What’s in a No???..

I attended an event centered around Black Mental Health the other day at the newly opened blaCk Coffee Lounge, Downtown Cincinnati. (Side note… if you’re in the area you should definitely check them out! Great music, real vibes and so many cool peeps!) Something that came to me while recapping the day was just how precious the word “No” is.

Embracing the shining “No”
photo by Jon Tyson

I am speaking from a personal place of recognition when I say “No” can quite truly unlock your potential and freedom, as counter-intuitive as that sounds. That is not to say that I have personally unlocked my own, rather I recognize that I can, if I choose my “No” wisely. What I am learning on my own journey is just how much of other people’s mess I am carrying around with me daily. To the point where now I’ve fused that into my own mess and adapted to the weight of it all. Oversimplifying and abbreviating my problems with the “God ain’t through with me yet” rhetoric.

What does that have to do with the Black Mental Health conversation you ask? Well, I am by no means the authority on Mental Health issues but I can say in my own experience, much of the negative feedback loop that plays on repeat in my mind comes from internalizing the expectations placed on me in certain roles that I so happen to be in. None of this has much if anything to do with who I am as an individual and all I came into this world with. Just other people’s expectations of me. I’m a daughter, niece and cousin and that comes with expectations. At one point, a coworker/employee. Again expectations. I am black. I am a woman. Enough said right?

I’m going to dig a bit deeper right here because this is a safe space I think… I am a woman who loves to feel sexy. I give off flirty and playful vibes as I move through the world enchanting others. It is not intentional but it is me. In my truest form. Now where I fall into my negative feedback loop is in the suppression of this for fear of offending others but also for the sake of getting myself into something I can’t get out of.. or rather cannot say “No” to. My solution has always been not to make myself susceptible to any situation where I will have to even say no. Remove the scenario and the need for “No” is moot. I could elaborate on that for an entire post trust me, but I will hold off for now. The same is true for all my other roles though. Avoid the need to assert myself and upset those expecting something of me and I can maintain peace… at least for everyone else. Meanwhile, I’m pulled in many directions and pulling my tiny hairs out of my bald head!

Who’s Hiding?!?
Photo by Autumn Goodman 

The problem here is that walking in my purpose requires my full and complete presence. As myself, in every facet. Meaning I must embrace every piece of who I am and find a way to make it all work to my benefit. If this means flirting with random people then what’s my intention and how does it serve my purpose. If I am a bit vain, how can I monetize that? If I like to embellish truth, how can I use that part of my imagination to best serve myself and others? All of these traits are as pertinent to my existence as my ability to sing, cook, write, and other “Good” traits. It’s all about what I use them for. Shonda Rimes said (To paraphrase) “I am a liar.” How can I get paid to be a liar? I’ll write fictional worlds where I can embellish everything and make Thursday nights my bitch on prime time television! (I believe she was obviously onto something.. point and case!) I am learning that my personal mental health is disturbed when I shy away from any of these traits and try to conform to the roles others have placed on me. Attempt to be anyone other than myself. To put it plainly, a good “Fuck it” can change your life!

Do You Mind?!
Photo by Simone Pellegrini

Please know that I am not diminishing mental health to simply saying “Fuck it” all the time. That obviously won’t solve every problem. But it will begin to quiet the other voices we hear over and over telling us we’re not enough. And I swear I am not saying any of this because I’ve got it figured out and have managed to master this for myself. A recent “Aha” moment was given to me when my ‘Person’ said,

“You’ve been telling yourself the same bullshit others have told you for far longer than anyone else has. If you listen you don’t even hear it in anyone else’s voice but your own at this point.”


That shut me right up. And what that says to me is that once you’ve said “Fuck it. No.” to everyone else, it is now up to you to tell yourself the same. Tell yourself to shut up sometimes. Say no to your own mess. Eventually those voices will begin to quiet and you can hear Truth much louder and clearer.

That my peeps is Freedom!! Get free!!