By Ashley Grant. Photography by Eric Michael Ward.
We often don't give enough credit to our childhoods and the seeds that have been planted in our minds since birth. Maybe it's arrogance, ignorance or just flat out fear of acknowledgment. Either way, we tend to navigate our way through our inevitable troubles in life, accepting that we are who we are because of ourselves. Self-accountability is important and ultimately, you are the only one who can change your mindset, behaviors, and patterns. However, like all real things living and existing, there is a root and acknowledging that root will change your life for the better.
I don't have any sob stories from my childhood. I've never been hungry, homeless and I always had everything that I needed. Like most children, I looked up to my Mother. Fiercely independent, kind, hard-working and loyal, her amazing qualities became my own. And naturally, her insecurities and doubts became mine as well.
Self-confidence had never seemed to be an issue for me, until I decided to follow my long time dream of starting a business and working for myself. Since my early teens, every dream that I could muster up in my rambunctious mind were all dreams of companies that I wanted to create. I tested the water with things like selling Avon and Cookie Lee jewelry, often quitting before it had a chance of being successful. I doubted myself. I doubted that I could really pull it off and make it happen.
Self-employment and entrepreneurship weren't taught in my household, and more importantly, they weren't respected as a viable way of living. Where I come from, you go to college, get a good-paying job, stay there for 30 years and retire. The end. My Mother encouraged anything I did that was traditional and "played by the rules". Anything outside of that wasn't taken seriously. As a result, she would often unintentionally leave me feeling misunderstood and second guessing myself.
My relationships had also been influenced. "Men are all the same, they're all dogs" or " play your cards right, and don't show weakness" were words that I didn't hear so much from my Mother as I did other older women in my life whom I looked up to. Many of them were hurt by men, and understandably, wanted me to protect myself. However, when you're taught that the opposite sex is emotionally harmful and no-good, you develop an armor of defense that becomes almost impossible to break through. I lost hope in love and successful relationships before I even gave my virginity away. Around guys, I was never myself. Instead, I pretended to be this tough, unbothered, bad-ass who'd never be impressed by their flowers or romantic efforts. In my mind, they were going to hurt me anyway so there was no need to be transparent and allow them to get to know the real me.
I always felt like I had to play a game with men. Like they were some complex puzzle that I had to figure out and be strategic about my every move, all while not being true to who I really am.
As an adult woman, I've learned how the seeds planted in my head as a child, about life, relationships, money and even my natural hair/beauty have affected my way of thinking and my personal view of the world.
I doubted my dreams because I didn't grow up in an environment that cultivated entrepreneurship. It's not that my Mom actually doubted my abilities, it's that she too didn't grow up in a place where that was a reality for many people of color. Moreover, I've learned to love freely and without fear of being hurt. Relationships require some level of vulnerability from both sides. To be vulnerable and transparent about your feelings isn't synonymous with weakness.
Today, I see value in my femininity and I am completely comfortable showing it. Flowers and romantic gestures, are welcomed. The pains and troubles of my elder's past relationships are no longer apart of me.
Like it or not, we mirror our surroundings. That doesn't mean that you aren't an individual with different perspectives, but it does mean that it's easy to fall into the pattern of your environment and upbringing.
To be different, to think different, is a choice. Mental wounds can derive from anyone, not just our
Mothers or Fathers. Anyone that you allow into your life can influence it, so protect it.
Protect your space. Protect your energy. Listen to your own voice even when all you can hear is your Mothers.
Her experiences are not your own. Your thoughts manifest your reality, so be mindful of how you think. Train yourself to see the good in everything and endlessly believe in your dreams. More importantly, understand that everything you were taught came from a place of love and protection, but that doesn't mean that it's beneficial for you today. If it no longer serves who you are trying to become, let it go.
The hardest task in the world is unlearning what you've been taught for so long, but it's a task that must be accomplished in order to live authentically. Heal. Evolve. And create your own narrative for your life.
Ashley Grant is a freelance writer who currently resides in Philadelphia, PA. She has contributed her work to both online and print publications and also writes for notable fashion brands and retailers. Ashley is in the process of creating her first novel. Check out her blog at Ashleybgrant.com and follow her on Instagram @ashley_bgrant.