Stop letting people dictate how you feel.

Stop letting people dictate how you feel every second of the day!

I know. This is yet another message telling you to stop, go, or continue. But, we need that kick in the ass sometimes.

And I’m totally speaking to myself – as I usually am with most things I write because we’re everyone else.

I’m in Costa Rica right now at a week-long, intense ass, deep ass, challenging ass, jujitsu retreat. It’s kicking my ass.

But, I’m here and I’m realizing how much power I actually have. Like Super Saiyan 4 power.

I’m learning a lot about myself in other areas as well. I’m realizing that I often allow people’s attitudes dictate how I feel. I let others actions dictate how I feel. I let other’s BULLSHIT dictate how good or bad my life is.

No more. NO MORE.

That’s why I’ve been telling myself. I’ve been thinking, “Is it possible for me to have peace in the midst of everyone else’s bullshit?”

Then a better question pops up: “Do I get to have peace? Do I actually deserve that shit? Am I worthy of it?”

I went through a lot of violence as a kid. My dad used to beat, punch, and choke the shit outta me. He used to tell me that I was small and unworthy of living.

Middle school was hell.

High school was a little better, but I wanted to die by suicide by then.

I’ve been through some shit, and the message I often operate is: Sinclair, you have play it small because you are small. You don’t get to be happy or relaxed until others say you are.

And if someone is having a bad day or is irritated or they have a grumpy ass look on their face, my immediate thought is that I did something wrong. That I messed up. That I need to run up to my room and hide until dad tells me I’m good to come out.

No matter how much we’ve healed, the trauma is still there. The pain is still there. Maybe not to as high of a degree, but our bodies don’t forget.

So, I learn to forgive myself for freaking out on the bad days. I learn to give myself grace for letting other’s actions and demeanor impact my shit, my chi. I learn to breathe.

And when I forget those lessons, I suffer.

So, if you’re suffering right now it’s okay. If you’re judging yourself and saying mean things to yourself, that’s okay. If you’ve let someone else’s hell become your hell, that’s okay.

And, it’s also okay to let that shit go. To breathe deeply for a moment. And repeat that until you feel relaxed. Maybe you need to get on the floor like I do and have the lights off and just think about a time in your life when you were safe. Maybe you need to get up and dance that shit out. Maybe you need to sign up for a one day, three day, or week-long getaway.

Whatever it is, go do it. Do it and then let feelings of worthiness catch up. Don’t wait to feel worthy before you take care of yourself. Give yourself the permission to take care of yourself while you feel like complete shit.

And then let me know who that goes for you. Email me, tweet me, hit me up. I wanna know. Let’s lift each other up.

Let’s give this our best shot. Today. Because today, now, is what counts. You are what counts and so am I.

xo,

Sinclair

I try to act in spite of those fears: a Q+A w/ Paul Jarvis

What was the first thing you did after finishing your new book “Company of One” ?  

I sent it to my editor at my publisher to start editing. Finishing the book was only one small step in the process and was probably the halfway point in the entire project. I felt great that it was finished, for sure, but knew there was still a ton of work left to do.

What’s the best part of being a freelancer?

I haven’t actually been a freelancer in about 4-5 years. I stopped working with clients when my products started taking off. When I was a freelancer, my favorite thing was being able to work with interesting people, learn about their business, and then help them by applying my expertise to their work. I’m still friends with many of my previous clients too.

And the worst part of being a freelancer?

It’s hard to turn off work mode. Because when you’re a freelancer, if you aren’t working, you aren’t making money, so it’s difficult to stop working sometimes.

What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

Drop out of school immediately. I wasted time finishing high school and then doing university for a little while, when neither taught me anything and just caused a whole lot of grief and frustration.

And really, no one (at least in my line of work) gives a shit about degrees or where you attended school or even if you did at all. If I had started working full-time at 16, I would have learned far more important lessons in the real world, instead of being stuck in a school that was pretty useless.

Do you set any boundaries for yourself around technology and social media? 

I wouldn’t call them boundaries, more like I just don’t care enough about technology or social media to use them a whole lot. Since both are mainly for work, I don’t use either most nights.

I do like to wind down at night and get to bed early, so I don’t use a computer after about 6 PM most days. And then I stop watching TV or streaming by about 9 PM, so I can read for an hour or two before bed. I find that routine helps me get to sleep the quickest.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

For me at least, self-doubt has never gone away. I still feel it every day, every time I take on anything new, every time things seem like they’re going right. Probably the biggest stretch of self-doubt was when I transitioned from freelancing to products.

