The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
Dr. Donna Oriowo, M.Ed, MSW, CST joins me again this week to discuss the rise in self proclaimed “relationship experts” and why we should be careful in selecting who we listen to. We chatted about who gets the privilege of amassing large platforms to “teach” Black women about what they need to do to be in relationships, why these teachings are often dangerous and damaging, how to disconnect our sense of worth from our relationship status, and why you are the only one who can ever be an expert on your relationship.
Visit our Amazon Store for all the books mentioned on the podcast!
Where to Find Dr. Oriowo
Grab a copy of Cocoa Butter & Hair Grease
Listen to Dr. Oriowo here on Session 60 of the podcast discussing colorism and texturism.
Listen to Dr. Oriowo here on Session 159 of the podcast discussing Molly’s return to therapy.
Listen to Dr. Oriowo here on Session 158 of the podcast discussing Issa & Lawrence’s relationship.
Listen to Dr. Oriowo here on Session 155 of the podcast discussing Molly & Issa’s friendship.
Listen to Dr. Oriowo here on Session 151 of the podcast discussing the Season 4 premiere of Insecure.
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Session 201: Vetting Your Relationship Advice
Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 201 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll dive into the episode right after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: Like many of you, I have been paying attention to my timelines this past week, watching the story unfold as it relates to self-proclaimed relationship expert, Derrick Jaxn. And I felt a rant forming in my spirit so, of course, I had to invite Dr. Donna Oriowo back to chat with me all about it. In case you've missed her before, Dr. Oriowo is an author, international speaker and certified sex and relationship therapist in the Washington D.C. metro area. She's the owner of AnnodRight that specializes in working with black women on issues related to colorism and texturism and its impact on mental and sexual health. She's also the author of Cocoa Butter & Hair Grease: A Self Love Journey Through Hair and Skin.
Dr. Oriowo and I chatted about who gets the privilege of amassing large platforms to teach black women about what they need to do to be in relationships, why these teachings are often dangerous and damaging, how to disconnect our sense of worth from our relationship status, and why you are the only one who can ever be an expert on your relationship. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: I'm so glad that you are back with us today, Dr. Oriowo. It has been a minute, but always on time for you to join us for yet another lively conversation, I am sure.
Dr. Oriowo: You’re making me feel like I'm related to Jesus: always on time.
Dr. Joy: Always on time! I am sure you, like the rest of us, have been paying attention to all of what has been going on on social media this past week related to Derrick Jaxn and his shenanigans. So we are going to kind of talk, not specifically necessarily about all the stuff going on with him, but I think more of like what he represents. The first question I have for you, and this is a question Cindy and I have been noodling on this whole week: Are you able to think of any black woman who has the same level of a platform to dispense “dating and relationship advice” that is comparable to his?
Dr. Oriowo: My goodness. You’ve gone and asked the question now and I'm thinking... No, I can't readily think of... I mean, unless you want to talk about all the trash that's out there. I mean, I guess we can go Kevin Samuels.
Dr. Joy: But a black woman.
Dr. Oriowo: Oh, black woman?
Dr. Joy: Right.
Dr. Oriowo: No.
Dr. Joy: Right, right?
Dr. Oriowo: I really... Wow!
Dr. Joy: Right, so we have been thinking on this for several...
Dr. Oriowo: I thought I knew. Not on that level, definitely not on that level.
Dr. Joy: No. We have been thinking about this for several days and I feel like this is a huge part of the concern. Is that it definitely feels like there is something to how men are able to gain a sizable platform to share uncredentialled, not-sure-where-it-comes-from information that, frankly, feels incredibly exploitive of black women in particular.
Dr. Oriowo: Oh, absolutely. I mean, number one, completely absolutely. And I think it's sort of like you know how they talk about like dads and they're like, “Oh, you know, he's doing her hair and he's taking care of the babies, he's taking them out, he’s going places with them. He’s feeding them, he’s dressing them, he’s doing all the things... Oh, my goodness, I can't believe it. Go ahead, dad.” It's sort of like that. Men do the mundane and get the praise.
