growth, Personal Blog, reflection, self-love, self-reflection

Self-love is a funny word.

It was not us alone who helped mold our sense of self. It took years of turmoil and tribulations to realize healing could not be done without acknowledging the hurt that existed. Chips on shoulders exist because something eroded their surface with something heavy. Attitudes are not always bad ones — until they are.

As young children, we are resilient. We fall in gravel, get stitches on our foreheads and lips, and wear our band-aids proudly like badges — until we don’t. We begin pointing fingers at those still with band-aids, or the scars that lie beneath. we expect a young child to develop into an emotionally-aware, mentally developed adult without discussing dates or developmental milestones. We never got to speak about what hurts, because maybe, at the time, it didn’t. Nothing did. Those bright bandaids looked badass on you. You just wanted to match with your friends.

Once you rip those bandages off, you sometimes find out your wounds are raw. The skin underneath is broken. This time, you need adult bandages, but are afraid of fingers being pointed at you. You allow your wounds to grow infected, and you allow the hurt to grow. The infection worsens, and you are faced with the option to completely sever the source.

These wounds are made silently, slowly, seductively. Hurt feels therapeutic when we are angry at the world we were born into. Hurt is hurt, after all — it is not supposed to feel like anything other than pain and discomfort. Anything that hurts at extremes can throw our bodies into shock, and we may never recover.

We must ask ourselves questions periodically, and frequently, about what we are doing to actively heal our wounds; check in on your scars, reflect on your battles. That is the hardest part — admitting to ourselves that we were bent, worn thin, hurting. We do not want to be perceived as weak, but resilient; but, who bounces back better than a woman who has shed fresh tears? Who redeems more than a man on his knees trying for a new chance?

Am I really hurting right now? Yes. I am still living yes. Are my thoughts still mine? Yes. Is this heart still mine? Yes. I assure you, you will be fine as long as you check in with yourself. Daily, weekly, monthly. Set up time to just reflect on what hurts, why, for how long, and what you are doing to make yourself “ not sad.” Of course, I wanted to stray away from that word choice, but ultimately we are all battling different enemies — External, internal, perpetual, temporary.

Self-love. Such a word which places so much emphasis on the “self” part, without realizing sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes talking to others to realize what you do not like or want to change. It takes help to establish healthy patterns and make changes to self-help techniques of coping. We are not alone on this earth, no matter how friendless we are. There is someone feeling what you are feeling (or pretty damn close) based on their tribulations and experiences. When you realize how human hurting is, you may be able to realize how human it is to experiences periods of self-hate and utter dissatisfaction with the self, and life.

Hurt is as human as growth, with physical growth coming naturally and easily. What do we do to accelerate the growth within ourselves? We find a catalyst for growth and we cling to it.

Here is a short poem to wrap it up:

how often we plant seeds

and expect them to grow with no nutrients.

it is not the sun that we need, we are not nearly plants —

we are vessels of this earth. we need light.

knowledge, insight, and epiphanies.

epiphanies based on new knowledge.

only then, can we grow?

IMPETUS FOR GROWTH

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colorism, Personal Blog, reflection, social anxiety, stereotypes

“NOT MY TYPE”

The physical attractiveness of a woman is important. I learned that simply, and rather quickly through shared opinions of peers. I had learned that beauty matters before I truly learned to define it by my own standards.

Ever since puberty crept in, I understood and delved into the world of sexual attraction between men and women. This understanding of romantic and sexual relationships expanded with age. With each year, friends, family, and nameless faces provided an example of what beauty cannot be — beautiful women did not typically look like me. I know this because beautiful women made it to front covers of magazines and fronts of lines when some faint-hearted man notices her. When I finally noticed boys, I noticed how they hardly noticed me. Like many other preteen girls, I wanted to know why the boys did not like me. I wanted to know why they sat starry-eyed with my friends but sat stank-faced when speaking with me. I needed to know.