I was at the peak of my freelancer career in terms of revenue and notoriety, but I gave it up to pursue creating products (like books, software, and courses), which at the time were completely unknown.

Regardless of self-doubt being ever present, I try to act in spite of those fears, instead of letting those fears control me.

What do creative folks get wrong when they are going into business for themselves?

What I’ve noticed is that most folks want to do something creative for a living because they don’t think it needs to be treated like a job. But if you want to get paid for creative work, it HAS to be a job.

So even if you’re doing something like art, writing, design, etc., you’ve still got to run a business. You’ve still got to focus on things like taxes, accounting, administration, sales, marketing, legal… Otherwise–and this is fine too–be creative as a hobby and worry about none of those things!

I don’t believe in being inspired or motivated, and then accomplishing something, because that’s hard to do. I like to just get to work and then be inspired and motivated by what I’ve done, instead of hoping what I can do in the future will be fulfilling from the inspiration. – Paul Jarvis

What do they get right?

If they get it right, they realize and notice a clear need from their target audience to provide a creative skill that other people are willing to pay for. If that happens, then the business side is much easier to deal with (everything is easier in business when there’s revenue).

In the blog post titled What’s the point of productivity you wrote, “A lot of the time, I’m happier when I’m less productive.” What do  you like to fill your time with when you’re not being super productive?

It depends on the day, ha. Mostly I enjoy: hiking, yoga, biking, working out at the gym, watching football with my wife, being in my garden, building things with my hands, going for long drives in the country.

Those things are productive for other reasons, like mental clarity and keeping myself as sane as possible.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

For me, my work has never been about being the biggest company, so I’ve always challenged the idea that growth is beneficial or that growth is always the byproduct of success.

It’s why I wrote Company of One. My goal with work is always to be as helpful as possible to the people who pay attention, and I don’t need 500 employees or an big, open concept office to do that.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

I love starting new projects and solving new problems. But the problem is, my business is just me, so I sometimes get stretched thin with the multiple podcasts, multiple courses, multiple software products, books, etc…

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When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

I work out almost daily, which makes me feel good, look good, and it’s a great break from being in front of a screen for work all day. I like to alternate between weights at the gym and then yoga, biking or hiking on the in-between days.

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Summer just finished, so I had an entire season of fresh vegetables from my garden and greenhouse. There’s really nothing better, for me, than making an entire meal from food I’ve grown.

What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Being busy. I hate being busy, because busy means I’ve not scheduled things correctly (i.e. I’ve taken on too much). Ideally, I only want to be busy a few times a year, around launches, and then calm and slow-paced for the rest of the year. It doesn’t always work out like that, but it’s what I’m always aiming for.

What’s something you’re currently working on that’s both super challenging and exciting?

Launching my upcoming book, Company of One. It’s my first traditionally published book (my previous five were self-published), so it’s been a huge learning curve to work with a publisher, an agent, a publicist, etc.

Since the book comes out January 15th, it’s pretty exciting to build up to that. I’m also excited to share the message from the book with a wide audience, that businesses don’t need to go big to be successful or durable for the long term.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Doing the actual work. I don’t believe in being inspired or motivated, and then accomplishing something, because that’s hard to do.

I like to just get to work (creativity is my full-time job) and then be inspired and motivated by what I’ve done, instead of hoping what I can do in the future will be fulfilling from the inspiration.

What’s something you’re working to unlearn? 

I am not responsible for everything and everyone. This is something I struggle with every day.

💎💎💎

Paul Jarvis is the author of Company of One, a book about why staying small is the next big thing in business. He’s also a minimal designer, newsletter enthusiast, and introvert. Learn more about Paul Jarvis and connect: Twitter + Website

Featured Awesomeness

Company of One: ($20-ish dollars) .What if the real key to a richer and more fulfilling career was not to create and scale a new start-up, but rather, to be able to work for yourself, determine your own hours, and become a (highly profitable) and sustainable company of one? Suppose the better—and smarter—solution is simply to remain small? This book explains how to do just that. Get it on Amazon. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links 🎁

 

 

Some days I hate my body.

Sometimes I hate my body.

Yes, the happy and confident woman that you see also has those days. For the most part, I have grown to love myself and what I look like, but yes, I still have those days. And that’s okay.

My journey with body image hasn’t been an easy one. I don’t think it is for anyone. For years, I hated myself because I was never pretty enough or thin enough.

I always based my sense of self-worth on being overweight. Being the “fat girl” was my identity. I hated it. I hated myself.