Now, I'm not saying that taking care of your kids is the mundane, but no one is praising mothers for doing it because it's like, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do. So a man who then is having conversation about relationships when it's women who have been taught to aspire to relationships, and now brings in this whole other thing of “Oh my gosh, look at this man. He's talking to us about aspiring for relationships and what not to take from nobody.” So then it becomes like, oh my gosh, let's lift him up, let's make him into a celebrity. Despite the fact that he's really just saying some of the same basic things that anybody else would have already told you, and probably not even saying it to the same level that other relationship gurus out there (who are never on the same level) get to say it.
Dr. Joy: Yes. So I want to scale back to your point around the ways that women are groomed to want relationships and marriage in a way that men typically are not. Can you say more about that?
Dr. Oriowo: I mean, from the time that we're young, we're given these beautiful baby dolls. I don't know about you, but my baby dolls was white until they weren't. But, you know, you get these baby dolls, we're taught to be nurturers, we're groomed to be nurturers, we're groomed to be nice. That boys will be boys but girls will accommodate boys that will be boys. It is our way and our nature to practice being nice (not kind, but nice) to perform the niceties in a way that allows other people to think well or highly of us because of the ways that we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others.
So we're already groomed in that way. We're groomed to take care of other people and we're certainly socialized toward aspirations of marriage, of children, of having a family, because this is also how we're taught that we will find our worth. Our worth lies in our ability, especially for those who are heterosexual or having hetero performative relationships, that our job is to aspire to having a masculine or male partner, who will then be the reason why we have now found our value. It is the reason why despite what a woman achieves, the congratulations really come when she's getting married. It will really come when she's having a child (really when she’ll have her first one) but they don't really care after that. They just want you to follow the norm.
The norm or the tropes that have been laid out to say: Okay, first you went to school, now you met your man. Now that you got your man, you got married to your man. So now you’ve won your man. You have the ultimate prize in hand, now go ahead and make some babies and your life is complete. You have now done everything that this life has taught young girls, women and adult women, to sort of do in order to show that they are a valuable functioning piece of society that we should now look to as someone who can be seen as a full and complete person. Because a woman is never complete without a man and a kid.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and it just really saddens me that in 2021, in some ways I feel like this conversation has moved forward, and in some very significant ways it feels like it hasn't. I think the idea or the evidence of a Derrick Jaxn and a Kevin Samuels gives us proof that we really have not gone that far with this conversation.
Dr. Oriowo: Oh, no, not at all, especially when you think about the various iterations. Steve Harvey and his cheating self also wrote a book.
Dr. Joy: I feel like in a lot of ways that was the beginning of all of this.
Dr. Oriowo: I'm just like, I had no idea whether or not it's the beginning, but certainly he's got to make plenty of money and movie rights for creating something that tells women how to behave in order to get a man. It's the funniest thing you ever did hear.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. And I think that the next part...
Dr. Oriowo: Steve Harvey, you ain’t been faithful.
Dr. Joy: The next part of the question is, where are these conversations and workshops and books targeted towards men? And I'm sure it goes back to your earlier points around how women are groomed in this world, but you never see this same kind of marketing and audience for men to be having these conversations.
Dr. Oriowo: Absolutely not. I mean, number one, it's almost like it would be moot, right? Because men are already taught that they're independent individuals who need nothing from no one in order for them to gain personhood. They already have everything that they already needed so what is it that you're really going to tell a man to go do other than to get a good job, and make sure he got money in the bank? Because that's what helps make a man.
A man is made a man by the money in his wallet and the girl on his arm but he doesn't necessarily need to be faithful, he doesn't necessarily need to have a good woman. He just needs to mostly just bed people. Like, who can you pull? What kind of clout do you have? What does your wallet allow you, what do your looks allow you, to be able to purchase into? It's like, I make money so that I can get the most beautiful girl that I can get. Which usually means that they're going toward the lightest-skinned trophy wife that they can acquire for themselves because this is how you show that you have worth to other people.
