Updated: May 2
We live in a world that teaches young girls: good women put others first. Today, womanhood has been indoctrinated as “in order for you to be praised and defined as a real woman, you must throw yourself on the sword, give yourself to the world, and be the Mother Teresa while ignoring your needs,” said Toni Jones, Black wellness leader and mental health advocate in an exclusive interview with She’s Single Magazine.
While working with women who didn’t have time to prioritize their wellness, she created a tool to help them heal on the go. As a “testament to the time when people want to have better conversations with themselves,” she launched two wildly successful albums titled, "Affirmations for the Grown Ass Woman" and "Affirmations & Chill.”
Affirmations aren’t enough. It’s when you combine it with music that takes it to a whole new level. According to Jones, music is powerful. “We are sound; so, we match the vibration of music and it influences us immediately. It infiltrates your whole belief system and you just can’t ignore it.”
We cry to sad, soulful music because it’s powerful enough to bring up heartbreaking memories and bottled-up emotions, just like when we feel aroused while listening to romantic jazz music. “You press play and it changes your whole mood.”
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“There’s something about music that calms your mind down,” Jones added. Music lets you watch what’s happening inside, what’s coming up. “Like when a child is upset or crying and you say, ‘okay, I hear you,’ that’s meditative for me. It helps me tend to the noise and calm myself enough to receive ideas, designs and directions.”
Meditating in an anxious world
Wellness advocates all over the world vouch for the power of mediation, but in today’s fast-paced hustle culture, it seems impossible to sit down and find time for self-care. Meditation is especially difficult when your nervous system in on edge and you’re in a state of perpetual anxiety – like most of us are during this pandemic.
So how do we stop for rest in a world threatening to leave us behind the moment we slow down?
“Humans are designed like a computer,” Jones explained. Think about it like this: we operate on input and output. We eat food, we eliminate the waste. We breathe in oxygen, we breathe out carbon dioxide. Similarly, we take in information and react to it. The problem is, we take in information 24x7 – what we see, what we listen to, what we read, what we eat, what we talk about, what we favorite on social media, it all adds up quickly. But there aren’t enough outlets to release all that energy.
“The reason we don’t have space for ourselves is because we are literally constipated with all of this energy from our past, our childhood, from entertainment, from the news, from our memories and the relationships around us,” Jones said. We’re taking it all in but we don’t know how to release what no longer serves us.
To be a better, healthier version of ourselves, we need to understand this design of input and output. “We need to be students of our experiences,” Jones advised. Get interested in how our mind and body operates – buy a book, watch YouTube videos, Google information, find avenues to learn.
But… Self-care isn’t productive. I don’t want to seem selfish!
We’ve been programmed to believe self-care is selfish or indulgent, so scheduling ‘me-time’ doesn’t feel natural. It’s hard to go against that conditioning.
To combat this resistance, Jones advised women to ask themselves: when did I start believing taking care of myself was wrong or selfish? Often you realize, it isn’t coming from within you, it’s the cultural influence.
We live in a society that focuses on what’s inside, distracting us from what’s inside of ourselves. We chase love, happiness and fulfillment outside – in other people, in jobs, in following societal expectations. “We end up serving the world outside of ourselves so much that we end up depleting ourselves and compromising our happiness and well-being.”
And that will never work out because, as the adage goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. “Whatever you give from a depleted place is have some gaps and glitches,” Jones stated.
That’s why she advises treating ‘me-time’ like a dentist appointment or a date night. It’s easy to cancel on yourself, but when you carve out a slot in your calendar, like you do for other ‘important’ appointments, it affirms the seriousness of self-care. “Don’t make it a task or write it on a to-do list,” Jones says. “Just say that I’m going to set an appointment to be with myself and see what comes up for me.”
It won’t feel right in the beginning, it will feel wrong, selfish, indulgent and whatnot. It’s normal to feel this way. The key here is repetition. Tell yourself as often as you need to: “I know we’ve been doing this (prioritizing others at the cost of comprising self-care) for 15-20 years, but were going to change some things up now.”
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Throughout this process, Jones advises, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. You don’t grow into a different, happier, healthier, smarter person overnight. “There is no destination to feeling great about yourself. You never get to say, I have arrived, I’m here and I no longer feel unworthy,” Jones adds. “It’s a constant practice, it’s a journey. It’s an intentional choice that you make over and over again.”
That’s where affirmations can help. They enable you to break free of the toxic conditioned behavioral patterns keeping you stuck. They remind you to make better choices that align with who you truly are.