My self-loathing began when I was a young child. After my parents divorced when I was about 6, I began to binge eat to mask my feelings. My new “normal” was to sneak food from the kitchen when no one was looking.

I became the “fat girl” at school and was severely bullied from kindergarten through the tenth grade. Kids would call me “the Pillsbury Dough Girl” and poke my stomach. My quiet self would just accept their cruel words. I began to believe it after a while.

In high school I continued to be bullied by my peers during my freshmen year and part of my sophomore year. After constant ridicule, I finally stood up to the people who would become my friends. I told them to stop. I gained respect, yet I still hated myself. This self-hatred continued into my first relationships. I allowed myself to stay with a guy who mentally abused me and told me that I could afford to “lose a few pounds.”

During my junior and senior year, I developed an eating disorder. I intentionally skipped lunch every day during my senior year and only ate a small breakfast and dinner. I would immediately do crunches in my room after eating dinner every night. I still hated myself. This guy broke up with me multiple times because I was never good enough or pretty enough. I stayed with him until my freshmen year of college.

I continued to hate myself and my body in college. I gained a lot of weight throughout my first few years. This spiraled even further when my close college friend was murdered during my junior year.

I didn’t know who I was or what I was living for anymore. I began to binge drink heavily. I didn’t want to think. I didn’t want to feel. Despite this, I graduated and made it to the “real world.” I began to thrive in college, but still didn’t have the positive self-regard that I deserved.

It was after college that I finally began to discover myself. I moved to Indiana to work at an all-women’s college where I found myself. I began to gain a sense of confidence and truly began to understand my place in this world. I found happiness. I begin to walk and work out more. I went through periods of losing weight and gaining weight during those three years.

What is important is that no matter what I weighed, I truly began to love myself. I took time to “date myself” and remained single for a few years in order to grow. I eventually ended up falling in love with a man who loves me for who I am and has never made me feel “less than” because of my body. I also fell in love with myself.

So now I am here. I am currently working on being healthier and have committed to a diet. I’m focusing on how I feel, rather than what I look like.

By eating better and exercising, I am mentally and physically feeling better as a person. I love who I am and where I’m going in life. So yes, I still have days when I hate my body but for the most part, I fell in love with who I am.

Take time to fall in love with yourself. Embrace your flaws. Focus on your happiness and realize that you can create that happiness even if you are not at your ideal weight. Know that you are beautiful inside and out.

Remember that this journey isn’t an easy one, but it is necessary. I hope that you find yourself. I hope that you fall in love with the incredible person you are.

💛💛💛

Angela Delfine is a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She enjoys blogging about self-care, traveling, reading with her cat, painting, eating Pad Thai, and making people laugh. Learn more about Angela and connect: Twitter + Blog + Email.

The world is good because people make the choice to be good: a Q+A w/ Sara Li

In your Buzzfeed feature titled, This is an easy way to understand sexual consent, you said, “Consent shouldn’t be difficult or hard to talk about; we shouldn’t need to use tea or anything else to explain what is or isn’t inappropriate. Talking about consent, or sex or anything under that umbrella, shouldn’t be a taboo.” Why do you think it’s so hard for us to talk about sex and consent?

I think we’re just so used to not talking about it. We don’t want to think about our kids (for the record: I don’t have any) having sex, so we avoid the subject, but sex doesn’t have to be this dirty, scary elephant in the room.

The more we’re able to have these honest conversations about sex and consent and assault and whatever, the more we’re going to get closer to a safer and more educated society.

What’s something we often get wrong when talking about sex?

I don’t like the double standard for men who have casual sex and women who have casual sex. No one judges a man for his sex life, but a woman’s reputation can hinge on hers.

In your Huff Post feature, you said, “If you look at sexual assault cases, there’s all these complications that pile on. What was the victim doing? How drunk were they? What’s their gender? What’s their relationship with their assailant? None of that matters. If it’s not a yes, it’s a no.” In your experience, how are colleges and universities doing with shifting the narrative around victim blaming?

A lot of that is the media’s responsibility and how they report assault. I think the factors that a lot of colleges are still taking into consideration, like what she was wearing or what she was drinking or her sexual history, are still largely outdated.

In assault cases, the only question that should be asked is, “Who raped who?”

Project Consent has a campaign coming up with an Australian brand. What impact do you hope the campaign will have on the world?

Yeah, I’m really excited! Project Consent is going global in a big way. I can’t say too much about the campaign, but it’s pretty universal and I think it’ll resonate with a lot of people. I want us to be educated in how we address assault in different cultures.