Usually, men are trying to prove it to other men. It’s not even about showing their worth to women at large. It's like nah, see me as being a powerful individual being and let me show you how I've been able to do that by having this girl on my arm because of my wallet looking like this. It sort of looks like trading one commodity for the next: you get the money so that you can get the girls that you want so that you can show other men that you are a powerful individual. Their script has already been written as well. This is why I say patriarchy.
Especially white supremacist capitalistic patriarchy, it doesn't actually serve anybody because they're pigeon holed as far as what their worth looks like in the eyes of other men (and thus what they're able to sort of do within the trajectory of their own lives) but our boats are tied to theirs. So really, everybody involved is living a real pick me life. Pick me, choose mem love me. We are all in that space of, okay, but women in particular–how can I dangle just right to get chosen so that I can show other people that I have value? And men are like, I need to show them that I made it, and how do I showed them I made it? Is by having the baddest bitch I can have on my arm.
Dr. Joy: It’s just so sad because, like you're saying, it really is limiting? Like, what else could we be doing in our lives if we did not have to feed into this kind of a society?
Dr. Oriowo: Yeah, can you imagine? I think that what I see is every now and then you see these beautiful bright stars, these gems, these people who are living their life on their terms and they just light up the room. It’s like I’m like, wow, you light it up. And most people are not living in that space but when you are basking in the orbit of that person's glow, you feel like you can do anything. And I just imagine, considering that people are generally still living pretty good lives, what would your life look like if you were really living and allowed that glow from your inner self to shine out? Instead of feeling like you have to hide pieces of who you are, put them away or otherwise, you know, be less than what you are in order to make it in this world.
What would you actually do? Like if you were able to be just you, as you are, without worrying about judgement or without worrying about all these other pieces, who could you actually be? And it's just sad to see that so many people are not being themselves and that there's this huge disconnect between the them that they present to the world and the them they are privately. Sort of like it’s Johari’s Window all over again. Your public self is just a persona that you put on for the benefit of others, whereas your private self is what you hide because you're worried that the public opinion won't support who you are.
Dr. Joy: Yes.
Dr. Oriowo: And that right there, it’s a whole sadness. And this whole Derrick Jaxn thing is a huge sadness and a moment for multiple people to check themselves.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. Yeah, so the word that you used to describe at least a part of the situation was predatory. Your feelings toward things that have happened. So can you say more about what was predatory in your opinion?
Dr. Oriowo: I’m just like, well, this is the predatory nature and this is something that *[inaudible 0:15:14] has also said. That, you know, like it's predatory for a whole thing, a whole system, to be built off the insecurities that they build in women from the time we are small to the time that we grow up. To now say not only do you not look good and you should change that, but here's also how you need to behave in order to get a partner. And now people are making millions and billions of dollars. Full industries are made off the backs of the insecurities that they've given to women, so people are lining their pockets from you feeling like shit. And this guy, I'm not necessarily saying whether or not he's different or not, but this idea that a man should then continue to tell you how to behave in order to get a man... Like him, presumably, right?
Dr. Joy: Right.
Dr. Oriowo: And then he turns out not to be the man that you thought he was. He himself has also been a person lacking in integrity. Now, I would like to preface this by saying that we do live in a beautiful pluriverse and the idea of the pluriverse is that multiple truths can hold space at the same time. So I can draw the number six: you stand on one side, I stand on one side, I see six, you see nine. Neither of us are wrong; we just don't have the perspective of the other. And I'm prefacing it this way because there's also this other piece of me that is just like, and Derrick Jaxn is not your man. He didn't owe you fidelity in his relationship in order for him to teach you anything. And just because he was cheating *[inaudible 0:16:48] for however long he was a cheating *[inaudible 0:16:51], it does not mean then that what he has to say was completely invalid.
Because I've watched some of his videos in the past and I'm like, you know what, he still had good points. A broken clock is still right twice a day. I'm like just because he turned out to be unfaithful to his wife, it does not mean then that you got to throw everything he ever said away, because some of it may still hold value for you. I think it's mostly remembering that he ain't your man. He didn’t owe you fidelity. He owed his wife fidelity, he owed her faithfulness; he didn’t owe you faithfulness. His whole job is to teach you what he can teach you and you take from it what is yours and you leave whatever is not yours. But he doesn't really owe anybody anything other than his wife. I'm like, so there's that one, right?
