Joy Ubani

Do you feel like you've been operating in surival mode?

If you answered yes, I have something for you.

The newest Pivot & Thrive podcast episode is out (finally!! insert two-step as I casually dance in excitement), and it will help you unpack why you've been in survival mode, and identify which needs must be met before you can transition your way into operating in the fullness of you.


I had a conversation with one of my mentors who asked me if I'd been able to identify why my output hasn't felt as significant as it has in past years. Because I thought deeply about this for months, I immediately responded, "well, it's because I've been in survival mode. I haven't had what I needed to do this work well."

Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs theorizes that in order for us to really thrive, and reach a place of fulfillment or self-actualization, we need to fulfill our needs in order of priority -- basic needs before advanced needs. Which of your needs must you prioritize right now? Is it a need for safety, financial security, self-confidence, or a need for belonging and acceptance? For me, it was a need for acceptance (among a few other things). We'll unpack my own journey later, but I recognized that my behavior was motivated by my psychological needs first which overpowered my desire for impactful output and success in certain areas.

Essentially, when what we're actually doing is incongruent with what we want to do, this is an indicator that our basic needs are not met. We're fighting for our lives. Enter: survival mode. Let's talk about it. This episode breaks it down and guides you to 
explore your true needs.

Instead of forcing yourself out of survival mode, instead of participating in sleepless nights wondering why your ability to dream has been stifled, practice giving yourself extra grace. It's nomal to experience pause when we're in an internal place of strife. 

From this episode, here's what (and who) I mentioned:

  • Matthew 17:20-21 -- "For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you."
  • 1:1 Coaching with me -- If you need support and therapeutic direction in working through your experience of survival mode, let's talk. I'm here to support you.
  • Debra Chosen -- she shares thoughtprovoking insight on personal develoment. Check out her writing, posts, and podcast.

Can I share something that felt liberating (and made me cry)?

During a session with my therapist, I openly and very light-heartedly shared a list of critical decisions I just had to make about major next steps in my life. 

While I was smiling and speaking, she sat quietly on the other side of the screen, waiting for a chance to finally interject.

I finished and smiled at her even wider, all while cleverly avoiding eye contact. There was nothing she could ask me that I wouldn't have already thought about. I waited....

She breathed out and said, "well, all this can explain why you're experiencing insomnia... Joy, you are asking yourself some very hard questions."

I stared at my screen where our eyes finally met. After being in therapy on and off for 7 years, this was only the second time I cried in front of my therapist. Hearing those words felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. It felt like acceptance. It felt like understanding. It felt like I could finally see myself, and give myself grace for both the internal and external work I'd been doing for the last year.

Do you know how good that felt? Whew. The tears suddenly flowed as I let myself be embraced by understanding. I felt like I finally received the permission to be stressed.

Often, our bodies will inform us that something is too heavy for us to shoulder before our minds even dare to recognize it. We externalize this in either fight, flight or freeze mode. We may take flight from our "hard questions" or burdens by escaping into long boughts of sleep (and calling it a daily nap) or extended vacations; in our freeze we might experience physical symptoms of anxiety where our heart rate increases, we feel butterflies or get analysis paralysis, or we may go into fight mode. At the time, my body elected to fight which manifested in the form of sleepless nights. Have ever you experienced any of these responses? 

I thought deeply about my therapist's words --- I was asking myself some pretty hard questions. I demanded of myself critical answers. And I was unrelenting in placing immense pressure on myself to perform well in this next stage of my life.

I often remind you that you don't need permission. But in case you needed to hear it right now:  you can take the pressure off of yourself to have it all figured out right now. You have full permission to listen to your body -- what is it trying to communicate with you? Can you rest? Can you breathe? Can you hold a little more loosely to the idea that you have to make the perfect decisions right now?

In moments of unrest, too much rest, or futile rest, affirm this:
  • You have what it takes to see yourself win.
  • Everything you desire is well within your reach.
  • All your needs are supplied in overflow.
  • You are divinely connected and the right doors will open for you.


P.S. I've finally begun taking new clients for 1:1 coaching (yess! the site is live!). If you are eager to use your voice, grow in confidence, and get radically clear on your next steps in your career, journey with self, or relationships, let's chat. I have just a few slots open for August and September, so if you want to grab a seat with me, click here.

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. 
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