Project Consent has REALLY taken off since its start in 2014. What’s been one of the most challenging parts of this journey in the past year?

It’s so wild! I’m still kind of shocked at how far we’ve come. We’ve been getting a lot of messages from survivors coming forward with their stories since the #MeToo and Times’ Up movements.

Unfortunately, a majority of these survivors aren’t protected, either financially or emotionally. It’s really frustrating trying to change a system that’s still hellbent on protecting abusers instead.

What’s been one of the most awesome parts of it?

I get to meet a lot of cool people, always. It’s always really touching when someone tells you that they feel more educated and understanding because of Project Consent’s work.

You have a team of rock-stars working for Project Consent. Hailey, Liv, Olivia, Gina, and Taylor all sound amazing and I would love to do dinner with you all one day! But back to the interview. What’s your philosophy in building and cultivating a strong team?

Communication. Only half of us knew each other coming into the team, but we’re all really good friends now. Project Consent takes so much work and it can be draining, so we all try to be really honest with how we’re doing.

If we need help, we ask for it. If we don’t like how something is being done, we address it. We’re really respectful and understanding. No one is perfect at their job.

What’s the last thing you all did together for fun?

We have a private channel in our Slack called NSFW where we just chat about our days. Sometimes I just go in it and talk about how much I hate anti-vaxxers.

What’s the best part about going to work each day?

I genuinely think that the work we’re doing is important and life-changing. It’s been life-changing for me, at least. How many people can say that their job has a greater purpose than just working the 9 to 5?

What can men do to create safer and more welcoming spaces for women? Also, what do men need to do less of?

Men need to stop presuming that their opinion is necessary. I’m tired of men walking around with this “You need my stamp of approval!” attitude when no, we really don’t. Just listen more. Talk less. Why that is so difficult or threatening, I have no idea.

How would a friend describe you on your best day?

That I am affectionate and joyful and will stop at nothing to make sure they feel supported.

On your worst day?

Yikes.

What’s something you wish you could say to your sixteen-year old self?

Don’t let people walk over you because you love them. If they’re hurting you, they don’t love you back.

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What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’m learning to let go of ideas of what makes us “worthy humans” and what it means to be human in general. We grow up with these expectations of who we’re going to be, what we’re going to do, and then we find ourselves disappointed because, as it turns out, we’re constantly redefining what it means to be us.

I’ll refer to this quote by a favorite poet of mine, Nayyirah Waheed: “We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. It is an intrinsic human trait and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable.”

To be alive is to be hurt, to hurt, to love and, if we’re lucky, to be loved. I’m learning how to balance all four and still believe that I am worthy of another day.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

When I need support, I go to my friends. When I need guidance, I go to my therapist (or church, but that’s still pretty recent). I love my friends because the best thing they have ever done for me is say, “We love you and want to you to get better. Please get help.” And, they stay to support me fixing myself.

What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

I gave up public speaking for a little bit, which was kind of sad because I love presenting. Imagine this: you’re on a stage and you’re talking about your life’s work that’s the result of the worst thing that’s ever happened to you.

You’re in front of crowds of 20, 50, 150 people and all you can think about is that trauma. It’s awful.

You’re just so self-aware that you can’t breathe or talk and, on top of it, you have these people expecting something great.

My sophomore year, I did a series of presentations. Our name was really taking off and everybody was like, “It’d be so cool to have the founder talk to [our group]!”

But I would have a panic attack after every single one. Sometimes I couldn’t even remember what I said because I kept having these moments of: Please get me off of this stage. I can feel hands on my body, I can’t breathe, I want to die.

I stopped after that. I’ve just accepted that I’m not at a place where I can talk openly about my trauma and that’s okay. Maybe I’ll get there someday, but until then, I’ll find other ways to continue what I do.

I’m a believer that good people do terrible things and bad people can change their lives around. All of that begins with someone else keeping an open heart, so I try to do that. A good rule of thumb for me is not to judge a person by who they were, but by who they want to be. – Sara Li

When was the last time you practiced self-care? What did you do?

I read! I’m currently reading Tiny Beautiful Things* by Cheryl Strayed, who is just incredible. I try to read at least once a day. 

*affiliate link 🎁

What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Okay, so this is going to sound really silly, but I saw Taylor Swift for the first time a few weeks ago. I’ve loved her since the third grade. I can actually remember what I was doing the first time when I heard “Our Song” and how I replayed it like 15 times afterwards.

