How to Be Yourself: 4 Lessons from my birthday in the Hamptons

This post is sponsored by Lane Bryant.

This year, I was prepared to spend my birthday alone inside of Rapunzel’s Tower (aka, my New York City apartment).

I was prepared for a solo birthday, but I was hoping for something else.

Sometime in 2019, I started to dream of spending my birthday swimming in a pool in the Hamptons. COVID made me think that a Hamptons birthday in 2020 would be impossible, but God was looking out for me– my friend invited me to the Hamptons for a window of time that included June 26th, my birthday. It was an answered prayer!

One of the interesting things about my birthday this year is that I spent it with a group of people who knew each other, but didn’t know me. In the past, the idea of spending my birthday with a group of strangers would have made me a bit nervous. But this year it felt right.

It’s literally what I asked for and I like to honor when I get what I want, even if it doesn’t come in the exact package I envisioned.

I’ve known for a while that even if I spent my birthday alone, this birthday would feel like a new beginning for me. I feel optimistic and hopeful. I feel happy. I count my blessings more than I count my voids. Spending it with someone I’m very close to while simultaneously holding space for new people in my life felt like the perfect tone for my 2020 birthday.

Swimsuit Top | Bottoms

When I got back to Manhattan last night, I started thinking back to other points in my life when I met new people but I couldn’t be myself, I was uncomfortable being myself or I simply didn’t know how to be myself. Since starting my therapy journey in 2015 I’ve been learning how to sit comfortably in my own skin. Through COVID I’ve come to enjoy my own company. So today I will share my tips on How to be Yourself: 4 Lessons from my Birthday in the Hamptons.

Let’s begin.

Lesson One: Show your vulnerability.

I don’t really want to show anyone the parts of myself that I don’t like — the parts that scare me, make me feel ashamed, embarrassed, or weak. I often worry — What if they don’t like me anymore?

Have you ever felt this way?

During my birthday trip, I had no choice but to be vulnerable. Why?

I have a torn lateral meniscus. The pain in my knee is awful and I can barely walk. Now that I’ve told you, you’ll notice that in all of the adorable Lane Bryant outfits below, I’m balancing on one leg. Augh.

I’m scheduled to have surgery this week, but that meant that I was introduced to new friends when I wasn’t feeling my best. I showed up at less than 100%. I needed lots of help. I couldn’t “earn my keep” by helping run errands or wash dishes. This gave me no choice but to show my weakness and ask for help—yuck! LOL

I believe that It’s important to know the difference between what’s personal and what’s private.

At the end of the day, a knee injury is a personal thing, but it’s not super private. There really wasn’t anything for me to work through but my ego. Once I let that go, I was able to receive all of the warm love and care from the hostess and her friends. I’d just met them but they understood my situation (her husband went through the same thing!). When the guys offered to carry my bags around and help me up the stairs, I let them help me and I was grateful. When the girls asked if  I wanted more wine from the kitchen, I let them help me and I was grateful. I was weak, I let everyone else be strong for me and we got to know each other on a level that was more real. What a gift.

Related: How to be Vulnerable

Lesson Two: Get in touch with your inner child.

 

If you ever watch children, you will notice that they are all phone snatchers. Yooooo I thought it was just my baby cousins, but it’s like all kids? They just butter you up until you’re charmed enough to give them your phone. It’s hilarious! You’ll also probably feel just how free kids can be and how little they care about what other people think of them. I remember feeling like that and it was the best haha. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching during COVID and I have to admit that in the five years it took for me to get theCURVYcon off the ground. I stopped laughing as much as I used to. We had some really great kids with us in the Hamptons. I loved how they woke up each day on a mission to have a good time. They wanted to crack jokes, play games and eat yummy food. Period! I found myself feeling inspired.

If I am truly the kind of girl  who is confident in herself, her future and the future of the women around her. That confidence means that I can take more time to laugh, play and be silly… everything is going to be okay.

As a kid all I wanted to do was laugh. Life was a blast and I was here for every minute of it. Then life started to happen– rejection, heartbreak, racism. Somewhere along the line I became a little less care-free. If you go to my About Page you’ll see a photo of me when I’m four years old and we just moved from an apartment to a house (with a pool!) I remember when my parents made sure I always felt like everything would be okay– what a gift.

I remember who I got to be when I was care-free and I’m trying to hold space for her too.

Lesson Three: Express Yourself

I’m an introverted extrovert.

