The Phoenix Rising Collective

Inspiring Women. Empowering Change.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Tracy

How do you love yourself first?

I love myself first by understanding that I must take care of my mental, spiritual, and physical health to sustain in a world that attempts to drain me. I have learned over the years that I teach others how I value me. I know if I don’t take intentional time for me, then others will not respect me or my time.

I love myself first by remembering these three things:

  1. I APPRECIATE my journey. I cannot look at someone else’s blessings and long for what they have.
  2. I PRACTICE what I preach. As a solo parent of three (19, 14, 12), it is imperative that I show love for myself. If I am not demonstrating to them how to love, how to cherish, and how to use their voice, they will not learn.
  3. I look in the mirror each day and tell myself, “Today’s a NEW day. Let’s go get it!”

What actions demonstrate the self -care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

Ahhhhhhh, I love this question! I am an educator, a poet, and an avid reader. I have an endless supply of Post-it Notes I keep handy because my mind is ALWAYS spinning, thinking of new ideas or new quotes. I LOVE QUOTES, especially motivational ones. I have “stickies” everywhere reminding me of special prayer requests, thoughts, and reminders of who I am! My favorite is “I AM LIGHT.” This is penned from a song by India Arie that reminds me that I am light, and who I am is reflected in all that I do. I am who I say I am. No one can define me or label me.

If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. -Audre Lorde

Is there an obstacle or challenge you have overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

I didn’t realize until the past year that I suffer from depression and anxiety. I am a person who will work and work and not ask for help (because I believed no one wanted to). I would hold in emotions until I was ill. I have in the past year gone through probably one of the darkest years of my life. Years of holding emotions and thoughts in and not being who I needed to be for me, finally manifested into a complete breakdown. My health suffered. I gained 30-40 pounds. My professional life suffered. And worst of all, I didn’t think I was worthy of being blessed with life. I have learned through positive affirmations of family and friends, through taking time to be still (waiting for God’s voice), and through being intentional with my life and goals that I am light and love. My steps are divinely ordered. I just needed to step into the shoes I was born to walk in.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way. Ps. 37:23

What have you learned from self -love?

“Love…so many things I’ve got to tell you but I’m afraid I don’t know how…” I LOVE this song from Musiq Soulchild. I listen to it a lot because the lyrics tell of unconditional love, the kind of love that we need to have for ourselves. I have learned that self-love is needed to sustain, and sometimes I have to take time out to love on myself and to love on others.

I have learned that I am called to be a “servant lover” of others in order to be content. I immerse myself in my non-profit Young PEARLS (a mentoring group for young women ages 14-17). I continue to perfect my writing and speaking skills with my company TraSpeaks, LLC, and I pour into the students I work with on a daily basis. I enjoy building up my community and partnering with others who love to do the same.

I have learned that self-love is self-confidence. I have always been bold, fearless, and opinionated. These attributes are what make me, ME, and I love it.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear I rise… Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear I rise…Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise. -Maya Angelou


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE. Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.

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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Leisan

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I love myself first by working to live my most authentic life. To me, this means being true to who I am and speaking my truth. I started coming out as queer (lesbian) right after I graduated from college. While a lot of my coming out journey has been loving and supportive, there have been definite bumps in the road. I’ve had to continuously remind myself that regardless of other people’s opinion, I am worthy of love, which starts with loving myself first. As I’ve continued to embrace and love all of who I am, my voice has gotten stronger in advocating for myself and for others. Every time I speak up for myself or for others, I feel better about who I am.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)

As the mom of a two year-old, self-care is hard. I need to be more intentional about my own self-care so that I can show up better for my daughter. Actions that demonstrate the self-care I do provide for myself are napping and counseling. One of the best pieces of advice I received when I became a mom was “nap when she naps.” It sounds easy, but when you have a list of things to do and the option to take a nap, there can be guilt when you decide to sleep. For the sake of my self-care, I nap when my daughter naps. I am a better person, and I function better when I have had sleep. Counseling has been important especially over the past two years. In less than 1.5 years I had a lot of changes happen in my life: I got pregnant, had a baby, lost my mom, resigned from a job I loved so I could move back to my home town, and started a new job. With all of these changes, especially the death of my mother six weeks after the birth of my daughter, I needed someone to talk to. I didn’t realize it when I first started, but I was/am definitely battling depression. I know that mental health is something that is often not discussed in the black community, but consistently going to counseling has provided me with good self-care for my mind and my soul.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

There are two challenges I’ve overcome (and am still overcoming) that continue to lead me to a deeper love for who I am: coming out as a queer black woman and becoming a single queer mom. I love who I’ve become as a queer black woman. With the current political climate and the way folks seem to be coming out of the closet in terms of their racist and/or homophobic beliefs, it has been difficult. However, I continue to remind myself that their loud opinions do not define me, and that I am an amazing woman. In terms of becoming a single queer mom, it is the best decision I have ever made. I knew my biological clock was ticking, so I decided to get pregnant before I couldn’t. I know for sure that I was born to be a mom, and I love who I am as a mom. I am re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” mom, and now that I am in a good, loving relationship, we are re-defining what some people may think of as a “traditional” family. I love who I am and who the three of us are as a family.