Her music has comforted me through times of sadness, joy, grief, heartache, everything. I can pinpoint a solid 12 years of my existence and say, “Yes, I loved Taylor Swift then too.”

It’s actually kind of funny, because there was a period when I wasn’t really myself and I felt just so lost and broken and I told my friend that I didn’t recognize myself and he said, “Well, at least we know you’re still a Taylor Swift fan.” I

t was such a ridiculous joke, but there’s kind of a truth in it. No matter where I’ve been in my life, I’ve had Taylor.

Seeing her five feet away from me was such an out of body experience that I think part of my soul literally floated away from me.

What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

I was actually talking with a friend recently about the entitlement of angry men. We were joking around about guys who always, always, get in bar fights until we realized… wait, this is a problem.

I’ve seen these men break windows, throw tables, and scream awful things at people because they can’t control their own temper. I’ve seen it happen because I grew up with these men in my family, in my neighborhood, and in my school, and it is so frustrating because it’s terrifying.

These men think their anger trumps everyone else’s well-being and space. It’s selfish.

One of my most vivid childhood memories– I was nine or ten– is hiding under a restaurant table because a man there was breaking plates and screaming at the servers, all because he waited too long for his food.

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When was a time when self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Anytime between my first and last day of college. Those three years were probably some of the worst in my life. I look back now and I’m just like, “Who is that girl?”

I remember feeling so lost that I started depending heavily on self-destructive coping mechanisms. It got to a point where I wanted an out so badly that I would have done (and did) anything to have an excuse to stop being a person.

Creatively, I stopped writing. Mentally, I was looking for reasons to end everything.

It was a weird time. I remember vividly thinking that I didn’t want to keep trying to be this accomplished, capable person that people thought I was. If you blow up your own life, you don’t have to worry about not good enough because you’ll already have lost everything.

What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

I’ve always been an empathic person by nature. Every single person on this planet is flawed, including myself, so I’m a believer in second and third chances.

I’m a believer that good people do terrible things and bad people can change their lives around. All of that begins with someone else keeping an open heart, so I try to do that.

A good rule of thumb for me is not to judge a person by who they were, but by who they want to be.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why? 

Karlie Kloss, Whitney Wolfe-Herd, Lang Leav, Katy Bellotte, and Morgan Harper Nichols. They’re all artists in their field whose work has empowered me, or made me think about life differently.

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

No one’s ever found success without doubt. Some people go their entire life without having anything to fight for. If you find yourself torn between giving up or continuing on, it means that you have the privilege of being passionate about something.

Hold onto that fire as it guides you through both turmoil and joy. I’ve always said that I’d rather spend the rest of my life chasing a dream than sitting safely still, wondering what could have been.

It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work. What’s your five word acceptance speech?

So, where’s the afterparty at?

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

I truly believe, at heart, that the world is a good place. I look at everything that’s ever happened in history and yes, there’s been undeniable evil. You have war, hunger, poverty, illness, and every horrific act that the human race has ever committed, but on the flip side of all of that darkness is a group of people fighting for justice and good.

I was raised in a religious household, but it wasn’t until recently did I find God in the everyday acts of humanity. If my life’s work disappeared, I would find comfort in knowing that there will always be someone else, stepping up to do the right thing.

I’d refer to this quote by Fred Rogers: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

So that’s what I know to be true: the world is good because people make the choice to be good. And there is nothing more comforting than that.

💎💎💎

Sara Li is a 20-something creative based in Kansas City and New York City. She’s the founder of Project Consent and is working on her first book. In her spare time, she can be found at Fashion Week or watching Grey’s Anatomy. Learn more about Sara and connect: Instagram + Twitter + Web

I promise, it gets better: a Q+A with Allee Ilyse

Tell us about your photography.

I started getting into photography about 11 years ago. It all started when I took a picture of my cousin Michelle who had this beautiful red hair that matched the red leaves on our Japanese Maple Tree.

I took a picture of her in the leaves and fell in love. Looking back, the photo was not that great, but it is what got me started.

Since then, I have focused on capturing the essence of the people I photograph. I try to get to know them a bit before we shoot so I can show who they are in a single photo.

Richard Avedon is one of my main inspirations for how I shoot: I tell people to do something and I photograph them as they are doing it. It really helps to showcase their personality in an image.

What do we get wrong about sexuality?

I know that a lot of people have heard that sexuality is spectrum, but do they truly understand it? It often feels like people are so stuck in the binary of what society tells us that they cannot comprehend anything else.

