when you’re broke is not wrong.

Staying focused on your financial goal and calling shame out is the best way to help your family.

Take away

The best way to help your family is to shed a light on shame and stay on track with your financial goals, despite how they might feel.

  • It’s okay to help family members who are incapable of helping themselves like if they’re physically or mentally ill. If they are otherwise capable it’s not your responsibility. They must take responsibility for their life, you must take responsibility for yours.
  • You can end the shame by,
  • Recognizing that’s it’s an emotion. You ultimately choose whether or not to internalize it.
  • Exposing it for what it is. Saying, “this is an attempt to shame me and I’m not having it.”
  • Separating who you are from the shame you feel by being your biggest cheerleader and saying things like, “silly me,” when you’ve made a mistake instead of beating yourself up about it.
  • Differentiating between shame and guilt. Shame is an attack on your esteem-not useful. It says you believe that you can never change or get better. Guilt acknowledges that you have done an action that is wrong therefore you can learn from it and improve.
  • Reject shame and keep on working on your financial goals.

Arlene

Originally published on Swaay media

Stressful events inspire you to change your appearance

Photo by Waldir u00c9vora on Pexels.com

Leave Britney alone.


In 2007, Britney Spears walked into a salon and shaved her head. It’s said that she suffered a mental breakdown after being denied access to her children.


This was her outcry.


Rebecca Newman, a Philadelphia-based psychotherapist says, “When we’re going through a period of transition that is particularly painful we tend to make decisions that provide immediate relief”. We want to free ourselves from intense emotions. Newman says that changing our physical appearance can feel like shedding a layer of skin which makes us feel better.
It’s normal to go through physical change after stressful experiences. It’s “an effort to construct a particular kind of self,” explains researcher Kiecolt. This may include changing your image to match who you’d like- or need- to be.


Hair is often seen as a symbol of beauty for women. Deciding whether or not to cut your hair, therefore, is an act of vulnerability. It’s the risk of being exposed.


I cut my hair in quarantine, in the summer of 2020. I’d been thinking about it for months. A roller coaster of changes was happening. I’d decided to mentally undo childhood programming. I’d lost relationships with friends and family.
Almost everyone told me not to.

My brother said, “Don’t do it. Guys like girls with long hair.”


A close friend said, “Don’t do it. Black people’s hair doesn’t grow like that.” She was battling with her own hair growth at the time.


My parents were over it at this point.


Despite all of the concerned comments, those dead ends needed to go. So often we hang on them out of fear. They keep us broken and stunt growth. I needed to reclaim my self-worth and create a more powerful version of myself.


Cutting your hair requires confidence. It’s knowing that, even if you absolutely hate it, you’ll be okay. It doesn’t change your worth.



Before cutting my hair, I researched my Kibbie style. Kibbie uses the natural lines and angles of your body along with balancing your masculine and feminine features to pinpoint the hairstyle, clothing, and makeup that suits you best- not what the next trend says you should wear.


After finding my Kibbie style (which referenced Halle Berry, heyyyy!), I showed my hairdresser the hairstyles I liked. She cut my tresses into a short, sultry ‘do.
Guess what? Everybody loved it. My brother, my friend, strangers, and most importantly me.
I had faced my fears and it had given me a renewed sense of bravery, confidence, and attitude.

If you feel the urge to cut your hair but are still absolutely terrified, test it out. There can be so much taboo around natural vs. fake hair, but we forget that hair is also a form of expression. Don’t be afraid to rock a wig or get a weave to see how you’ll look.

You can also release this emotional weight in other ways, such as:

  • Changing your wardrobe
  • Getting rid of clutter
  • Changing your makeup style
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Going skinny dipping

Whatever you decide, change is coming.

Final thoughts

You’re at a turbulent emotional and mental period of your life. Surround yourself with the support you need. Whether it’s therapy, friends, prayer or writing, recognize the signs of emotional overwhelm and change your environment. Reach out to someone who is responsive and compassionate to your needs and rock that hair!

Thanks for reading,

Originally published on Medium

~Arlene~

Hello, climb into my sketchy white van.

Manipulation isn’t always in your face. Manipulative people aren’t “bad”. In fact, you’re probably highly skilled in manipulation. Empaths, codependents and love addicts manipulate. 

I’m good at manipulation. As an empath, I’m sensitive to what people want and I’ve use that to please them in order to keep myself safe. 

Robin Norwood in her book, Women Who Love Too Much, brought me to this sobering reality. This allowed me to become aware and take responsibility for this defense mechanism.

Some manipulation is done innocently while others are deliberate. Some manipulators flat out don’t care and want to hurt, use, and control you.

Their tactics aren’t blatant but subtle. They leave you second guessing yourself.

