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Unlocking the Truth: How I Learned to Find My Inner Joy
by Jared Williams
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January 13, 2020

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9 Minute Read

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Unlocking the Truth: How I Learned to Find My Inner Joy

BlackLove.com writer Jared Williams
Courtesy of Jared Williams

Something is refreshing about a new year, a new season. But this time, it feels a little different. I mean, this isn’t just like rolling over from one year to the next. It’s a fresh start of a whole new decade! Something I appreciate in the widespread celebration and shared experience of a brand new calendar year that feels like a good benchmark, an opportunity to reflect and redirect your life. Are you where you thought you would be last year at this time? Almost two weeks into the new calendar year, and I’m wondering, have you made leaps and bounds on your  resolutions? What things need to change, or what things need to stay the same? This time I find myself not just looking back at one year, but instead looking back at ten years and wondering… “Well, WTF is next?”

One thing I learned (from my Enneagram) was that I’m a reliable problem solver. Meaning, I’m not just naturally drawn to solving problems, I’m gifted at finding them as well. In myself, in my family, and in my relationships. Basically, in all aspects. It doesn’t take a lot of time for me to hone in on a thing that has fallen ever so slightly out of line and develop three different course-correcting strategies. Is it useful? Yes. Is it personally annoying? Sometimes. Is it annoying as hell to others? Based on the feedback I’ve received, HELL YES! 

It’s okay to commit to excellence if you’re willing to balance it with extending grace to yourself

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So as I continue through the next 10+ years, I’m pulling directly from my Enneagram. It revealed to me that it’s okay to commit to excellence if you’re willing to balance it with extending grace to yourself. Again, not a strong suit of mine, but here it goes. Over the past decade, I’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things (a few I probably shouldn’t have), but in that mix of experiences lies many incredibly powerful lessons. These lessons won’t necessarily predict my next 10 years, but they will change the way I move through them. To look at me from previous years through a lens of gratitude and grace is to witness a full-on evolution. While I feel stuck in some capacities, in several ways, I took leaps within my being. And for the first time, I betted on myself, deciding to make ME a priority. 

Related: How I Let Go of Shame and Started Living My Dreams

I developed a strong sense of courageousness that was bold as shit, and I created an unapologetic love for my entire life. I pushed past my “shame gremlins” and fell in love with the person at my core. Not who I will be in the future, or who I could’ve been, but who I am, right now, today, at this very moment. This past decade has taught me that this wasn’t some accidental journey back to loving who I am. There were things I experienced and skills I intentionally developed that took my self-love to the next level. These are the things that I’ll carry past the ’20s. These are things I’m holding onto for life, and I hope you will too. 

AWARENESS

I realized that I’d been blindly reactive rather than strategically proactive. I was emotionally and physically responding to events as they came up rather than learning what situations I’d rather not involve myself in. Instead of blindly driving myself through every road hazard with reckless abandonment, the essence of awareness taught me how to avoid particular pitfalls. I began learning what triggered destructive coping mechanisms and understood what I needed help working on to achieve a breakthrough. The work wasn’t easy, but it all started with knowing that I owed myself space and time to hear my most intimate thoughts. 

Whenever I could bear it, I interrogated myself and became intensely aware of what I was feeling in almost every moment. I did my damndest to map any reaction back to a root cause. I’d pause and think about the “Why” behind it, leading to the question, “What am I afraid of?” 

BOUNDARIES

I was accustomed to the concept of unworthiness that the total opposite was a new language to me. It wasn’t until I sat in on a public session with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, founder of Therapy for Black Girls, where I understood the importance of boundary setting on this journey.

What I’ve learned is the building up of self-worth and self-love has to be intentional. In the past, I was determined that I had to be someone different to be happy. I was willing to twist and contort my way through life in an attempt to be everything to everyone. By living this way, I didn’t need to set boundaries because I viewed placing limitations as barriers to connection. I already believed I wasn’t worthy of them, so I thought this was something [setting boundaries] that would push people away.  

I was willing to twist and contort my way through life in an attempt to be everything to everyone. 

However, the more I started to believe I was worthy of self-acceptance, meant the more I was open to listening to myself. And the more I listened to myself, the harder it was to deny what I was indeed hearing. No longer were friendships or relationships synonymous with deprioritizing my needs or my emotions. I leaned into the belief that singular events do not define my love and companionship. 

CONSISTENCY

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Boundaries require consistency. In the beginning, I thought setting boundaries would be the most challenging part, but I’ve since found that maintaining them is much harder. What I’ve come to realize is that we set them [boundaries] to keep our peace, but sometimes we disregard them when we think the threat is no longer there. Your boundaries hold the space for your authenticity. They allow you the peace that makes it possible to be your best self. Successful experiences deeply-rooted in authenticity and setting healthy limitations have led to incredible friendships and romantic relationships. 

Related: How Therapy Helps Me Find My Flow

With my newfound way of approaching certain situations, I also realized something I hadn’t before. This isn’t static; it was intentionality. There is no such thing as “Congratulations! You did the work and never had to go back to that shit again!” The work I’d done and the skills acquired needed to be internalized and put into a toolkit for me to use regularly.  

I’m not sure what the next decade has in store for me aside from my regular therapy appointments, but I know that awareness, boundaries, and consistency got me through these last ten years. Now it’s time to ask yourself, what’s going to get you through the next decade?

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