I was eleven. I began my sixth-grade year in a primarily Latino/Hispanic school where the majority of the students learned English as their second language. Along with learning a new language, I began learning a new world. This new world was one dictated by physical attributes and the ability to use them as an advantage in order to succeed. In middle school, physical attributes helped with achieving certain friendships and “first crushes.” I remember my first crush being a short Latin boy (called “M” for the sake of the story) who attended middle school with me. And although I spent what felt like decades chasing after him, I came to realize early on that first crushes and physical attributes had little to do with my ability to land my first kiss.

As I looked at my surroundings and the pale faces that stared back, I realized the reason for (much of) my social anxiety was simple: I was black — and I definitely knew it.

Being Black “Kicked In”

When I was a young girl, around age 7 and 8, I remember growing cautious of the amount of time I spent baking in the sun. The phrase “too dark” was already eerily familiar, although I had often forgot the exchanges that mentioned it. Remember the joke, “god left you in the oven for too long”? Let us not forget being compared to primates! Beyond the name-calling, I had this desperate voice directing me to retreat towards a shaded area. The older I grew, the more my aware I became of the comments others made about the color of my skin. I actually because hypersensitive towards it; I began to believe much reason for my failure to integrate into the social bodies is due to my fear that others are negatively stereotyping me.

Vivid memories of rejection fill my head when I think of middle school. Before sex was even a topic of discussion or fleeting thought, my value was lowered based on my lack of sex appeal to the vast majority. Certain phrases emerged in my head on a daily basis as I walk passed large groups of men, especially when I am a racially homogenous area. I am not sure how a young preteen could pick up on such implicit racial biases, but somehow I found myself crying on bathroom floors because some boys compared my lady parts to purple curtains. They would ask me why my vagina is purple, and not pink. It is a shame that I would ask myself the same thing. At twelve years old, I did not find much fault in their thinking; instead, I found myself flawed and faulted. I wanted to be pink. I wanted to be light. I wanted so badly to be beautiful. Instead, I was an ugly cocoa puff in a bowl of milk. Trapped in suburbia, born in some “hood” of Las Vegas where the men try to sell you something at every corner store.

More time elapses, and I am not smack dab in the middle of my ‘maturing process’ as a young woman. High school threw me into a whirlpool of insecurities as I found myself amongst people who knew nothing of me. For the first time in my life, I realized what it meant to be a black woman in a primarily white surround. As I am coming into myself, learning of my own weakness and growing awareness of my own desires and fears, I begin to understand the impacts of racial prejudice and racial preferences on little brown girls (just like me), and within communities.

Is It All in My Head?

My friends were always very racially and culturally diverse. From elementary to high school. My closest friends were Asian, white, and Latina. Regardless of what school I attended, I found myself mingling amongst different racial groups with ease. Everything would be laughs and fun until the boys got involved and decided what was fun, who was fun, and why. If my friends and I were going to hang out with another group of young boys, I was generally the girl left out (without realization). There were times I had my friends ask why a certain boy did not like me, and his response more often than not would sound something like this:

“I don’t like black girls”

“She is too dark”

“She is pretty, but not my type”

“I only see her as a friend”

and the best yet,

“She is so pretty for a black girl.”

At the time, I would have never known the terminology for the feelings I experienced. Some may just see the rejection. It was never that simple for me. My girlfriends would tell me, “well, maybe he has a preference.” The rejection was normal, they explained.

How could I explain to them, that preference purely on the basis of skin tone sounds a bit odd to me? And how is it that majority of people find the need to announce their dissatisfaction with those they do not prefer? And, why is it that that people are typically least satisfied with those of darker skin tone? Questions such as those swarmed my head repeatedly. I couldn’t swallow rejection well, especially based on something as simple as skin color.

Do I Make Them Feel Secure?

Fast forward to today. I am now 22 years-old and am still struggling with the same rejection while trying to distinguish a man’s ‘preference’ between society. The line between an individual’s preference and societal preference seems to blur often. My understanding of racial prejudice and sexual attraction grows as I do, and as I grow more knowledge of its origins.

I still struggle with men approaching me with negative racial stereotypes or automated rejections due to my skin color. What I have come to realize, also, with having multiracial friendships, is that they may feel safe being your friend. You are not going to take away attention from them, well, because you are only a black woman after all. Often times, nonblack girlfriends will place themselves in separate categories and create different scales of attraction between me and them.