On the other end of some of that stuff, I'm like, yes. I'm *[inaudible 0:17:48] for comments on his own video the way that he... I was like, dude. But I also see how we do that in our own day, in our own daily lives. So sometimes when we say something that we sometimes intended to say but it came out weird or awkward and there's that awkward silence, people continue to dig the hole by not shutting up. They try to fix it by keep talking. And it's just like, man, you’re just putting your foot in your mouth. Shut up. This could be that situation where it's just like, dang. He is watching the ship that he has built (on the insecurities of women) sink, and he is trying to rebuild his boat as quickly as he can. He's trying to sell his book on infidelity, he’s trying to keep the people on board. He is trying to show that “See, I can also look at myself, I can also make fun of myself, I can also critique myself in this moment,” but it didn't come off well.
I think that that was a moment where he could have taken several *[inaudible 0:18:59], took some time to reflect and just kept it pushing, but he just kept putting his foot in his mouth. And I think that that's something that people are wont to do. We do that often and just because we saw it play out on social media doesn't mean that we don't also do it. I think that what it means is that when it happens on social media, we forget that people are people and we stop having any empathy or any sympathy for all the emotions that may come up when something like this happens.
Dr. Joy: More from Dr. Oriowo after the break.
Dr. Joy: The other point that I was really struck by... and it wasn't just in this situation. We see it often when a man has been unfaithful to his partner that the female partner will be dragged into the situation to sit next to them while they share their contrition, or lack thereof in some cases. And that, to me, just really is in such poor taste because, in my mind, it demonstrates a lack of care. Not only have you embarrassed this person publicly, but now the expectation is that they have to join you in this public declaration of whatever. And so I would just love to hear your thoughts about that. Because, again, we saw that with Derrick but that is not the first time we've seen like a wife or a girlfriend stand next to someone who has been publicly unfaithful.
Dr. Oriowo: I mean, the first thing that came to mind was Hillary Clinton–stand by your man. And just like how often when there is this way of doing things where it's like, okay, I now owe an apology, not just to my wife, but to the public and now my wife has to stand next to me. And how some of it is we have the rhetoric of, you know, you got to stand by your man. And in this moment, in this moment of weakness or in this moment of appearing contrite, that the wife has to stand next to him in order to, number one, help to rebuild him in the eyes of others. To say like “hey, he wronged me and I forgive him so you should also forgive him,” is what it feels like. And at the same time, I agree with you, it demonstrates a lack of care because why do they need to be present in order for you to make your apology?
Look, yes, you wronged her or them or whomever it is that you wronged and you apologize to them. If you're gonna apologize to the public as well, I don't think they need to be there. I think that you can do that on your own and take whatever backlash on your own of whatever it is. Because I feel like in this particular case, it went sideways. People were looking at her and making comments about what she looked like, how she was dressed on camera, and took that to be like, “Well, look, you did it to yourself because look at what you look like.” If this is what you look like, it's no wonder he strayed.
And I feel like oftentimes, when they are in the habit of bringing in their partners, I feel like sometimes it is almost looking for a justification for their wrong behavior. That if their partner does not look as good, that somebody will be able to say like, well look at her. That's why he cheated, he used to post and look like X, Y and Z. And it puts some of that blame back on them. But I think that it's a lose-lose situation because we have such a ride or die narrative specifically for women. That if she wasn't there, people would still have something to say.
Dr. Joy: Right, she still would have been brought into the narrative some kind of way.
Dr. Oriowo: Exactly. I'm like, in that case, it's almost like, well, how do you win? How can you have a real, good, full conversation and understanding of what is without her to tell her side of the story, but why should she also have to parade her pain around in order for you to save face?
Dr. Joy: Right, yeah. And it really is a catch 22 because he is the public figure, not her. And so, like you mentioned earlier, he didn't cheat on the public. Now, of course he had to own up to that when so much of your whole platform is around being the standup guy and more guys should be like you. Of course you're going to have to answer for those questions.
