Joy Ubani

Can I share something kind of embarrassing, or actually liberating, with you?

I was so angry just a few weeks ago. In the middle of one afternoon, I frantically searched my cupboard for something I could break. Shatter. Destroy. I wanted the satisfaction of hearing glass hit the ground and seeing the destruction it would leave behind. I quickly grabbed a mason jar and with all my might, threw it onto the ground and waited for it to shatter. It bounced back. Confused I tried again. It bounced back again. 

Even more enraged, I resorted to screaming and stomping my feet repeatedly, releasing a well of hot tears as my feet hit the ground. See, after some devastating news I needed to let up the anger that I allowed inside of me. 

Society is amazing at filling women with the message that joy is the preferred emotion that should exist externally. As Black women, we are taught that there are consequences for being angry. As Christian women the church drills in us that we can be sad, we can be broken, and we should be filled with joy always. As people?? We are told by friends, family, and ourselves not to be sad, “it’ll be okay”, and "just smile through it, sis!"

But,  let me tell you this: 

You’re allowed to have (and show) emotional range. Your heart has the capacity to feel everything -- from joy, surprise, confusion, anger, and everything in between. If an event warrants anger, you are well within your emotional rights to feel and express that anger.

When I shared with my therapist that I struggled to express anger, and was embarrassed that I made an attempt to break something, she asked what my anger might be trying to communicate with me. My immediate response was: "Joy, fight for yourself. Joy, this is the moment where I need your advocacy."

Let me say this: suppressing anger only diminishes the impact of wrongdoing. It reinforces that our feelings don’t matter. That we don’t need to advocate for ourselves. That we must wear an ill-fitted mask to continue to perpetuate the message that we must be soft only. So, when you feel anger (or anything in between), what is that emotion wanting to communicate to you? What do you need from yourself at that moment?

Emotions are active. What you feel communicates with you (only when you allow it to). Practice recognizing and giving room to all of your emotions. Anger is just as important and valid as joy. Don’t suppress either — they each deserve to be seen and released. Allow yourself to cry when you feel pain; yell when you’re upset; dance when you feel joy, or express yourself in any way that liberates you, protects you, and honors how you feel. Your emotions are information intended to guide you. They each deserve quality attention. 

Here’s to feeling free to express every warranted emotion (and doing so with wisdom). Here’s to being kind to our heart and letting it speak out when it needs to. Here’s to protecting our emotional integrity and remembering that we are allowed to have range. 

You deserve so much more. You deserve gentleness. You deserve honesty. You deserve kindness and care. You deserve effort. You deserve clarity. You deserve to be thought about deeply, with attention to your details. 

We sometimes engage in situations or with people that communicate an otherwise message. So because we have the awareness that we are deserving of more, a cognitive dissonance of what we are actually experiencing beckons us to stay and help the person or situation recognize our worthiness. We perform. We prove. We wonder. We repeat. 

Let me be honest, they don't need your help. I’ll be the first to tell you (or remind you) that you can let go of the need to please and to prove. Read that again. In trying to win someone over, we compromise our worthiness and trade it in for approval. 

Ironically when we sit in something that goes against our core belief (that yes, we are worthy and yes, we do deserve more), we are not only accepting but also communicating an otherwise message: we do not deserve so much more. 

The longer we accommodate less than, the deeper we drive ourselves into a well of confusion and slowly begin to doubt we should tolerate anything other than “more”. So we tolerate the bare minimum that drives our baseline lower. 

Give yourself permission to separate yourself from situations or people who struggle to accept your worthiness. 

You might not get to decide how people treat you, but you can certainly practice what you tolerate and accept. You get to decide your baseline of treatment.

Because the truth is, no matter what work you put in to perfect, perform, and prove, if someone or something is committed to believing otherwise (often at no fault of your own), your efforts are futile.

Give yourself permission to separate yourself from situations or people who struggle to accept that you are deserving of so much more. Attach yourself to your (true) belief that you are genuinely worthy of reforming thoughtfulness, care, and delicate honesty.

I won’t sit here and tell you that when you begin to do this with dedicated consistency people will automatically fall in place and treat you accordingly. Rather, once you continually attach yourself to your true belief of worthiness, you’ll no longer be tossed into a whirlwind of confusion (between what you believe and what you allow). What you accommodate will align with your beliefs.

So, I’m challenging us to let go of the need to prove our worthiness and release every situation or person who is unwilling to align. 

You no longer have to hustle to receive what you deserve. Rest. Let others put in the work.

You don’t need permission. 

You need radical and resounding confidence in your ability to discern and choose what is good for you in this very moment and every moment after. Lean closely into the part of your inner voice that speaks from a place of courage & take ownership of your ability (and wisdom) to choose for you. 

So often and from so early have we have been taught to wait for someone’s yes; encouraged to gain validation from a friend; or asked to pause until something ELSE is aligned. This disarms us of the responsibility to live for ourselves and attain what we want. So, encouraging you today to take ownership, stop waiting for permission, and audaciously assume the responsibility of choosing well. Get rid of the incorrect assumption that your ability to move or do is dependent on someone else’s signature. You have the wisdom you’re looking for. 

So before you send that screenshot to your friend, forward the email to your cousin, affirm that you are well within your wisdom to make the RIGHT choice. You don’t need my permission or anyone else’s to live a life that’s congruent with the truest version of you. 

You're not in transition. Where you are right here, right now, is exactly where you need to be and, where minuscule moments have brought you.

We spend so much of our time waiting.

Queuing at the check out point in the grocery store.