Last week, I had a close friend tell me that she doesn’t feel threatened going out with me, but she feels threatened going out with another white woman. She exclaims, “men will have different preferences and it makes it easier for them when they can easily choose which one is their type.”

“Their type”

I cannot help but think that is just code for “you are not their type because you are black.” At the end of the day, I have never been automatically rejected on the basis of my figure, opinions, or specific physical characteristics (other than skin color). I find that ironic because my opinions would fairly be something to reject me based on!

Now, I am not sure if white women truly believe they are more beautiful, or simply take note of the negative attitudes majority of men have towards black women. Either way, they know that darker skinned women (particularly AA) may very well be the least desirable “kind” of a woman. Perhaps it is just an inference I drew based on experiences.

I am constantly working on understanding how social images of women like me are painted, constantly trying to undo the implicit hurt I experienced younger. We are all bullied, you might say. Absolutely correct. What I cannot understand, is why blackness is synonymous with bullying? Why should it ever be? As I continue to curb my social anxiety and step out into the world again, I know am not their type.

Totally fine.

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mental health, Personal Blog, self-reflection

RESTART

“It was a Monday night when you told me it was over, babe, and by the Friday night, I knew that I would be okay.” You heard it from Sam Smith first, and you will not stop hearing it until you are truly okay. Of course, he was speaking about a relationship with a lover, but surely I can extrapolate the lyric to the relationship I have with myself.

I lay in bed. It is 4:10 in the morning and my mind is awake for the day. In actuality, my mind decided to skip slumber overall and focus on much more pressing issues – impending doom. My mind conjures up the most (seemingly) irrational thoughts and hurls them towards itself. If there wasn’t an image of myself at my worst already in my head – it I’d there now. Tears, tears, tears, and more tears come pouring down from tear ducts. To tell you the truth, I do not know where they come from. My mind whispers, “girl, you ain’t shit!” and somehow my eyes know what to do next. Cue the downpour. Cue the storms. Cut off the lights, because this is going to be an episode.

A few hours later, the episode ends. The credits play, and catchy gameshow tunes come on. You are okay. You survived yet another epic night (at the expense of your sleep), and now you are on edge. The sun shines and you just want to say “fuck you, sun.” Even though you know this is (also) irrational, your mind says “Nah sis, you’re straight. the sun is a bitch. fuck the sun, it ain’t ever shined when you needed it!”

For the rest of your day, your eyes remain squinted and your patience splinted. These invisible monsters are intruding on my life. Sitting on my shoulders during my political science courses. Whispering while I am attempting to hear how to construct lesson plans. In the midst of class, my textbook begins chanting,

“You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator!”

Inside I begin drowning. I feel tears welling up inside of me (again, I am not sure how or why I feel like balling my eyes out), and I begin to rhythmically tap my foot. Beats, melodies, crescendo, rifts, bass floods my head. I sway my body to the music playing in my head and tune back into the lesson for the day. For the moment being, I am not cloudy. I hear nothing but the instruments and the vibrations of artistic voice. Lyrics fall upon my lips, uplifting thoughts finally penetrate.

I smile.

My classmate leans over and asks, “are you okay? I’ve noticed you shaking your leg for the past thirty minutes.” I want to tell him, “no I am not okay, but I am okay for right now”, but instead I reply softly, “Yes, I am just fine.”

It was Monday night and Friday night every day, sometimes. But I would be okay, I assured myself. Just let me restart.

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education, politics, Reform, Uncategorized

Almost a year has passed since Donald J. Trump won the presidential election of 2016, promising to make the country great again. With a list of initiatives related to immigration, healthcare, and tax reforms, he began turning around stones former president, Barack Obama established. For over a year now, promises to uproot the Affordable Care Act (ACA), build a wall to restrict/limit illegal immigration, and reform taxes have been regurgitated from various media outlets, official documents, and the president himself. While massive changes are being made to healthcare, taxes, and immigration, other changes are projected to be seen in the education sector as well. 

