"In times of crisis, the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.” Chadwick Boseman 

I'm still processing through Black Panther but even so there is so much to unpack from it. This week I've spent substantial time talking about authentic self-care, narrative autonomy, and emotional labor. What I have come to see is that so many of the people I've interacted with recently have yet to realize what makes them both mundane and unique. It's this balance of self-actualization that you are in fact the only person who is you, and also that you are like other people. That duality matters. We want to be different but we also don't want to feel alone in the world. We yearn for human connection and yet want to retain our individuality. What if we treated ourselves - that is who we are, how we are, our stories, our gifts/talents, etc. as if they were the most valuable thing in the world? How would we be different if we saw ourselves as an invaluable resource, but one that is only useful when ... used? Stick with me here, and imagine that we in all our everyday wonder were vibranium. Would that change the ways we conducted ourselves?

Protect yourself and your gifts. I mean truly protect yourself. It's the little things that matter and our personal security - that is what we have for ourselves to keep those who would seek to steal, pollute, or destroy what lies inside us - that keep them at bay. We have to strike a balance between deterring those just want to abscond with our vibranium (whatever it may be), and those who want to learn, build, and grow with us. It's learning to suss out motivations and intentions. It's asking bold questions, naming and addressing what we witness, and being real about what's at stake. We interact and come across so many people in our days, and we're tasked with deciphering who they are, and whether they are a friend or a foe. It is in that decrypting process that either build trust, build bridges, or we build walls based on the clues, their implications, and the assumptions we make. Have you earned what I have to offer or are chasing after what you perceive me to be or have?

Share yourself with those that deserve you. How do you know who deserves you? Ask and answer these questions to yourself. Is this someone you trust? Is this someone who is fully engaged/listening to understand you? Is this someone who will respect and validate who you are? Is this someone who is willing and able to learn from you? Sharing yourself is laborious and taxing. We have to be selective in when, how, and how much we share of ourselves with others and the world. Pay attention to yourself and how you're feeling. Think through the following: How much does sharing my story cost? Will that emotional labor be reimbursed? What kind of rejuvenating self-care do I need to continue on? Not everyone deserves the full story of who and how we are. We get to choose with whom to share. Our stories are only ours to share. And at the same time, whenever we share we take a risk and there is a cost. Sometimes we have to be gracious in sharing ourselves with those might not understand the gravitas of who we are, or our stories - that's okay. Our vulnerability matters in being the glimpse that can change the perception of others, spark a connection, or ignite a new passion to learn more. We get to pick and choose who gets to experience the awe that is us. 

Know that you are royalty and that you deserve to be treated as such. Time and time again I have fallen in the trap myself, or witnessed other people pining after the conditional love/like, the fleeting approval, or the lackluster acknowledgement of others who are less that interested in appreciating all that you are. Why do we chase after those are committed to disrespecting us? Why do we seek the adoration of those who have no genuine intention of showing us care? I think there is a fear that if someone doesn't treat us in the way that we deserve that either we deserve that disregard, that we can earn their respect, or that this one person is a stand-in for the rest of humanity and that we are unworthy of relationship. It's an irrational conclusion but a common one nonetheless. It is a depreciation of our own inherent value. It is a delusional dilution of our worth. It is a degradation of our invaluable resource - ourselves. When we promulgate believe with the entirety of who we are that who we are is in fact, beyond a shadow of a doubt, and without fail worthy of love, happiness, joy, peace, and all the rest, then we can be avoid the pitfalls of devaluing ourselves or accepting the pitiful disposability that others thrust upon us. When we know our worth, we know who is worthy of us. 

Be wary of those who only want what you have or what you can offer them, and not you. People who treat you a resource to be consumed, used, and disposed of when they are finished are not concerned with celebrating all that you are. They are people who are unwilling to share what they have or who they are with others, and yet expect those around them to do so. Pooling resources, building relationships, appreciating people, etc. is about mutualism. It's about reciprocation. It's about balance and compromise. In order to get, you have to give, and in order to give, you have to get. If not, a disproportionate amount of give or take creates a disparity. Someone is getting more or giving more than their fair share. How different the world would be if we recognized and treated people as inherently invaluable, indispensable, and incomparable. Or if we prioritized people not because of their abilities, outputs, or contributions but because they are people worth caring about by nature of their humanity. People you demonstrate care towards you, with no strings attached, those are people who understand you not a resource to be tossed aside but a relationship to be nourished, sustained, and cultivated. Build with others, and build one another up. The most valuable people in our lives both challenge and support us. The treat us like the priceless vibranium we are, not just a commodity to be bought, sold, or traded. X


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