One of Leisan’s favorite photos with her daughter

What have you learned from self-love?

I love loving others. However, I have learned that the only way I can effectively love others is to start with loving myself. I have also learned that it is okay and necessary to be intentional about self-love. I have to schedule time to take care of me and know that it’s not selfish, but in fact, the best way for me to survive and thrive.

 


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Monique

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself first begins daily in the morning with gratitude at the realization that I was given another day to fulfill my purpose. That means thanking God for breath in my lungs to authentically live on purpose. Recognizing that I am fearfully and wonderfully made gives me the liberty to love myself as I am and as I evolve.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

My daily walks in nature are a part of my exercise routine for self love. It provides an opportunity without distraction to examine my life and the things in my environment. I make this a priority before I start my routines. It provides so much clarity to sort out tasks for the day, too. My mind is at its most open state on my walks, and that allows me to take in all the positive things I see in nature while on the Metro Park trail. It inspires me to give this positive energy to others.

Entering my 40s has been a motivating factor to make conscious decisions about healthy eating. Living consciously has really allowed me to see and feel the benefits of healthy eating. Whole foods that have grown from the soil have been my saving grace when it comes to self love. It has provided me with a clear mind, less aches and pains, more energy, and weight management as a bonus.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

The biggest obstacle I have overcome is not believing I am enough. There was a time that I would nitpick myself to the point of stifling enjoying what life had in store for me. In my late 20s I discovered the book One Day My Soul Just Opened Up by Iyanla Vanzant. The book required writing daily to some tough questions I had to be honest about and accountable for. My soul did open up, and I began living and loving myself. It pushed me not only to love myself but also make changes to become and grow in the direction of my best self. There were a few bumps in the road but that was acceptable because I was growing and evolving.

What have you learned from self-love?

I am enough.

I’m in competition with myself to become my best self.

I’m worth fighting for.

I’m my best self when I take care of myself first which, in turn, makes me available for others. This is the most positive selfish thing I can do.

I’ve learned to nurture self-love with positive people, music, news, books and experiences.

Self-love has taught me to try new experiences outside my comfort zone. (Yoga. I actually love it!)

Self-love has taught me that it’s okay to fail.

Self-love has taught me to say yes more and to say no without regret.

The biggest lesson for me is that it’s powerful to love others. Truly loving others is a reflection of the love you have for self.


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Danielle

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself is an everyday struggle. I have always had the ability to slap on a cute outfit, keep my hair done, and my lip gloss poppin’, but that’s all it was — just slap on, never matching the inside.

After having a major life change and wanting to set a great example for my son. I make it a habit to remind myself how DOPE I am. If I notice I’m walking around with my head down, I will whisper to myself, “Hold your head up, Boo, it will get better.”

Loving myself means accepting all of my flaws, imperfections, fears and life struggles, and not allowing those things to get in the way of living my life to the fullest.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

I have three habits I make sure I do once a week:

  1. I must listen to music that at some point feeds my soul. Be it hip hop, reggae, soul, house music or even some jazz. I need it like I need food.
  2. Dancing. I must dance!!! I’m no Debbie Allen, but I love to dance. My parents started the tradition that every Saturday night (after fish and grits) we danced. I have now passed that on to my son.
  3. My version of Super Soul Sundays. I wake up Sunday mornings before my son and make a very large cup of coffee, open the blinds in my living room, let the sun hit my face, and just BE, be happy in the moment, not worrying about what I have to do for the day, not focused on “Why me? Where’s my man, Lord? How much is this bill?” Just BE.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

I would never give myself credit for anything I achieved in my life. I would always compare my accomplishments to other people’s accomplishments. I have learned that my accomplishments are a part of my journey in life, and I need to be proud of what I have achieved no matter how small it may be.

What have you learned from self-love?

Self-love is the hardest love to give, but it is necessary in order to receive the love you deserve from others.


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram.


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Carolyn

 

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

I love myself first by checking in to see what I need to do in order to feel like me. I believe that life’s challenges and stresses can sometimes distract us from what we really enjoy about life and from what’s important to us.

Loving myself first means taking care of myself. Self-care in its many forms helps me get back to that true state where who I am and what I want are clear to me. Sometimes self-care is just maintenance and other days it’s recovery from life’s obstacles and distractions.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc)

I find that yoga can really help me check in and monitor why I’m feeling the way I am and what I can do to remedy it.