With as many as 275 bills introduced since January of this year, senators are pushing for education reform from all sides. Despite a few hundred pieces of legislation being introduced, President Trump has enacted three bills regarding changes to the American education system; of the three bills, two of the bills may serve as an impetus, widening issues for many students. With an easy Google Search, I found an article outlining what bills President Donald Trump has signed thus far. At first glance, the bills President Trump has signed appear to loosen up regulations to make room for school autonomy; but when taking a deeper look into what exactly the bills are saying, the purpose of the bills are quite alarming. From the looks of it, President Trump may have aimed to funnel money and attention away from the federal budget to make room for more important things – charter/private schools.

Black-teacher-in-classroom

Since the trailblazing Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education, much of education reform focused on developing and upholding the civil rights, liberties, and protections of marginalized students. Since the mid-1950s aims of reforming education to mirror a more equitable and equal system for underrepresented, marginalized, or impoverished. In 1965, former President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), ramping up the federal government’s investment in educating the country’s impoverished populations. ESEA was implemented with the idea that states/districts would use federal money to help communities with the highest concentration of poverty. Arguably, the majority of these struggling communities in need of assistance in the 1960s were black. Due to the lack of adequate resources, segregation, and vile hatred displayed during this tumultuous time, Johnson saw it fit to make some drastic changes to the status quo. Over sixty years later, troubleshooting education for marginalized students remains a shifty goal. Now, with the two primary bills enacted by the president, that goal is becoming far more elusive.

President Trump Signs Two Public Orders on Education Reform

  1. Nullification of ESEA

His first (of the education) bills, H.J. Res. 57-115, nullifies the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) implemented by former President Lyndon B. Johnson as a civil rights law to aid lower-income students. The act offered to fund for special education centers, education agencies/programs used in communities, grants, and scholarships for lower-income students. In 2015, Obama renewed LBJ’S law as Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The value established on equality and opportunity for lower-income students was kept within Obama’s bill. He aimed for ESSA to reflect further into a variety of different components: student progress, success, and quality.

Again, President Trump and others of the Republican party believed that it should be left to the State to choose whether they extend certain programs, grants, scholarships, etc. to in need of assistance. He advocates for charter and voucher schools in comparison to public schools. Proponents of ESSA and other Democrats believe(d) that nullification of the ESEA/ESSA will lead to devastating consequences for lower-income students.

  1. Nullification of the Teacher Preparation Program Accountability System

His other bill, H.J. Res 58-115, ‘disapproves’ (or rescinds) the Teacher Preparation Program Accountability System, (H.J. Reg. 75494). The system instilled by former President Obama with aims to increase accountability for educators was annulled.

According to Obama’s bill, new requirements would be implemented to improve the quality of federal teacher preparation programs accountability systems under the Higher Education Act of 1965. These new requirements ask and assist schools to collect more in-depth and resourceful information on the quality of teacher programs. It discusses amending the TEACH Grant Program to keep their regulations clear, current, and up-to-date. Obama’s signed the bill with hopes that this would help align TEACH Grant Program regulations with the title II reporting system data found within the Higher Education Act. In essence, Obama’s executive order aimed at improving the ways in which they collect data on the teacher’s performance.

While he denounces that he made the decision in order to remove “an additional layer of bureaucracy to encourage freedom in our schools,” he does not do any elaboration of how the order Obama was putting in place was truly detrimental. President Trump expresses his content while signing the bill by expressing,” I will keep working with Congress, with every agency, and most importantly, the American people until we eliminate every unnecessary, harmful and job-killing regulation that we can find,” Trump said at a White House signing ceremony. Trump carries on with (a warning of), “we have a lot more coming.” In fact, he did not even go as far to evaluate the conduciveness of Obama’s executive order. The Republican party shared President Trump’s idea by stating it was a presidential overreach on Obama’s part. Some teacher’s unions had issues with Obama’s order also, arguing that the scores from teacher preparation ratings were based on student’s assessment and believed it was flawed greatly in that way.

What does this mean for underprivileged and/or minority students?