Dr. Oriowo: Excuse me, Mr. Hypocrite.
Dr. Joy: Right, but it wasn't the kind of thing where they both were on camera giving couples advice–it was him. So I can imagine that if this is a very PR move, especially since we have seen it so often, that it looks good for the partner to be there and it's more believable and all of those things... But I think just in terms of thinking about your actual partner, like who you are actually with off camera, that just doesn't, to me, demonstrate any care for the relationship or how they might be feeling in that moment.
Dr. Oriowo: Absolutely. It's embarrassing, it’s sad.
Dr. Joy: It’s definitely embarrassing because you have already cheated on me and it's public, and now I have to be on camera for this apology video.
Dr. Oriowo: I’m like, dang, we’re not enough?
Dr. Joy: Like just leave me out of it! I do not want to have to be on camera for this.
Dr. Oriowo: I'm already embarrassed. I've already been hurt by this and now I have to sit here and parade my pain or pretend like it doesn't matter as much, so that now you can apologize to other people who are not me.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm, right. And I definitely think that there is something to be said around agency. Because, of course, we're saying like why does she have to do it? We know of course she didn't have to, but we also don't know the dynamics of the relationship. You know, like what kind of abuse there may or may not be going on? So I think we have to tread very lightly in terms of talking about, well, why would she do it? Because I don't know that we know enough to be able to make a determination about that.
Dr. Oriowo: And we don't. What we do know is that his platform is something that has paid him and that this very well may actually end up impacting their finances, and that that could be a factor. It could be that she simply does actually forgive him and that she is wanting to support him. We have no idea but everyone was speculating based off that video when the hand and the hat and all this other stuff, and the things that she said on the internet and I'm just like, look, we don't know her. And while, I guess speculation is good fun gossip for you, we're forgetting that this is an actual person.
Dr. Joy: An actual black woman.
Dr. Oriowo: An actual woman who is now being attacked by other black people who say that they care about black women. And I'm just like... I don't know, I worry sometimes that we are okay and even look forward to building someone up to watch them fall.
Dr. Joy: Can you say more about that?
Dr. Oriowo: Well, I feel like it's not even just like the Derrick Jaxns per se, but there seems to be this obsession with “Oh yes, let's support black people. Let's support this, let's support that,” but there's also an almost equal obsession with being able to be like, “Oh, look at them, they failed.” Of feeling like, “Oh, well, they got too big for their britches, and they needed to fall. And now this makes me feel better.” And I'm just like, I don't understand why someone else's failure makes you feel better. It didn't put any additional money in your pocket, it didn't give you any additional likes, no one is giving you pats on your back for someone else’s failing. But there does seem to be an obsession with build them up and watch them fall.
I'm looking like it's Jenga, it's a game. And it's something that I can't say that I fully get because I'm like I just want people to succeed. I am all for it. But I think that we get insecure in ourselves and we see someone saying or doing something that we feel like I would say that or I would do that. And instead of just being happy for them, we're sad for us and thus we throw vitriol their way, as though that is going to make you move into the life that you actually want for yourself. I’m like, yeah, you know, that's not how this works.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. So related to how often we see these instances of men bringing out their wives after they have been unfaithful, I also cannot remember any instances of women bringing out their husbands or other male partners when they are confessing.
Dr. Oriowo: People will say he’s a fool. Like why are you staying with her? She cheated on you, you’d better drop her. Because women owe loyalty; men do not.
Dr. Joy: Even public figures.
Dr. Oriowo: Yeah, it's almost like boys will be boys all grown up. Boys will be violent. Boys will be rough and tumble. Boys will be abusive–lightly abusive, emotionally or mentally. I don't know that we are as accepting per se of whop your wife or beat up your girlfriend, except that we seem to be. Because it's like, “Oh, I'm not in that relationship, let me mind my business,” in a way we become passively accepting of that type of behavior. But certainly, boys will be boys and they do not owe loyalty. You know, men will sleep around. They're visual creatures who cannot help themselves, so if someone presents it to them, they’re going to take it. And it moves back into that space of, oh, yeah, boys will be boys.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and even if it doesn't raise the level of cheating, it definitely feels like whenever we see a relationship end, it is often the woman who is under the microscope. So like, what did she do to make this man leave her? Or like what kind of mess did she create that he had to leave?