I think you put it well in one of your posts about sexuality being like ROYGBIV in the sense that it’s like a spectrum. If more people could visualize it that way, I think it’d be easier to understand.

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Photo x Allee IIyse Photography

What do you love about your body?

My senior year of college, I had just gotten out of a long term relationship and I was truly on my own for the first time. I spent the year photographing myself so I could understand who I was without this other person who was such a big part of my life.

As an art major, it was not uncommon for me to photograph myself (and others) nude for projects. I began to become more comfortable in my own skin and embraced my body.

All of the scars, wrinkles, bruises, scabs, etc. tell a story and make up who I am. I may not always like how I look, but since this project, I’ve worked really hard on loving all of myself.

What do you love to shoot?

I love to photograph people in nature. I love playing off of nature’s beauty with the beauty of the people in my photographs.

As corny as it sounds, there is beauty in everything, no matter where you look. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes as if you’re seeing things for the first time. I promise you’ll have a whole new outlook on life if you do this. – Allee Ilyse

What do you still want to shoot?  

Everything! I honestly wish my eyes could work like a camera and take pictures of everything I see. I’m fortunate enough to have a cell phone with a decent camera that is usually glued to my hip so I can capture most things I see, but wouldn’t it be cool if you blinked and snapped a picture?

I wish everyone could look at the world as if they’re seeing it for the first time, and that’s what I try to do with my photos.

View this post on Instagram

My favorite part of photographing is being able to tell a story about the people in the photos. @sinclair_ceasar and I met in May at an advising conference. We started talking about what we do outside of student affairs and I was excited to hear about all of the great work he has been doing. Dismantling stigmas around mental health (especially within black men), speaking out on injustices, and being unapologetically himself are just a few of the things that he does. Thank you, Sinclair, for a wonderful day in DC and letting me capture who you are! . . . . . #HypeBeast #vscoportrait #ig_mood #discoverportrait #portraitphotography #profile_vision #bleachmyfilm #LibraryogCongress #BusBoysandPoets #creative_architecture #tv_architectural #archimasters #excellent_structure #arquitecturamx #diagonal_symmetry #lookingup_architecture #washingtondc #exposeddc #igdc #mydccool #acreativedc #canonphotos #canoneos #canon6d #canonphotographer #DCPhotographer #focalmarked

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What’s something you wish you could say to your 16 year old self?

It gets better. It’s okay that you don’t fully understand who you are yet. Honestly, it’s going to take you a long time before you feel comfortable in your skin, but that’s okay.

You have wonderful friends and family who will support you every step of the way. Your mental health and sexuality are two big things that will help make you who you are.

Use your art to explore these things. I promise, it gets better.

Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

My best friend, Tess, is always there for me, even when she is miles away in the Great White North (Maine). My mother is also great for support and guidance.

We don’t always see eye to eye, but she will always give it to me straight.

When was a time that self-doubt was at its worst for you while on your career and life journey?

Any time that I have a large gap between paying shoots, I doubt my ability to do good work. I wonder if I am not being booked because I am not talented enough, but then I look back at my body of work and remember that I am wonderfully talented and am just in a rut.

I usually remedy this by asking a friend if they want a photo shoot and we go explore a new location. This always boosts my morale.

Imagine that all your life’s work disappeared and you only had 1 minute to tell the world what you truly believe to be true. What would you say?

As corny as it sounds, there is beauty in everything, no matter where you look. Sometimes you just need to open your eyes as if you’re seeing things for the first time. I promise you’ll have a whole new outlook on life if you do this.

Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

Bria Spivey is one of my former colleagues from City Year and is an amazing woman. She blogs about her journey through life and provides words of wisdom. 

What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

I’m always working on unlearning all the hatred I’ve had for myself over the years. I never felt like I belonged in my own skin because I always felt like something was wrong with me.

When I was 14, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (type II) and I hated myself (and my family) for this. When I was 16, I came out as bi-sexual and never truly felt like the shoe fit. I spent years and years of my life trying to understand who I am and I could never get it right.

I hated everything about myself for so long because I didn’t take the time to listen to the things I was saying. I have days where I am still hard on myself, but I am actively learning to love myself more and more.

💎💎💎

Allee is a Philly transplant living in the DC Metro area. Through her personal work, Allee hopes to inspire confidence in others to speak up about mental illness and to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Follow Allee and connect: Instagram + Website + Blog

 

 

 

I came out as queer.

Once, I came home from college and I was greeted by homophobia. My father and my aunt sat me down in the living room. He had a lunch box containing condoms and lube.