On the other hand, many believe uplifting Obama’s order will create a downward spiral for outcomes for marginalized groups. An issue with retaining qualified teachers in schools where students are more like to live in poverty begins to shed light on how removing teacher accountability could negatively affect students. Students who directly experience cultural and socioeconomic inequities tend to have educators in classrooms who have grown overwhelmed, stressed, and/or insensitive over the current dilemma. Schools already have the ‘first out policy’, requiring that the newest teachers be laid off the initially, protecting those who have established seniority and rank. The last teachers to be hired are first to be fired, which means that senior educators tend to stay in more affluent schools. If the teachers with the most experience are at the affluent schools, what is left for students in poor schools? 

With existing socioeconomic inequity and lack of dedicated teachers in poor schools,  Trump’s reforms are highly alarming. Civil rights groups, such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, see this directly affecting students of lower socioeconomic status, minority students, members of the LGBTQ communities, students who do not speak fluent English, and students with disabilities. Many teachers working in lower performing schools located in lower socioeconomic areas may not give their students the preparation needed to be successful upon their high school graduation dates. Students who are underperforming in some of the country’s most impoverished areas are the ones who will take the biggest hit; teachers who are working in these areas are less likely to base their student’s progress of their own performance. Critics of Trump’s decision to rescind the accountability program view the move as a direct threat to civil rights. Despite the numerous letters asking for the removal of Trump’s new rule on the basis of student civil rights, the bill was signed into place and fails to empathize with the needs of most students (since most students attend public schools).

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President Trump’s Budget Cuts to Federal Spending on Public Education

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence teamed up with Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education,  to devise a plan to funnel more money and resources into voucher schools instead of investing more in public education. DeVos, a proponent of school choice and deregulation of schools, encouraged the nullification of both bills passed by President Trump this year. With spending for federal education being cut by 11 million dollars, it seems Trump’s policy on education stresses autonomy of state policymakers and middle to upper-class families.

Programs focused on teacher training, after-school programs (for mostly impoverish students) and arts education are being cut in addition to the removal or grants. The Trump/DeVos budget takes more than $1 billion and aims them towards developing new voucher strategies and charter schools. While this may allow limited families to choose the best schools, it also allows more chances for a large space in the achievement gap; however, DeVos plan for achieving “better results” did not work out. When taking a look at D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the only federally financed voucher program in place, students who attended private schools in the D.C. area performed worse than those in lower-performing public schools. The scores of students who attended lower-performing public schools did not show improvement nor did they show regression. What does all of this information tell us? I am not sure and it is not clear – it is obvious that reforms on education are here and they are coming in rapidly (just as projected). In fact, civil rights groups such as The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called out DeVos ability to be a positive leader in education for black and poor students in a passionate letter.

Keeping to Date with Reform

The rise of budgets cuts and President Trump’s policy for school choice are beginning to show effect. Public schools are already losing money. The new budget cuts are recent and we have yet to see the positive and/or negative consequences of the reforms in full effect, but it is something to keep an eye out for.The ramifications of the nullification of bills Reg. 57-115 and 58-115 may bring further destruction to marginalized communities across the nation. The question asked here is, why rescind an executive order urging schools to improvement for the majority of American students? The question does not revolve around the conversation of minority students, but that does nothing to diminish the largely negative impacts these minority students will face. If anything, the new reforms will further divide achievements into categories of students: those with money to pay for adequate education, and those who do not.

It is important to remain vigilant of what changes are being made to these bills because it can affect our future. After all, children are the future, and education is key.

Trump’s Education Reform Hurts Marginalized Students

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confidence, self-reflection

The Age of the Selfie: Confident or Narcissistic?