It’s important to recognize because it can prevent you from getting caught up with the wrong people and bearing your soul to those who wish you harm. It’s okay to take your time, to step more cautiously. It will also help you recognize the areas where you might doing the same.

Anytime someone says anything that makes you shrink a little inside, stop dead in your tracks. 

Ask yourself if they’re exhibiting any of these behaviours.

1. Giving you no or little time to decide.

Manipulators invoke a false sense of urgency. They’ll make it seem like you have to decide, ‘right now’ when there’s no emergency. They’re trying to force you into a decision- usually their decision.

This is how I got duped into my second car. The pressure was heavy to decide now, get the deal right away, and hurry before it’s gone. It was urgent- but no emergency, (eye roll).

2. Being intimidating.

A manipulator knows how to make you feel uncomfortable. You might picture intimidation as someone dominating over you, but this can be more subtle. It can look like standing too close, taking up physical space, raising their voice or constantly questioning your opinions.

If you’ve ever had anyone invade your personal space you know how creepy this is. Stand back Frank, I know what you‘ve had for lunch.

3. Giving compliments and praise.

The ‘butter me up’ is a classic. Be weary of compliments and praise that are over the top, or come right before a request.

Another way manipulators use compliments is by comparing you with someone else. “Wow, you’re amazing, my ex girlfriend couldn’t even cook.” While it may seem innocent it can be a way to lull you into passivity. 

I’ve been hooked by this one. “You’re so happy and easy going, so many girls are mean and bitchy”. Be cautious here. 

4. Frequently saying they’re “just joking” after a rude comment.

People mask what they truly want to say behind humour all the time. Laugh out loud (lol) is the quickest way to soften a blow. People will also use just joking after they’ve dissed you and your mamma to hell and back. “You dress atrociously all the time- just jokingggg.

To make matters worse they’ll say you can’t take a joke or you’re too sensitive. Don’t let them fool you into feeling inferior. 

5. They refuse to take accountability. 

Manipulators and emotional abusers don’t take responsibility for their behaviour.

They’ll try every possible way to make it about you, not them. They’ll guilt trip you, make you feel insane, and diminish your feelings. The next thing you know you’re apologizing when they’re the ones who’re wrong. 

“If you didn’t want me to be late you should have reminded me.” (The nerve right?)

6. They’re inconsistent. 

They may come on strong at first, listening to you, taking you out, texting and calling you. Then they drop off the face of the planet. When you address your concerns they say they’re just busy, or accuse you of being needy. They may even go into a monologue about how nobody understanding them or the things they go through. Here, hold my green smoothie and watch me fiddle. 

7. They use the “you’ve changed” line. 


People will use your growth against you. They’re happy to see you in a place of stagnation. They might even get upset when you try to improve yourself. They don’t want to be left behind, lose a friend, or be forced to look at their issues.

They use, “you’ve changed” to guilt trip you or refuse to accept the person you’ve become.

How to defend yourself against manipulators and abusers.

When you’re in a situation that has you questioning whether or not you’re being manipulated you’re not going to remember a list of points.

I’d like to leave you with one thought, how do you feel? If you feel like shit that’s a enough of a sign. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt something wasn’t right or that someone wasn’t treating me with respect and I let it happen anyway. Even in the midst of poor boundaries and being timid I still felt like something was wrong. 

You might be sensitive, but I’m not taking about feeling wounded because your feelings were hurt, this is more of a danger signal. 

To defend yourself against manipulators, controllers and emotional abusers pay attention to any discomfort you feel. Your first step is to identify the tactics so you can address them.

Train yourself to feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t act on them. I’m 34 and I’ve been working at this since I was 20. Don’t take that as discouragement but be encouraged because I’m learning and getting better. You will too. 

Has this been true for you? Let me know. Until next time luvs,

~Arlene~

Obsessing about the outcome is our attempt to control and ease anticipated pain.

We fear being happy. What we fear even more is having our happiness taken away.

We live in constant terror of what if, never allowing ourselves to immerse in what is.

We’ve heard the answer to ‘living in the present’ is letting go of attachment, but that sounds like a mystical far-off task. It’s a little easier to let go of our attachment to material possessions, but it’s harder to let go of attachment to people.

Impactful people become part of our energetic makeup. They circulate through our bodies and cycle through our hearts and mind until we let them go. They conflict with, and compliment parts of ourselves. That’s why it feels so gut-wrenching when they’re gone. We feel like a part of us is missing.

Instead of trying vehemently to “live in the present” and “let go”, have the mindset that,

You’re resilient enough to withstand whatever happens to you in the end.

You’re equipped enough to soothe yourself through the circumstances.

And you’re resourceful enough to get more. So live your life.

You’ve felt emotions you thought would kill you. You’ve felt chest pain and little rips in your heart.