He asked me, “Are you having sex?”

I told him that I was still a virgin. I was nervous. Where was this conversation going?

My aunt kept her head down for most of this family meeting. My father continued, “You’re not having sex!?! You better not be gay.”

I thought about telling him how much I had enjoyed Pride in New York. Or how I had friends who talked to me about other sexual identities. Or how Brokeback Mountain was a mindfuck at first, and then it was simply a love story with a lot of complex shit.

I had watched it my first year of college, but before I watched it, I talked to some dude about it. Well, he started talking to me about it after overhearing my convo with a friend. 

Said dude was sitting in our residence hall’s computer lab. He identified himself as Muslim. He told me, “Be careful with what you expose yourself to my brotha. Brokeback Mountain? That’s whatchu bout to watch? You don’t want that messin with your mind.” He was so confident.

And so was my father that day in the living room, when he confidently expressed his disdain for gay people, gay culture, gay everything.

Here’s the thing: I’m not gay. (Note for the super woke reader: I’m not afraid anyone thinking I am. I used to be, because, stigma, but not anymore. I don’t want people labeling me incorrectly. No one wants that.)

At the time, I didn’t have a word for how I identified. I just knew I wasn’t straight. I didn’t know that I could have sexual feelings for someone, but not have romantic feelings for them, and how those were two very different things. I didn’t know that I could enjoy painting my toe nails, and enjoy dressing up like a woman (think: Madea), but not want to actually be a woman or consider myself a woman or want to wear dresses or skirts or bras.

I didn’t know that a lot of this is gray and that people – including myself – have a difficult time with accepting the gray.

Okay, lemme stop right there and do this justice. A lot of this isn’t gray, it’s colorful af. That’s it’s called The Spectrum. Because, when light hits that diamond the right way, it’s a ROYGBIV party all up in here.

And, that’s what I’m doing today: I’m celebrating. Finally.

A few days ago, I told my wife and social media that I was queer.

coming out post

I was intentional about NOT explaining myself. I purposely did’t add any of the following to my post:

  • …BUT, this doesn’t mean I wanna be with men
  • …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m leaving my wife
  • …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m gay
  • …BUT, this doesn’t mean I’m trans
  • …BUT, this doesn’t mean (insert any other thing peole would ask me out of ignorance)

I didn’t explain myself because I don’t have to.

One reason that most people have no idea about what Queer means (nor what any of the letters of LBGTQPIA+ mean) is because they don’t realize how homophobic they are.

They don’t realize how they’ve been erasing people. How they been a huge part of the problem. How our culture of silence is problematic af. How so many people don’t identify as cis, heterosexual, binary conforming, etc. And don’t get me twisted, fam, that ectera doesn’t mean blah blah blah.

It means that there are a shit ton of ways to identify because there are a myriad of ways to be human, to express ones self, to love, to be sexual, to not be so sexual, to not be sexual at all, to receive love, to dress, to walk, to talk, to move, to be.

And that’s where I invite you to begin any time you hear someone talk about their identity.

That’s where I’d like you to start any time you see two people holding hands who appear to have the same gender identity. Or see them kissing. Or see them in the park with their children. Or see them sitting across from you in your living room, after their first semester of college, and they tell you about what they’ve experienced and what they’re discovering about themselves – good, bad, ugly, scary, all of it. 

Because, if you don’t start there – if you continue to start in the ignorant, well-meaning, unintentionally hurtful places where implicit bias and microaggressions and pain live – you’ll miss them.

You’ll hurt them. You’ll harm them. You’ll create more distance between yourself and them.

If you start and end with silence, they won’t know what you’re thinking. If you say shit like, “Oh, but this is just a phase right?” They may start to cut you off.

If you say shit like, “Well, we can never let the family know.” They may not show up for future holidays (they might even have already started building their chosen family).

Or maybe, none of this will happen. Maybe you’ll react however you’d naturally react to someone you love coming out to you, and they’ll be patient and understanding with you.

I don’t know, boo. I’m only one person.

And while I’m valid, and my experiences matter, I don’t – nor will ever – speak for everyone else’s experiences. I’m one queer, black, cis, sexy, educated, fabulous, talented, loud, anxious and amazing man.

But, I’m also everyone else.

What I do have in common with you and everyone else is that I want to be seen and heard. I want to belong. I have values. I have fears. I have desires. I have confusion. And, most of all – at least for me right now – I want to AND get to belong to myself.