Dr. Oriowo: Exactly. I mean, look at this thing. Like, we are still talking about Future whenever someone brings up Ciara and her husband Russell. I’m just like he is in her past but he’s still in her future?
Dr. Joy: Oh, my gosh, two whole babies later.
Dr. Oriowo: I’m just like come on. Because there’s this idea that she still belongs to him and that anything that comes after is not really genuine, is not really there. And it sort of continues this idea that women are property of whoever it is that claims them as such, who we have known them to be with. So you are your father's property until such a time that you are with whatever dude you’re with, and then you are his property until he gets rid of you.
Dr. Joy: Yes.
Dr. Oriowo: And even then, you still sort of belong to him because even if you're broken up... There's still like this practice and I've heard this, some of my guy friends, where it's just like, yeah, I had to check with him to make sure it's okay to date her... What! I didn’t know she was property. I’m looking like, they talked for two weeks, please explain. Help me to understand.
But it doesn't make any sense except that women are not seen as full individual consenting beings, capable of making choices for themselves within relationships or outside of them. When you reduce a woman down to what she looks like and how she can benefit men, it then is very easy to follow the logic of, “Well, she belongs to me and while I cheated on her and that's not cool, especially for my platform (which includes women in particular who may be upset with me) that's okay.” Because I'm gonna use my wife to make sure that I still look good in the eyes of the general public. Because if she could forgive me, you should forgive me. Because where's your loyalty as a woman? You’re supposed to be a ride or die.
Dr. Joy: Right. Yeah, that messaging is really ingrained in large and small ways, this whole idea of a ride or die, and it is so problematic and dangerous, I think, in a lot of ways. You know, that it is very often women who just never end up choosing themselves. And so, of course, there will be compromise in a relationship, of course you're not going to always get your way, that is to be expected. But the degradation and the “my needs are never met” is not what a relationship should feel like.
Dr. Oriowo: And you said it, right. To me, it's like is it compromise or are you compromised?
Dr. Joy: Okay, Oprah. Okay. Okay, Oprah!
Dr. Oriowo: A lot of people are not compromising; they're being compromised. It’s not the same. I believe and I’ve said this before and I said this in public space and I know that people give all the side eye in the world... I believe that if you want to settle, there's nothing wrong with settling. That is a compromised. And when you compromise, you're doing it with your eyes open. You know exactly what it is that you value, you know what it is that you need, you know what it is that you want, and you know what it is that you are getting. So you're not wish dating, you're not in a wish relationship, you actually know exactly what it is, where it is, and you're not hoping that someday they'll grow to be something that they're not. You are in this and you know exactly what you're getting. You have chosen to compromise on these things.
When you are compromised, you have now given up essential things that you need for you to function well in the relationships that you are in. You are picking and chipping away at yourself, at your values, at your self-worth, in order for you to maintain a relationship with somebody who's not even worthy of your time. With someone who doesn't choose you in the way that you choose them, with someone who wants power in the relationship to the point that they are willing to do anything it takes to have it, including hurt you. And I’m just like, we learn to want to be in a relationship at the cost of everything else, so many of us are compromised–we have not compromised.
Dr. Joy: Mm hmm. That is a word. Stay tuned for more of my conversation with Dr. Oriowo right after the break.
Dr. Joy: You know, and I feel like there is real value in us having these conversations and I think it goes back to the larger point of relationship gurus and experts. Because I think there is value in people hearing this conversation that we are having now, but I want people to be clear that we are not coming from a place of “we know it all and y'all gotta get in line.” Which is where I think we often miss the boat because I think a lot of times when you see these “gurus,” it is a “You don't know anything. Let me teach you all the ways that you are broken.” And I want so much better for us because we are not broken. We’re not broken.
We are not broken. Are there areas that we all likely want to improve in our lives? Of course, but there is nothing inherently wrong about you that makes you unlovable or unworthy or, you know, people don't want to be in a relationship with you.