Waiting for traffic to flow so we can get to work.

Filling our time with mundane activities until what we really want to do comes to us.

It makes some of us anxious. For others it's just uncomfortable. But, we're accustomed to it. So we sit passively in transition, waiting for something...else.

Just a few days ago, a friend asked me how I was handling a particular period in my life, I replied with "Oh, I've done _____(this a that) in preparation and expectation for what's next. Now, I'm just waiting." I had resolved to sit passively after I had done said work, and deem this period as one of transition. I was prepared to just wait until a new door opened.

But, soon as those words left my mouth, I was jolted. "This is just a season of transition", were the words I would constantly use to reassure myself. "What I want will come." "I just need to wait it out." This was my default thought. It occurred to me that those thoughts weakened me more than it served to empower.

Consider for a moment that where you are right now is not a period of transition. Rather, it's a well-intended destination. It's just as much a part of the journey and considerably a sure result of a very intentional moment.

Where you are isn't a matter of you passing through to get to the next point in your life, and you're not just stuck in a queue waiting for God to move. He already has. Your current position and season is a result of his meticulous movement. It's meant to disrupt. It's meant to inspire. It's meant to cause radical shift and ignite something inside of you. Ask yourself, "Why am I here right now?"

If we give so much attention to the story that we must wait for our current "transitional" season to end because it's unfamiliar (and quite possibly not where we wanted to be), we put ourselves in danger of missing the moment in the miracle that is happening right now. I invite you to ask yourself how you can make the most of this place. Then, get comfortable with and embrace, hell, even welcome what is gravely unfamiliar, long, or uncomfortable. Do what you need here. It's just as crucial as the place you're "waiting" to go. Train yourself to experience profound opportunity where you would initially experience angst; and become an active participant in this very moment. Transition is an active place. So, let's recognize this part of the journey, and continue to flow here.

Don't disrupt the movement God has allowed by waiting passively when you should be flowing.

 Your life is not a group decision.

If we hold on to the false belief that we (or our circumstance) can only succeed if someone else cosigns our idea, we rob ourselves of living fully and taking agency over our lives.

We end up placing ourselves on a rollercoaster of emotions...constantly waiting for someone or something to decide for us. When in reality, our lives are not group decisions. So my beloved, let’s no longer wait until all conditions are perfect. And we definitely should stop waiting for permission.

You get to decide.

The decision comes from being radically honest with ourselves. What do you want? Is this thing congruent with your values? 

We are so used to the reassurance of others that it's almost difficult to fully trust and rely our own voice or intuition. Instead, we give into the belief that we have to ask for permission to pursue our passions, to post the photo, to wear the outfit, to accept the date.

Truthfully, sometimes we don't actually want an alternative opinion though. We simply want to be told that, yes, our position is perfectly acceptable and, no, it wouldn't be a bad idea.

I'm confident that you have [good] transformative ideas, 
that don't need to be signed off by a committee of friends or family before you actualize them.

And no one has the right answers because we’re all just winging it. 

I recently had a conversation with my life coach who asked me why I thought it was difficult to let go of a project I had started about 6 years ago. Of course, I offered her a profound answer saying “Oh, I’m not done with it yet.” But can I be honest? Deep down I knew that if I announced that I was letting it go, I’d feel like a failure and that I was disassociating myself with the thing that [I felt] strongly defined me. 

I’m learning that the act of release does not diminish the core of who you are, nor should it point to the fallacy of failure.

But rather the alchemy of release highlights your ability and acceptance of new, profound space for the person you are, opportunities you attract, and love you permit yourself to embrace…right here..right now.

So, practice release as often and as radically as your growth permits. Release creates room for abundance. Let abundance be your norm.

I distinctly remember a phone conversation with my mentor this summer. After I told her of a decision I made, she questioned me and asked "But Joy...why are you hiding...?" I was stumped. As if I was found out! I didn't feel anyone had noticed, and worse yet, I didn't really notice this either. I had been hiding myself and playing small in the way I'd show up (or rather, not show up). 

My playing small (or hiding myself) started in 2013 when I first launched my blog. I'd send each published link to one person, my best friend at the time, who kindly said "great job!" each time I wrote a post. Then a year after when I created a secret Instagram account (I wish I remembered the password for @epitomeofjoy 😂😂). 

I have more memories of playing small and shrinking back, but this question stung from the realization that my playing small over all these years was hurting me more than it was helping me.

It’s likely we all started off confident — showing off every skill we profoundly believed we possessed (whether we really did or not was not the question LOL). But something taught us to shrink back…yet we never audaciously challenged those limiting voices, beliefs, or experiences. So naturally, we developed insercurities that beckon us to play small whenever we have the opportunity to show up fully.

Challenging our insecurities involves being lovingly and radically honest with ourselves and asking:

Where does this insecurity stem from?

And what potential outcome am I truly afraid to face?

Sometimes we fear rejection.

Sometimes we are afraid that we might not be good enough (according to whose standards?)

Other times we are afraid of the truth of our strength and being called to a greater accountability that we think we cannot uphold. 

Running from our insecurities leads to emotional and mental exhaustion. We enter cyclic thinking of what if, worst case scenarios, and I wish — that may never be resolved because we craftily leap over ever thinking of a positive case scenario. 

So I challenge us all today into a mindset of radical honesty that incites us to challenge our insecurities head on….so that we no longer feel the need to play small. Your gifts are beautiful and we are waiting to see just big you are. Your playing small serves no one and frankly an insult to the One who strategically created the masterpiece that is you. 

Take up space friend. We’re ready for you.

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