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“I don’t owe you nothing”…but actually, you do.

Y’all... listen- if you went to middle school and high school in Brooklyn, NY, congratulations. You made it. It wasn’t easy at all. Not just academically but also socially. In Brooklyn (as in many other inner cities), being soft and emotional is characterized as a sign of weakness. It made one the target of bullying and less protected on and off school grounds. Growing up, I tried my best to play the NY tough girl. Had scheduled fights after school with girls from the other public school down the street. Skipped class to sit in the stairway with friends. Literally acted a fool in class to make my peers laugh (I know some off y'all might read this and be shocked). Yet at the end of every day, I was exhausted because I was trying to personify someone that was not me. In reality, I was a Brooklyn girl with big emotions. I didn’t want to fight anybody…I actually wanted to hug it out. I never wanted to skip class; I just wanted to be in the front row with an apple for my teacher.

Had I not recognized sooner that this tough girl mentality would only sabotage my relationships with people and leave me stuck in a place of immaturity and self-centeredness, I would have been an entirely different person. I would not have taken trauma healing work seriously. I wouldn’t be a psychologist. I wouldn’t be so in tune with my emotions and with other people’s emotions. Instead, I would have been on my “I don’t owe you anything” flow.

Let me just say that I absolutely HATE that statement and that it is rooted in this toxic, individualistic culture that we’ve got going on in America. When my ex and I broke up, my aunt said to me, “that boy don’t owe you a thing,” and I almost believed her for a moment. But he did owe me. He owed me answers. An apology. Shit…maybe even a hug. When someone has caused harm to you, whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually, they took something from you and you need that something back. What bothers me even more are people who try to let time go by just to avoid giving someone what they owe them. Why? Why do we do that? Why must we be so prideful?

I believe that our “I don’t owe you nothing” mentality is the reason why many of us are unsuccessful and unsatisfied with relationships. This is why we aren’t collectively healing. We focus more on our reputation (e.g., being viewed as soft) than on the damage we may have done to someone with our words and actions. I owed someone an apology a few weeks ago and let me tell y'all…it was not easy. This required me to literally put myself in this person’s shoes and visualize the harm I’ve done. Do you know how difficult that is? It can make you feel like a shitty person. But nothing would make you feel more shittier than if you did not give someone what you owe them...If you are a decent human being at least.

So what if they did something to you and have not yet apologized? When they go low…sometimes it feels right to go lower (Lord knows I can go low sometimes), but go high. Heal yourself and heal others. Owning up to your actions does not make you weak; it shows that you are growing. And I am so proud of you for that. I see you!!

I challenge you to take some time to reflect. How can you be a better person in this world? Is there someone that you owe? Do you have some phone calls to make or text messages to send? Well, go right ahead. You are doing something powerful.

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