You’ve felt the physical symptoms of nausea, vomiting, headaches, and sudden illness.

You’ve been stuck in bed for days, unable to shower, eat, or move.

These are uncomfortable experiences that will pass as you gain the strength to navigate.

Not all happy experiences end in pain, though you may feel painful emotion if you’re attached to it, simply because it has meaning to you.

Our bodies and minds care for us. Everything they do is an attempt to protect us. It’s our job to sort out the real danger from unwarranted fear. Pain gets our attention.

I remember when my brother unknowingly ruptured his kidney during a football game. He kept on playing, but the pain intensified.

He eventually went to the hospital where he had emergency surgery and was admitted, which saved his life.

His soreness warned him that something was wrong.

What’s your pain trying to tell you?

Maybe it’s bringing awareness to something you want. Maybe it’s telling you that you strongly care for a person. Maybe it’s telling you to look deeper at yourself.

Regardless of what lessons our afflictions are trying to teach us, we don’t have to turn it into fear.

We can allow ourselves to step unnerved and fully present in our experiences. This isn’t because we’re naïve to the fact that circumstances may change, but because we can never live if we’re petrified of the outcome.

This is what anxiety looks like. We don’t need more deep breathing and grounding. We know what to do.

We need to believe that we’re not going to die from embarrassment or anxiety, that we’re capable enough to survive the results. We embrace new experiences when we recognize that pain isn’t the enemy and we have tools of combat.

Tools to help your ease pain

It’s easy to list off mindful habits-pray, ground yourself, exercise, get sunshine, eat your veggies, but it always comes down to your perspective, resilience, and mindset.

Our individual processes for achieving this look different, but the theory is the same.

You’re not searching for new information, you’re searching for reminders. You’re searching for stories that are relevant to you.

This is how humans work. We need the same lessons, in different ways, by different people, in different formats, until something clicks.

The tools that help you overcome your pain are habits that aren’t self-destructive (ex. excessive drinking, binge eating), yet motivate you to grow and make you feel good.

I can’t tell you what that looks like for you. I can only direct you toward how to find it. Pay attention to what you’re doing when you feel good, who you’re around, what you’re reading and watching. Do more of those things. It takes stillness, awareness, and conscious effort.

A safe place to start is a hobby that awakens your creativity.

Remember, overcoming discomfort takes time, weeks, months, even years. It’s not linear. You may regress before moving forward. You may stagnate, you’ll take the slowest steps, even drag yourself, but you’ll progress if you’re determined to.

I’d love to know the tools you use to transition through pain.

Start opening your eyes to those that do.

Originally published on Medium- Assemblage

Practicing self-care, spoiling myself, and adventure isn’t a white branded experience.

“You’re such a white girl”, he said.

This was coming from a date I was on with a black guy, who later confessed that he only dated white girls- but I was different, a different kind of black girl. He couldn’t wait to tell his friends that he was actually dating a black girl

Huh? Well, this was a new one. I was stunned, not mad. Even curious. I went on a few more dates with him. I wanted to understand his perspective of this-situation.

Shouldn’t I be outraged for all the black women out there? 

At the end of the day, maybe I’m jaded, but my hate is too high of a price to spare. People are allowed to love whoever they want, regardless of their race.

I think the outrage comes not from dating another race, but from simultaneously trash-talking and hating your own. Men and women are guilty of this. 

He was open and honest with me. His confusion, preferences, and identity issues weren’t my problem. Technically on a bigger scale, I’m sure they were, but I’d been down that road too many times before. Miss save-a-man-at-your-own-expense. Nope.  

During our dinner conversation, I got down to the root of his hesitancy about dating black women and my whiteness. His summary was that, 

  1. He was bored of seeing black women. Only to find out that he was 25-leaving me whitewashed and a cougar.
  2. My look and mannerism, associated with feminity, gave him white vibes. 

After some time our dates dwindled for various reasons. I became anxious wondering if I was going to be added to his- see, this is why I don’t date black women hit list. Who knew?

What Does Being Called White Washed Mean?

Is being called whitewashed a derogatory term or a backhanded compliment?

Perhaps first, we should look at what it means to be black. An Afrometrics research study questioned participants on their self-definition of being black. Six themes emerged.

  1. Struggle and resilience– Twenty-five percent of participants identified being black with the struggle for equality, justice, fighting against racism, and other forms of oppression.
  2.  Ancestry– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having and honouring their African ancestors.
  3. Pride– Twenty-three percent of participants identified being black as having a sense of empowerment, rich culture, and dignity.
  4. History and Legacy– Fifteen percent of participants associated being black with a past story, roots, and continuation of the lineage. 
  5. African Descent Community– Thirteen percent of participants associated being black with having a like-minded community, embracing cultural traditions and values. 