Sometimes talking with a loved one can really help ease my mind and work things out in my head.

It can also mean going on a hike or a run with my dog, reading a book, or watching reruns of a favorite show. Other times I feel the need to be more productive and creative, and that to me is self-care, too. Cooking, doing chores around the house, or even taking care of some work that has been on the back burner can feel like self-care.

I think sometimes it’s the things I don’t do that can contribute to a distracting feeling of stress and lead to not being able to really connect with myself. It has also been extremely beneficial to me to figure out what I need physically on a daily basis to feel good. A good workout of some kind, vegetables, and at least seven hours of sleep are essential for me.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

There have been several challenges that have eventually led me to value qualities in myself that I either hadn’t recognized before or had seen as flaws.

One challenge was quitting smoking for good. It was a habit I tried to kick several times and finally something inside me just changed. I tend to retreat when I’m dealing with an internal struggle, and I do not like to ask for help. So, when I decided to quit that’s exactly what I did, and I’m so glad. I used to see my self-isolation as a negative trait, but through that situation I learned that it’s how I heal myself sometimes, and that’s okay. I love that I have that strength within me.

Another challenge was moving to a new city and new job, then realizing too late I made a bad decision. In our society, we really put a lot of value on persistence and not giving up on a challenge. This is especially true for women when it comes to relationships and for everyone when it comes to careers. I would characterize myself as a resilient and persistent person but only to a point. It’s something I saw as weakness for a long time, but I love that I recognized I wasn’t getting out of a situation what I was putting into it and did something to change it. It’s a quality I have tried to cultivate because I see it as a strength.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned from self-love that it is something we must consistently work on. Practicing self-love I’ve realized there are forces in our world that profit immensely from our lack of self-esteem, so they work hard to keep us disliking ourselves. I’m sure we can all think of an individual or two who has benefited from someone else’s lack of self-love.

Loving myself and loving things about myself that are easier to dislike right off the bat are a worthwhile endeavor.

With self-love I can be free to live in a way that feels right to me, in a way that allows me to listen to and honor my own needs.


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Jazmin

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

It means taking the time to provide myself with what I need to be my best mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body and soul? (Exercise, healthy eating, spiritual practice, etc.)

The primary ways I demonstrate self care are starting my day with prayer and reading the bible, yoga, and a cup of tea. It also means taking time to truly listen to my body and give it what it needs. For example,  some days my body won’t practice a preset yoga routine, so I go with the flow.

It is also important for me to eat properly. When making decisions about what to eat, I often ask myself, “How is this going to make me feel in an hour? Energized? Sluggish? Tired?” Live foods literally give me life, so I do my best to start each day with a smoothie containing fruits, veggies, and plant based protein like hemp.

Another way I take care of myself is by being spiritually sound; I am active in church, but more importantly, I have a personal relationship with God. Daily affirmations are also a key part of keeping me focused on self-love and my goals.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Self love wasn’t always easy for me. I’ve had to overcome a poor self image, low confidence, and fear. I’ve had trouble loving myself and receiving love from others. Assuming that people would deem me unworthy and walk away, I kept them at a distance. Overcoming these obstacles didn’t happen over night. It took years. I started with refocusing my thoughts; then I moved on to choosing my words carefully. I am the first person to hear my words, and it is my voice I will trust the most on a subconscious level, so I began speaking life, even when I didn’t believe it.

What have you learned from self-love?

I have learned that the journey itself is to be appreciated. I don’t believe there is a “destination” because I am always growing and learning new things about myself every day. If I focus on the “destination” of self love, I’ll miss all the beautiful transformations that happen along the way.


Love Yourself First! Friday. Phenomenal women who fiercely and unapologetically demonstrate self-love in action share their stories – powerful, honest, heartfelt stories that shed light on diverse ways to make self care, healing and whole living daily priorities.

Join the tribe! Share your story. Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram


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It’s Love Yourself First! Friday: This Phoenix is Michelle

How do you love yourself first? What does that mean to you?

Loving myself first means living a values-based life. When my Dad, Vietnam veteran and hardworking Appalachian man, was first diagnosed with lung cancer I had just started my PhD program in clinical psychology. I had also just lost my Godmother (my Dad’s sister) to lung cancer. I’ve been working toward the goal of becoming a clinical child psychologist since I have been 13 years old. I have had to overcome my fair share of adversity: a late-diagnosed hearing disability, growing up in Appalachia, and being a first-generation college student. This translates into me being a hard-working poor test taker with a purpose to help others from underserved communities.