It can be complicated to find the balance between exchanging energy with others and recharging on my own.

As I’ve grow more and more confident about what makes me, a unique individual, I’ve been blessed to find creative outlets that validate these characteristics. Think about it—I started my career as an anonymous blogger who never showed her face to her thousands of fan-friends. That sounds like a textbook introvert/extrovert move to me, what do you think? haha

At the very least, find platforms where you can freely express yourself and your individuality.

Want to express yourself through style? Post your outfits on instagram.

Want to be a chef? Share your recipes on Pinterest.

Want to the world to hear your thoughts and opinions? Start a blog.

I want to be a person of integrity who makes impact and income. Since 2015, that’s what I’ve been doing and that’s how I support myself as a single girl in the most expensive city in the world (while keeping my monthly spa appointment!). This worked for me for two reasons: first, I was able to exercise expressing who I was as a person; second, I accidentally put myself to the test. I eventually found ways to flesh out my defining traits as I saw them and see if I was right. This is how I figured out that I’m 51% creative and 49% business. Everyday I’m learning what comes naturally to me and what doesn’t. What I need to cultivate more of in myself and what I need to hand off to someone else. This way when I am in a group of strangers I don’t find myself trying to be anything but who I already know myself to be.

One of the fun ways I express myself is through my personal style.

What do you think of these Lane Bryant looks from the Americana collection?

Dress | Sandals (this is a terrycloth sleep dress from Lane Bryant, but I turned it into a cover-up)

Striped Shorts | Sandals | Sunglasses (I almost sized up in these shorts, but the size 18 was fine– true to size)

 

Swimsuit Top | Bottoms (I was in a pool at a house in the hamptons, just as I dreamed… I feel so happy!)

Top | Skirt  (this skirt is soooo cute to me, I’m obsessed! I sized down and got a 14/16, I loved the way it fit. No pockets, but I didn’t mind. Funny story: My friends and the kids went to get Ice-Cream, but I couldn’t walk that far so I waited on a park bench for them to get back. I took this photo by leaning my phone on the corner of a park bench, using a timer and standing on one leg (LOL). I told myself I could try three times to get a good photo this way. I got this shot on the second try! p.s. Can you guess what kind of ice-cream I got? I’m sharing the flavor on my instagram right now.

 

Top | Midi Skirt | Sandals

I had planned to give you lots of outdoor looks, but with my knee I just couldn’t. The house where we stayed was so gorgeous,  lovely and spacious. As you can imagine, I was very intentional about how much I was hobbling around. It took a lot out of me! Anyway, here are a few other outfits that I wore during my time away. COVID has made me less rigid about how my photos look. Taking photos on my cell phone instead of hiring a photographer is saving me a TON of money, so I probably won’t go back to shooting with a professional photographer unless a brand wants to pay for it. Thank you for being so understanding.

Shirt | Jeans

Bralette | Leggings One of the kids I was with made espresso for us in the morning– so cute!

Top | Jeans

Top & Bottoms Set I have been in a red nails phase for weeks now! I noticed that Beyonce always has red nails a lot too. What color are you rocking on your nails right now?

Shirt | Dress Please note– this is not a smize, it is a grimace– ouch! Have you ever torn your lateral meniscus?

Top | Jeans I am IN LOVE with this top! It is a true wrap top, so if you’re smaller up top and bigger on the bottom, keep that in mind, there’s very little give. You may want to size up.

Bonus Lesson: Don’t be afraid to change.

These are interesting times to make new friends.

I’ve always had a diverse friend group. I want to keep a diverse friend group, so that isn’t going to change. But I am changing how I show up in my relationships as a black girl. I grew up feeling like I had to keep my black experience a secret from my white friends. Now as I make new friends who don’t look like me, I’m trying to be more open about what it’s like to live in my skin. Thankfully, the easier it is for me to sit comfortably in my own skin, the easier it is for me to invite others to share that space with me when I feel comfortable.

I was listening to Tarana J. Burke on Brene Brown’s podcast. Ms. Burke taught me in that episode that “two opposing things can both be true.” Just because you believe in one thing doesn’t mean you can’t believe in another.

I’m open to the possibility of having different, even conflicting views and still being able to love, laugh, play and enjoy life with good people. I don’t think that conflict is always a bad thing.

As I continue to meet new people, the conflict is how I will know that my friend groups are truly diverse– should be interesting!

Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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