I belong to myself. I belong to myself. I belong to myself. (credit: Maya Angelou)

And so, I don’t have to explain a damn thing to anyone. Alas, I say all of this because I know someone else out there needs to hear all of this. Someone loves someone like me. Someone is someone like me. Someone is wanting to understand where someone like me is coming from. Another human. Another person. Another being who contains multitudes.

Maybe you needed all these words and my story.

I say all this because coming out freed me.

Burdens slipped off my shoulders like melted butter, and I about flew from how weightless I felt for the first time in my life. My anxiety kicked up for a moment. I feared what my family members would say. I feared getting hit with the, “We need to talk” text from one family member. Or the, “The Bible says…” voicemail from another family member.

And all of that is happening now.

And I’m taking my time with responding to these well-meaning but frustrating messages. Part of me wants to sign them all up for Safe Zone training, but ain’t happening. Can you imagine my 80-year-old Black Christian southern grandparents in a Safe Zone training? You can’t. You don’t know them.

I mean, I know my family and what’s best for me, and that’s not where I wanna start. Still, because they matter to me, I will give them space to share their fears and ignorance about my identities and the community, and then I’ll educate them with grace and honesty. I’ll be firm. I won’t apologize. I won’t back down. I won’t acquiesce. But, still grace will be part of these conversations. 

And with my wife, just the same.

And some of it will be complicated, and messy, and necessary. And worth it.

And with everyone else: I don’t need to be (and you don’t need to be) everything to everyone.

It’s not the job of the oppressed, marginalized, erased, misunderstood, to sit here and provide free education to the world about how we identify. And, there are plenty of online and print sources that are available. There are plenty of paid speakers like Saby Labor and Jamie Piperato who do amazing work around equity, social justice, and identity.

There are plenty of resources. Hit that Google. 

But, also, when we need to and get to start with these following things when we’re working to bring others in – especially folks who been pushed out, dismissed, murdered, and made to feel unsafe for so long:

  1. We get to listen. And that means putting down your phone. Putting assumptions and fear to the side, and seeking to understand what the person is saying to you.
  2. We get to say, “I see you and I hear you,” and actually mean it. And, you don’t have to lie and be all like, “OMG, I’m so happy you told me this and I’m 100% wanna celebrate you!!!” if you really don’t mean that shit. Be real. Tell them you see them and you hear them, and if you don’t understand something, ask them for clarification. Be patient and gentle and hold space for uncertainty – because they might not have all the answers about who they are. I mean, do you fully know yourself?
  3. We get to educate ourselves. How much do you know about the African diaspora? Have you ever heard of the Pink Tax? How about the definition of intersectional feminism? Can you define it for yourself? Maybe you know about all of this and you consider yourself woke and informed af. Maybe you don’t. Either way, we ALL get to keep learning and unlearning. We get to keep studying.
  4. We get to keep asking ourselves, “Who is missing from this table and have they actually been invited?” We talk about inclusivity like it’s something to be won or achieved, and maybe one day we’ll get there. But for me, inclusion is something to be worked at every damn day. There are plenty of people missing from my own table, and I get to take a hard look and figure out if I’m making space for the folks who are missing. For the immigrants who are missing. For the atheists who are missing. For the Black men who are missing. For anyone who is missing. Missing from our friend groups, missing from our classrooms, missing from our congregations, missing from our communities. Who is missing and how am I pushing them away?
  5. We get to be a more self-aware and honest with ourselves. And, also, just like, ask yourself how you feel after reading this post. What came up for you? What questions do you have? What gaps are there? What made you feel upset or frustrated? What did I get wrong? (I’m not perfect nor do I pretend to be and I’m sure someone will comment with a critique without really seeking to understand nor hold space for me telling my story of speaking my truth). The bottom line is: work to get clear on the truths, wounds, biases, ignorance, and hurts you carry.

As far as me coming out, it’s gonna be a continual process, and I thank the social media gods for being there for me, because many people know now – even if they have no idea of what I mean when I tell them I’m Queer.

I know what I mean. I belong to myself. I’m glowing out here. And, I’m so ready for this next chapter of my life. (read: it’s Libra season and I’m on a serious glow up, holla at ya boy).

🌈🌈🌈

Whuddup! I’m Sinclair. I’m a thicc, anxious and amazing life coach who has the gift of seeing people at their best and worst, and – with grace – guiding them between the space from where they are now to who they want to be. If you’re actually ready to glow up, get these coins, get this abundance, and get your life, drop in on my calendar + let’s set up a free discovery call.