As I traversed the world of grad school my Dad fought for his life. He was cancer free when I matched for internship 13 hours away from my family. It was the final step before earning my doctorate. Unfortunately, his remission was short-lived. I completed my internship clinical work, working with the population I believe I have been called to work with – providing evidence-based trauma treatments to children and adolescents. As my internship was winding down, I needed to decide where to go for postdoc (the next step needed to get licensed and to solidify my research career). I was at a fork. Do I continue to weave myself tightly within the field of childhood trauma? Or do I move as close to home as possible to be near my family? It is with courage that I chose my family – landing in the stars with my post doctoral career. I value my career, and I value my family and friends just a bit more. Clinical work is emotionally and spiritually draining, but the reward reaped when I am able to help a child, eases the toll to my well-being.

Sadly, my Dad passed away just weeks after moving home. Knowing that I needed these two years to breathe and rest my tired heart, I happily engage my research postdoc. This is why I cannot in good, self-loving conscience be a full-time clinician. Instead, I choose to overcome the funding obstacles of research in a climate that is ever so hostile to science. I will do it with courage and a firm understanding that I am Appalachian, and no one can quiet my voice.

Michelle dancing with her dad at her wedding

What actions demonstrate the self-care you provide to your mind, body, and soul?

Self-care is a series of evolving lessons:

On nutrition: About 8 years ago I stopped eating fast food. I drink almost no soda and try to eat small portion sizes. About 3 years ago, I stopped eating all meats except fish. In the past six months, I started to eat minimal dairy and bread and mostly stick with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and beans.

On exercise: In grad school I started running – an identity I have never really embraced despite completing two half-marathons and several 5Ks and 10Ks. More recently, I have been practicing yoga three to four days a week.

On balance: I try to minimize how much work I am doing at home. I do not check my work e-mail on the weekends. When I am eating dinner, I do not have my cellphone out. I go see my Mom every Sunday when I’m in town. I spend time with friends at least weekly and have coffee in bed with my husband and our two cats on weekends.

On adventure: I travel to see friends, family, and for conferences. When I travel I like to get off the beaten path, go hiking, and learn about the local culture. I also craft, plan and throw elaborately themed parties.

Is there an obstacle or challenge you’ve overcome that led to a deeper love for who you are?

Most days I suffer from imposter syndrome. There’s been a challenge at every step of the way in my career path. First I had to catch up with my peers in elementary school to get out of the “slow learners” track and into college prep. Then I had to figure out what being Appalachian and first generation in college meant for me. I then had to score well on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and have enough research experience to demonstrate my commitment to scholarly activity for my PhD program. There’s always been a “next up.” I’ve encountered plenty of people – mentors, elders, peers – who have led me to question myself, my worth and ability. Thankfully, for every one of those folks, I’ve had two others to remind me that I am enough and can do anything I put my mind to.

I want to make the world a better place. It’s always been about “How can I help?” How can I transform the lives of underserved youth by planting seeds of courage, compassion, and inner strength? I am my strongest when I am helping others. It is what drives me to keep going. So, when my Dad was dying, and I spent all those years away from home doing the “next step” I realized that I had neglected my value for spending time with and helping family and friends.

The obstacle of believing that I am enough and can fulfill my life’s purpose without choosing just that over other values has been like taming a wild bear, except I’m the bear and the trainer at the same time.

What have you learned from self-love?

I am learning to have courage. I haven’t always been able to help others; sometimes my path seems like I’ve all but given up on doing that. And while my inner strength does not always shine, I know that I can take breaks to let my mind, body, and spirit heal. Most importantly, my light glows even when it’s an ember.

Michelle shares why she chose the photos in her self-love story:

Father/Daughter Dance – My Dad and I dancing to I Loved Her First. I believe he loved me enough to wait until I was home before passing away so that we could all be together.

My Life Partner – This guy and I are on this journey together. We’ll dance, walk, skip, crawl, and even carry each other on our path.

PhD Graduation Cap – Robert Frost has been narrating my life. I tend to take the road less traveled when I come to a fork. And, oh, has it made all the difference! I still got to where I was going, and I’ll get to where I am meant to be.

Vinyasart – I chose this because it captures my creative outlet – exercise and mindfulness – which all nourish my soul.

 

Inspired by Michelle’s courageously honest and heartfelt story? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.


Love Yourself First! Friday shares the unique stories of diverse women to inspire and empower others to also fiercely demonstrate self-love in action.  The questions are meant to shed light on various ways our featured Phoenixes are making self-care and intentional living a priority.

Do you want to share your self-love story? Send an email HERE.  Just put “My LYFF Story” in the subject line of your email, and you’ll be contacted by the Phoenix Team with details on how to participate. Be sure to read some of our other inspiring stories.

Join the Collective on Facebook and Instagram