My thoughts were vodka;
filtering and filtering
before I let them out of me.
I wasn’t being me.
You weren’t seeing me.
You had superiority,
You were simply
but now I know better.
Vodka Thoughts – Expressing Ourselves can be Hard
It can be hard to express our inner thoughts and needs. Confrontation is especially hard.
Sometimes it seems like disagreeing or starting an argument with someone is the absolute worst thing that could happen, at least for me. It doesn’t feel socially acceptable. And we tend to forget that there are ways to express ourselves without being aggressive (although we certainly don’t have to).
Some of us have trouble expressing our disagreement because we don’t want to cause any lasting issues and we’re afraid we will. In relation, some of us have trouble expressing any thoughts at all because we fear someone might judge them or dislike what they hear. I have trouble with both.
And I know now that if I feel like my relationship with someone might end over one disagreement, I probably shouldn’t be in that relationship (whether it’s friendly or romantic).
But, I’ve still always had this fear inside of me that whoever I was around might be too put off by what I was doing or saying to choose to be around me. And that feeling hurts on the surface, especially when you don’t understand it. So it’s always been hard for me to express myself to people, especially when I don’t agree with them.
In those instances, I can feel the thoughts flowing from my head to my mouth, but they really just won’t come out.
Why Can’t I Just Speak Up?
Since I’ve been feeling this way for so long, I’ve also been trying to figure out why I’ve been feeling this way for so long. Here’s what I’ve learned.
My caution when it comes to disagreeing or expressing myself comes from insecurity, but it’s much deeper than that.
It comes from insecurities that stem from infectious systems of oppression we all adhere to and experience in different ways on a daily basis. And here’s the kicker…
We all have them! Granted, we all have different variations and severities of these insecurities. That’s because we all have different experiences and intersections.
And if you’ve never heard of Kimberlé Crenshaw and Intersectionality, you need to leave this page right now and go Google her and it.
Layers of Oppression Cause Fear and Insecurity
Once you do, you’ll understand that we all experience different layers of oppression based on the different systems of oppression that are set in place.
For example, I am insecure because I base my self-worth on the standards provided to me by systems of oppression including White Supremacy, Patriarchy and Capitalism.
This means I essentially base my worth on how much money I have, how many hours per week I work, the color of my skin, how my hair looks, how put-together I look, how educated I am, what kind of car I drive, what kind of neighborhood I live in, how much hair is on my body, and what other people think about me in general.
As a result, and because my experiences have reflected that I need to abide by these standards to be successful, I have trained myself to push my own needs and values so far down into me that they barely come up if I pull on them as hard as I can (figuratively).
And I only realized all of this once several passionate, mindful, genius black women taught me to recognize my white, able-bodied, straight, cis privilege in this world. I will provide some recommendations for resources on these privileges and who you can follow to help unpack them at the end of this post.
But once I realized I was doing a terrible job of listening to and standing up for others, I realized it was because I wasn’t listening to or standing up for myself or my values either.
I didn’t even know how to. Hell, I didn’t even know what my values were. And therein lies the problem.
When we don’t listen to our inner self, when we fight cognitive dissonance by ignoring our own values, needs and the needs of others instead of listening, learning and making changes, we can end up with vodka thoughts.
How Do We Express Vodka Thoughts?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one way to fix this problem and express ourselves freely once we’ve trained ourselves to abide by these infectious systems. And if there is, I certainly don’t have the answer.
But things like talk and cognitive behavioral therapy, spiritual practices, physical fitness and medication may all be helpful methods.
In addition, unpacking our inner racial biases (as well as other biases based on other systems of oppression) can help us identify and unpack our problem areas. This way, we can express and support ourselves while authentically listening to and supporting those who deserve to have their voices heard.
And here are a couple little things that might help, that have helped me.
- Be more aware of the thoughts you suppress and try to identify why you’re suppressing them. Who or what taught you to suppress that thought and why?
- Hint: always consider capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy and ask yourself if one of those systems is encouraging you to suppress your thoughts. Google them if you have to.
- How do you measure your self-worth?
- This is important. Establish your own values. What makes someone a valuable person in your opinion? Then ask yourself, are you abiding by those values? If not, whose values are you abiding by and why? Are you valuable in your own opinion?
Once you have asked and answered these questions, practice saying your thoughts out loud or writing them down to start. When you notice yourself holding thoughts in, push them out with all of your might, in whatever way possible.
Fight the systems holding you back, unpack your privilege and commit to being better every day. Here are some resources to do so:
Black Women to Follow Right Now
I will be adding to this list, but for now, follow and pay these women!
Speaker, Author, Educator and Activist Catrice M. Jackson
Catrice sells comprehensive books and teaches anti-racism training all around the country. Get one of her books today to start understanding how you (and we’ve all) been indoctrinated by white supremacy and how to unpack all of what comes with that. Check out her site here for training dates and/or to buy a book! You can also follow her on Instagram here: @Catriceology
Author, Speaker and Expressive Writing Mentor Leesa Renee Hall
Leesa will help you unpack your privilege while also helping you understand your insecurities and learn how to finally speak up. She uses expressive writing mainly. If you haven’t been to her site, get there! She also sells books and makes videos. She is all around amazing. Buy her books and check out her article on #ExpressiveWriting Prompts to Use If You’ve Been Accused of #WhiteFragility #SpiritualBypass or #WhitePrivilege. Also, follow her on Instagram: @LisaReneeHall
Writer, Speaker and Community Organizer Tamela J. Gordon
Tamela is an amazing writer, speaker community organizer and one of the most authentic humans I’ve ever met. She will tell you like it is every single time. Tamela has taught me so much I don’t know how I can ever truly thank her. But I am currently subscribed to her Patreon page, which you should be too. Subscribe to her Patreon page here to help her continue making space for black women with her writing, speaking and organizing. Also follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @SheWritesToLive
Author and Speaker Layla Saad
Layla’s work needs to be read by everyone, but especially white women working in the spiritual community. She used to engage a community full of spiritual white women…until she began realizing how truly toxic the white, spiritual world can be for black women, indigenous women and other women of color. Now, she’s created a white supremacy workbook that’s FREE to download. If you don’t take advantage of this, you’re silly. But also, subscribe to Layla’s Patreon, buy her books follow her on Instagram:
Does anyone else have vodka thoughts?
Leave me a reply in the comments and let’s talk about it.