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We are living in the age of selfies and carrying mantras of “love yourself” in our everyday lives. In the American culture today, we see growing value placed on self-esteem and maintaining this sense of self. We are constantly working on ourselves to become better than we were before – socially, financially, mentally, and emotionally. This is a positive thing. The way we feel about ourselves helps foreshadow how we will feel about those around us. It will also reveal how we plan on treating others as we make our journey through life. Self-esteem, in essence, gives the life of the soul and the desire to make improvements on internal/external images. Having a sense of self and a sense of worth are arguably two of the most essential things needed when sustaining life. It is just as important as needing to eat, sleep, and breathe. Without a sense of self, one may grow to question why there is even a “self” to begin with. The door for existentialist thinking can spiral into nihilist thought, thus turning into low hope and low self-esteem. Of course, thinking about life’s existence/importance objectively does not lead to low self-esteem directly, but it is interesting to notice any possible connections between questioning life and ending it. 

We build confidence and self-esteem through validation. When we complete something (well), we are typically rewarded intrinsically or extrinsically as children. Our caregivers either gave us a feeling of security and validation through praise or left us on our own. Not everyone has a stable foundation that encourages self-reflection and growth, leaving some to spend time searching for self-esteem or some completely neglecting its importance.

This extensive stress on improving self-esteem has worried many about whether vanity will prevail over genuine confidence, or whether high self-esteem will be slumped with narcissism. This begs the question: are you upholding the importance of the self, or are you showing narcissistic tendencies?

https://luckyottershaven.com/2015/02/15/why-is-narcissism-so-hot-these-days/

Stripping someone of feedback based on performance and replacing it with empty praise breeds vanity. Showering someone with compliments about aspects of themselves without emphasizing healthy/imperative self-reflection may convince someone that they are flawless. To be narcissistic means to seek gratification for one’s own attributes through being vain. It is giving a dog a bone for peeing on the carpet repeatedly. It is praising oneself when nothing has been done to seek praise. It is seeking and expecting attention/response from those around. The distinction between a confident, esteemed person and a narcissist can be difficult to find. With social media, status, standard, and physical appearance being important within (pop) culture, it is easy to fall amongst the users who have ever scrolled and thought “wow, who really needs to take a picture of everything they do and post about what they have accomplished?”

From first glance, this might look like a question that pokes fun at those who are “flexing for the gram,” but once you begin asking larger questions about why we post, the question turns into an inquiry about self-esteem and image. It begs the question of why we feel the need to share information about ourselves, how often, and who. Also, How many of us want to share ourselves constantly because we feel a need to be relevant? How many shares photoshopped selfies to get a follower count? How many of us grow insecure or upset when someone we have shared isn’t getting the attention and adoration we expected? How many of us feel we have to be the best and are the best, just cause? How many promote our self-image dishonestly and condemn those who do? How many of us are unconcerned with the success/happiness/well-being of others but are quick to cry out when nobody is there? The questions are endless, but the answers can seem impossible to pinpoint. Sometimes we feel that we are posting because we are content with who we are/what we do, regardless of the attention and/or gratification we receive. Sometimes were are proud of our work, progress, or improvement. Sometimes we post because we want someone else to notice who we are/what we do, regardless of what is being shown or vocalized. The latter can lead to developing narcissistic tendencies. 

Narcissism is detrimental because it blinds us from being able to see our flawed selves. It hinders us from being able to actively heightened our self-esteem and boost imagine in a way that is conducive to the esteem-building of others. Although being narcissistic comes with hyping yourself up (always), it does not always mean you lack the ability to empathize. Narcissists believe they can truly understand and “feel for others” because to do those things is to possess nobleness, this feeding into the ego once more. For example, a narcissistic person would say they would save you in a forest fire, but if that meant they had to lose all of their in order to save their life – you might just be out of luck.

Now, do not get me wrong – always practice building esteem, praising yourself for self-improvement, academic achievement, job promotions, weight loss, makeup tutorial, etc. Tell yourself you messed up when you flat out, messed up. Make changes when need be. I do not know you, but I assure you that you are not perfection, you are perfectly human. You deserve to care about yourself wholeheartedly and you deserve to be cared about by others; I can also assure you that you are, too.

If you can accept that humans have always been, and always will be, works in progress we can make some progress on becoming less narcissistic and more confident in who we are. As Mila Kunis put it, 

“Confidence, not cockiness. Knowing who you are is confidence. Cockiness is knowing who you are and pushing it down everyone’s throat.”

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