On Not Being Defined By Your Struggles: Pain Does Not Make You Worthy


Long time no see, y’all. Forgive my absence. A lot of life is happening but here I am. Thank you all for rocking with my words all year long. As this year comes to a close, I’ve been super reflective. I’m so clear on the lessons that 2018 had to offer and I, finally, feel that run-off of my 20s completely disappearing. Because, chile, whew. In all of this growth, I’ve also seen areas that I still need to come to the grips with, still need to let go off and still need to heal from. Above all, one thing has become increasingly real to me:

I am not defined by my struggles. And neither are you.

I don’t know if it’s because I am Black or woman or both but I started to realize a pattern—-I would always precursor my wins with the pain I had to endure to get to them. I couldn’t talk about the love I’d found without assuring people that I had, in fact, been so hurt before it came. I couldn’t talk about the victories I’d been having as an artist without adding the caveat that I’d been floundering for so many years trying to get my footing. I couldn’t talk about success in writing without assuring people that I’d much rather be acting so it wasn’t truly a victory. For a while, I believed I was sharing because I wanted to be transparent about my journey but, nah. I was sharing my downs because I still didn’t truly believe I was worthy of my ups. Who was I to have a great life? Who was I to have healthy relationships? Who was I to dream it, work hard and grind till I own it? Somewhere down the line I’d started equating my threshold to suffer with my worthiness to thrive. Maybe I feared the only way people would clap for me is if they knew all the hills I had to climb. Maybe I feared the only way I would clap for me is if I continuously reminded myself that life could be cruel and that I was always a step away from my own darkness.

Whatever it was, it started to seep into my everyday life.

I was constantly waiting for the proverbial axe to fall. Looking for signs of impending doom that I could tattoo on my forehead to assure the world I was still human. Perceptible to pain. A magnet for misery. I’d receive a new opportunity and immediately start to think about all the reasons it could be taken away from me. I second-guessed every good thing people said to me while fully accepting all the bad things I could think about myself. And it was all because I believed my value was in bearing pain. Nothing could be simple. Nothing could come to me wrapped perfectly—-I’d have to peel back the layers of uncertainty to arrive at something just good enough. Nothing could work out the way I’d imagined it or *gasp* even better. Even my relationship with God seemed to be one where I was constantly atoning. I was ready and willing to be rebuked for whatever I’d done wrong while forgetting that there was also grace, love and mercy available to me. Forreal, y’all, I was on my “TRY ME SEARCH ME AND ‘BUKE ME GOD” stuff. I’m sure God was like, “Girl, it ain’t even that serious. Bless your food and eat”. But that’s where I was. I think of it as figurative cutting. Needing to see myself bleed to know I was alive. Needing others to see my scars to receive their love/respect/adoration. I was journaling one morning when I realized I was holding myself back from true happiness. Just me. Not my bank account. Not my agent. Not my old friends or exes. Not my father’s death. Not my failures. Me. Iman. I’d been sold the lie that women like me don’t get to live happily ever after and I bought it. I digested it. I wore it like a “S” on my chest. I covered it in words like “introverted” and “misunderstood”. I sprinkled it in my work and in my attitude. If I wanted to be happy, I had to reframe my belief that happiness was available to me—-not after rain, not after heartache, not after being broke, not after losing a job, not because Black women are the least protected people on earth——but strictly because I WAS ENOUGH. I didn’t have to do or become anything. I was born worthy of all the goodness this life has to offer. I was born worthy of true love and solid friendships. I was born worthy of my wildest dreams. We all were.

So, I want us all to make 2019 the year that we expect nothing less than the best. That we commit to memory the amazing things that happen to us instead of the hurtful. That we see our highest most amazing selves every time we look in the mirror. That we don’t second-guess the good that comes our way. That we let the devil know he ain’t got the range to keep us from our destinies. That we face down our trials with renewed faith and strength. That we find God within ourselves and we love her/him fiercely. Word to Ntozake. That we truly, honestly and ACTUALLY live our best lives——on the inside most of all. We made it another year, y’all. And sometimes——that alone is more than enough.


Catch up on all the blog posts from 2018 here.

The new book is coming, guys!! So, the old book is discounted. Grab a copy for a friend here.

Iman MilnerComment