Why Do We Call Each Other White-Washed?

We call each other white-washed when we assume that a person cannot adopt aspects of another culture while maintaining their own.

Does adopting aspects of another culture contribute to a loss of our identity?

We’ve felt rejected in so many areas of life that we can’t bear the thought of being rejected by our own people.

I too have been guilty of calling people whitewashed. Subconsciously I was scared, scared that I’d be contrastingly black around them, that I’d have to keep my defenses up, that we couldn’t relate. Wasn’t that the same mentality that caused hate crimes and slavery? Just saying.

We, as black people, need to start taking more chances on each other. 

We are the ones who put expectations on our blackness. We judge each other’s blackness or lack thereof the most. 

We’re not blind or delusional to the racism and limitations society has tried to place on us. In light of our protests, there have been increasing opportunities for advancement. Now is the time. Now, there are platforms to challenge the stereotypes of what it means to be black.

People say that slaves were taken from Africa. This is not true: People were taken from Africa, among them healers and priests, and were made into slaves.- Abdullah Ibrahim

Why We Should Say Goodbye To Calling Each Other Whitewashed.

Being called whitewashed is a barrier to healing, self-esteem, and acceptance. We should say goodbye to the term, as it undermines the multifaceted nature of who we are. We’re more than rap music, WAP, drama, and thugs. We’re tech nerds, punk rockers, outdoor adventurers, and classical music connoisseurs. Renaissance people.

Assumptions That Being Called White Washed Creates,

  • That it’s not possible for black women to enjoy or try something outside of their culture or environment.
  • That black woman can’t be associated with femininity, travel, adventure, or sophistication. It’s normal to be seen as ratchet, but you’re fake when you act otherwise. 
  • That white women are rich, prim, proper, and have never experienced struggle. 
  • That it’s not safe for black women to be vulnerable, ask for help, or seek protection because we’re used to the struggle. It opens us to abuse.

Closing Thoughts

 In calling each other whitewashed we put limitations on ourselves.

The story started with a date centered around expectations of what black should be like. It continued with curiosity about what it means to be whitewashed, or not black enough.

We are the ones who judge each other the most. We put expectations on our blackness, although in part, fueled on the backs of media and society.

Twenty-five percent, (the majority) of people identified being black with struggle and resilience. They also honour pride, history, ancestry, and legacy.

While it’s important to acknowledge and honour the struggle of our ancestors it’s also important to acknowledge that black is multifaceted. We clutch on to struggle for dear life, feed it to our children, and sing it’s praise when we can create black identities through our individual stories.

Being called whitewashed creates barriers to esteem and acceptance. 

Being called whitewashed says that it’s not okay for black women to be vulnerable, feminine, and protected. 

Being called whitewashed says you can’t explore another culture without hating or abandoning your own.

Let’s change the narrative on what it means to be black. 

Black is expansive. Black can’t be boxed. 

Stop calling me whitewashed.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium in an Injustice.

Please share 🙂

The people that see, know your worth

Photo by Kindel Media on Pexels.com

Maybe you’re still waiting because not all eyes have been trained to see you.

God has hidden you behind the cleft of the rock with his hand.

You weren’t abandoned, you weren’t forgotten. You aren’t unworthy, you aren’t rejected.

Even with eyes closed, they could feel your light beneath darkened eyelids. They hated you, and wanted to be with you at the same time.

You were a heat they never felt before, you harassed their demons, made them uncomfortable. In your presence, they had to look at themselves and they hated what they saw. You were a reminder of what they wanted but couldn’t be.

They said you were too happy, they smirked secretly at your challenges. It was never about having you. It was always about keeping you from everyone else, in case someone should recognize you, know your worth, and question what you were doing there. In case they tried to set you free.

But only you can set yourself free.

So here you are caged, with everyone on the outside clamouring to see you, but you don’t realize it. You can’t see yourself.

Maybe you’re still waiting because you’re not ready for joy. It seems silly to say. Of course, I’m ready, but maybe pain has become so familiar that happiness scares you.

Maybe you don’t yet realize your rarity, your infinite value.

Maybe you’ll accept the lowest bidder. Maybe you’ll rob yourself of all that you are, of all that you can be.

Maybe you still believe all the ugly things they’ve told you. Maybe you’re still healing, but in your healing, you’re still worthy.

Maybe you’re still waiting because not everyone has eyes to see you.

I know it feels like a lifetime. It feels like you’re floating in the abyss of despair. I know you keep crying out, when will it be my time? Haven’t I gone through enough?

I know you’re tired of hearing that you need to hold on. I know you’re tired of being patient.

So I’m not going to ask any more of that from you.

You see, not everyone has eyes to see you.

~Arlene~

Originally published on Medium-Assemblage