Stop making everyone else comfortable at your expense: a word on unnecessary emotional labor.

Labor. Emotional labor. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. It’s something I’ve been thinking about every single day and it all began a few weeks ago with me crashing, panicking, and feeling like giving up. And with a subsequent message via social media.

I should also add that I’ve felt like I’ve had at least three heart attacks this year – that’s not hyperbolic btw – due to stress and giving way too much of myself. My doctor ran tests. I haven’t officially had any heart attacks yet.

Lemme back up and explain the labor part. I’ll talk about navigating stress in another email.

A few weeks ago, someone one slid into my Twitter dm. It was like 9:30pm at night. My wife and I were relaxing in our living room and I was talking to our child. Sometimes I read to our baby and sometimes I just have a conversation – because parenting can begin in the womb.

At one point, there was as break in the conversation and I checked my phone. The message in my dm was from a follower who went out of there way to offer unsolicited advice. They were telling me that I should consider giving money to folks experiencing homelessness instead of giving it away on Twitter. I give away a gift card once a week because I want to. Now you know.

Anyways, this person took the time to tell me all this, said they weren’t looking for a debate or trying to be offensive, and then told me to have a good night.

The nerve! Bish – I didn’t ask you about how I should be using my money! 

I was heated. I was tired. And this was terrible timing on their well-meaning somewhat-but-hardly-well-intentioned yet ignorant part.

I had already received unsolicited advice from:

  • a family member who literally told me that I wouldn’t be able to write any more once our child was born, and that I should go ahead and get my expectations in order now
  • a colleague telling me pretty much the same thing as if I have a shirt on that says, “Please help. I’m gonna intentionally fuck up my kid’s life, and I need your help. Stat! Teach me how to be present to my wife and kid. Ahhhh! please!” 

I had already put in the labor of explaining myself to those two folks, and how I work my ass off to center and prioritize my family every day as an educator and entrepreneur.

Hell, I put in the work and labor of explaining myself and advocating for myself at least once a day.

Let me count the ways real quick:

  1. Telling my colleagues how I need to be talked to, because I’m sensitive and have feelings and don’t want to be talked down to, or talked to in a direct and stern tone. All of the time.
  2. Telling white folks about the difference between all lives mattering and black lives mattering.
  3. Checking others on their homophobia – because I can’t stand that shit and I’m working to unlearn my own, but folks in many many of my circles aren’t.
  4. Navigating relationships with friends who never ever validate my Christian beliefs because they’re atheist or agnostic. So draining. Mind you, I work so hard to validate their beliefs. Ugh. why did I just explain myself to you. Lol.
  5. Trying to prove to people what it is that I actually do, and how what I do is legitimate and necessary and hard af. And how life coaches are real and should be paid. (BTW, I’M OFFICIALLY A LIFE COACH AHHHHH!!!!) And how speakers are real and should be paid. And how it’s okay for me to get these coins. All the coins. As a black man who grew up on free/reduced lunch and lived most of his life afraid of being homeless, killed, or put in jail. Nah son. I get to have abundance!
  6. Trying to prove to prove my worth to myself. I’ve put in countless hours of emotional labor trying to convince myself that I’m enough and that life is worth living. Fortunately, I’ve leveled up to Oprah and Beyonce confidence and I know I belong here, that I’m needed here, that I’m talented af, and that I’m a thicc, amazing, resourceful, sexy, beautiful BAWSE.

And, I wouldn’t have gotten to this point if it weren’t for that unsolicited advice in my dm. I was about to fire off to the woman who had better ideas about where I should be putting my coins, but then I noticed that my phone battery was on 1%.

For the first time in forever, I stopped before reacting out of fear and hurt.

I thought to myself, “Hey self. You got a few options. You can fire back a defensive ass message and have your phone die right after you send it. Or you can go plug your phone up, and fire off said message and keep the back and forth going. Or you can do the SUPER DUPER SCARY ASS THING of turning your phone off and getting back to your family time.” 

That was a really though decision to make and a hard place to be in. Ya’ll should know that I’m one of the world’s best people pleasers. I have awards on an imaginary wall. I’ve placed first all my life in every event that requires me to shape, reshape, undo, twist, turn, contort, and basically come out of my body, my values, and everything I care about in order to make someone else feel validated and heard.

I’ve gone way out of my way to show others how I’m right, while being afraid the entire time. I’ve gone out of my way to avoid confrontation, so I’ve pushed down my true political views, religious views, all the views. I’ve been a chameleon trying to survive, be loved, and avoid attack at all cost. I’ve argued with some folks, all the while panicking because of the way my PTSD  and anxiety is set up.

But, when I saw my battery on 1%, this time, I chose to turn my phone off. I chose me. Because I was on 1%. 

Self-care is an awesome form of resistance (Audre Lorde). Self-care is me living my truth and me protecting myself. A lot of us refuse to get that or accept that.

Think about it. When your phone is on 1%, what do you do?

A lot of folks will move mountains – and people – trying to find a wall charger. I know. I’ve been that person in a cold sweat and I’ve seen others be that person too. “OMG, I NEED A CHARGER. IF NOT MY WORLD WILL END. AHAHADLFPASJFLSA;FJSA;KJF. WHY AREN’T THERE ANY OUTLETS IN THIS ROOM. OMG I’M GONNA DIE.”

It’s also kinda funny when others pitch in to help said person find a wall outlet. It’s funny – and sad – because we often fail to put the same amount of energy into ourselves.

I feel like you’re getting my point. I feel like you’re going to read this and think, “Damn, I need to re-evaluate where I’m putting my energy.” I feel like you’re going to do a Google search of “unnecessary emotional labor” and look up all the ways that marginalized folks put in labor for everyone else, at the expense of their own healing because, oppression.

And, like, maybe you won’t. Maybe this email is confusing as hell to you because it’s a day late and makes absolutely no sense. But, like I said. I’m at the Oprah and Beyonce level of giving little to no fucks. I don’t have the energy to explain myself any more – unless harm is done, then we can have all the convos we need to – but no, I’m done.

And if you missed it in the last email, lemme repeat it (cause one person actually did): these emails are getting realer and realer. I don’t have time or energy to sugar coat it any more.

People are out here dying and suffering because they don’t feel seen, or heard, or validated. I will no longer give into the sanitized watered down version of my previously anxious-to-please self. So, I’ll be giving it to you straight. If this is not what you want, hit that spam button.

Do me the favor of NOT sliding in my inbox to tell me that you’re offended by my cursing when you can simply unsubscribe.

If I cause harm in some other way, then we can def talk.

Okay. Enough.

I’m done. And I need to get ready for work. I hope you have a beautiful and blessed day. And if you’re feeling like crap, I hope you know that you can feel like crap.

And most of all, I hope you can find a way to say no, to stop over explaining yourself, to stop saying sorry when you have no actual reason to apologize, to stop making everyone else comfortable at your expense, to be who you actually are – even if it sucks and even if you lose some folks.

I know everyone can’t do this right now, but if you can rebel, just a little, and put the focus on your needs and wants, I know you’ll be better for it.

I’m rooting for you and your liberation, boo. I love you even if I don’t know you, You are valid af to me today, everyday.

 

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