“Do Your Own Work”: Protecting My Magic While Dating

I wrote a blog a few months ago called, Over-Extended & Under-Appreciated: Learning to Let Go of Difficult Relationships, where I outlined how I had begun to identify problematic relationships and let go. This piece introduced a Buddhist concept, Habit Energy. To recount: We receive seeds from our ancestors, family, friends, and others within proximity and store them in our sub-conscious. The seeds hold the habit energies that impact our seeing, feeling, and behaving; habit energy determines how we will interpret and interact with the world.  As a Black woman socialized in systems of whiteness and patriarchy, I developed negative habit energies, which caused me to put myself, my needs, and my desires second in my relationships. Or simply put, I was a habitual “Pick Me.” 


For the past 2.5 years, I’ve engaged in a variety of healing praxis (i.e. counseling, group therapy, sista circles, exercise, meditation, mindfulness) to shift my habit energies toward a deeper level of Emotional Intelligence. These practices have positively contributed to my health/wellness, sense of belonging/purpose, ability to exercise discernment, and overall level of life-satisfaction. But I’d be a full-blown liar if I didn’t mention how tempting it is to relapse into old, negative Pick Me habit energies. Girl, these energies sometimes have me thinking, "I can't expect everyone to be emotionally mature;" "I have to meet people where they are because I started out somewhere;" "With a little help (e.g. readings, planning, workshops), they would be perfect." Nah Sis, these "Pick Me" energies will have you out here lowering your standards and forgetting your worth. Worst comes to worst... We will become a pawn in some else's healing process.

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The paradoxical part of all of this is that I am genuinely attracted to resilient people. I think there is something intrinsically beautiful about people who have survived and continue to navigate their trauma. There is a realness, an authenticity that is only known, understood, and appreciated by people who have survived their own fair share of trauma. There is comfort in knowing that life has thrown them punches, but they’re Rocky Balboa, and it’s round 12.   I feel closer, more connected and in some ways, I see my journey reflected in theirs.

BUT HERE IS THE GAG, people rarely become resilient!  Now granted, they may “bounce back” from trauma and adversity. They might find employment, move to a different city, go back to school, and even become well-functioning members of society. However, if they didn't do the work to heal from trauma, then their “resiliency” is simply measured by the things they have accumulated, rather than by the wealth of emotional intelligence. If we were to take these possessions away, who would these individuals be? Hurt People.

Let us be reminded that “HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE.”

Hurt people are often attracted to our magical healing energy, but it is up to us to protect this energy because they will take as much as you allow.  Understand, we must be VERY intentional about protecting this magic. If we are not intentional then our old “Pick Me” habit energies will creep in and toss our magic like confetti on Superbowl Sunday.


So, I’ve been grappling with the following questions: How do I maintain my own healing, while dating with people who haven’t even begun theirs? How do I reframe from being too invested and giving too much of myself to people who don’t want to help themselves or don’t even know that they need to help themselves in the first place?


I don’t have all the answers, but here are my knowings, learnings, and understandings:

1. There is no inherent prize for being a “Pick Me.” Sis, this took me too long to figure out.  I vividly remember googling child custody law to figure out how ex could get his kids back or silencing my own feelings while he cried on my shoulder after his baby mama stole thousands of dollars from his bank account. Girl, I was trying to be his “rock”, and I was still dispensable. #NiceForWhat

2. People can’t love us, if they don’t love themselves. On Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B said, “You even got me trippin', you got me lookin' in the mirror different thinkin' I'm flawed because you inconsistent.”  I’ve found myself up at night internalizing other people’s flaws when it really didn’t have anything to do with me in the first place. If someone tells you, "It's not you; it's me." BELIEVE THEM! This isn't some platitude extended to you to spare your feelings, but rather to illuminate their own cognitive dissonance.


3. We can only do our own work.  We can’t make others do their emotional work, and we can’t do it for them.  I used to feel obligated to help people heal, even if they didn’t realize that they needed healing.  However, this is taxing because we can’t make folks love themselves, just like we can’t make them love us. We need to realize that we are not the champion of other's internal conflicts nor should we labor to help them figure it out. And further… we need to be especially careful dating Black men who don’t want to pay for therapy because that’s how we get used as a mechanism in someone’s healing or lack thereof.

4. Set some boundaries and mind our damn business. Now, earlier I mentioned that we get the seeds that carry our habit energies from our ancestors and family (i.e. our grandmas, mommas, aunties, and/or maternal kinfolk). As Black women, we’re always concerned with the welfare of our community.

I remember playing outside with new kids on the block. When dinner was ready my mom—who did not know these kids—would yell in her thick New Orleans accent, “Dinner ready! Hey, baby you hungry? Come inside and get yourself something to eat. Where do you live? You want to take some food home?”

Black women are always looking out for the well-being of others, but how long can we feed a community until we run out food in the pantry? Let’s not forget to stock our own shelves and help where we can—only if it’s worth it.


I’m not proposing that we ignore people who are suffering. I'm suggesting that we recognize that LIFE IS SUFFERING, and folks begin their path of healing at their own pace and time.  I’m also suggesting that we establish boundaries, so that we can protect our magical healing energy.  No more compromising our healing to save hurt people, who don't want to do their own damn work!

-Natasha M. Lee