Dr. Oriowo: Say it.
Dr. Joy: And I feel like that is what so many of these men build their platforms on and it is just so incredibly hurtful. So I would love to hear you talk about how people can be more, maybe judicious, in terms of like paying attention to what “experts” are sharing. Like how do you know who you should be kind of taking information from and who you might need to be careful around?
Dr. Oriowo: Oh, oh, oh. You said so much.
Dr. Joy: I’ll give you a moment to reflect!
Dr. Oriowo: Okay, so on the one end... So like, before I answer this question, I think that there is a space between being knowledgeable and growing. I think that too many of us are in to this expert role which almost is like we can never be fallible. That we know everything that there is to know. And this is why I have had such resistance. And you know, business coach will say it, that I've had such resistance around using the word expert to describe myself. Because I'm just like expert gives off this air of you know everything and that there's nothing left for you to learn. And I'm just like but I'm still alive and as long as I'm alive, I don't know what I don't know until I know it.
I'm like I'm constantly learning and growing and instead of being the expert that is stagnant, I am someone who I believe is knowledgeable and growing. I’m like a tree is a tree whether it's a sapling or a mighty oak, so I'm like I am somewhere between sapling and big old oak tree. You can't deny that I'm a tree. I am a person that has knowledge in this thing. I have roots in it, I've grown in it, and yet I still have more growing to do. I still have more learning. There's so much more that I can stretch from that.
And if we could allow space for that, we would also remember that people are human beings and that we have not experienced everything that there is for us to know, which means that we can't be fully expert. The only people that can be fully expert are people who have since gone. They've already died. And they can't even tell you, so ha ha. So it means that everyone here that is left is learning and growing. They can only teach you from the knowledge of their own experiences and the knowledge that they've received from books. And that knowledge is constantly changing and evolving. I'm like, come on.
I'm like, didn’t white folks just get put on to like coconut oil like a couple of years ago? I’m like, come on now. There's learning and growing and it's a constant thing and I think that we need to allow space for that. So then how do you know if you're following somebody who is someone good for you to follow? I think usually, for me, it's do you feel like shit after you're done listening to them? And there are so many that you feel like shit when you're done. And if you feel less happy with yourself, then maybe that's not them. That's not the one for you.
Now, there's a difference between feeling shitty because they’ve hit on a truth where it’s like “whoa, they just called me out” and someone whose aim almost feels like it is to hurt your feelings. And I’m like nothing that is said should be that controversial. Where it’s like, well, who are you talking to? I mean because if it comes off like that, then they might not be the person that you need to be following. I would say that you also want to make sure that you're tempering it. Sometimes you don't know it right off the bat, sometimes people are very great at playing nice but not being kind.
Like, I have a deep love of black women. Everything that I say ain't nice. I'm not going to perform the niceties to spare your feelings. I'm going to be kind, and kindness comes with truth but it also comes with how the truth is delivered. My purpose is not to stomp on your feelings and then say “buy my shit to make you grow.” I'm just like, no, I'll give you free advice so you can grow. I'll tell you whatever I can at no cost so you can grow. I'm interested in your growth and your happiness and you living your authentic life, and that doesn't require me to put you down to build you up.
It may be stripping off some of the layers of pretend that you wear and you may feel a little bit naked and exposed. That's called vulnerability. Vulnerability is fine but some of these people out here, they're just aiming to hurt your feelings and then being like, “Alright, and this is how you feel better about yourself.” So I say check in with you. Your inner intuition already knows what it is that you need and knows who is inappropriate for you to be following. That morbid curiosity will kill your self-esteem. Don't forget morbidity is death but we don't need that type of death to our self-esteem.
We have enough haters in the world without purposefully taking that stuff in. Not sharing what they said. Some of that stuff just don't need to be shared. We don't need to give them a platform. Probably just quietly unfollow. You don't even need to tell them, just quietly unfollow. Just go your way because they are not for you. For me, that's the main way. That's the how you know that you might need to check out of whatever shenanigans they’ve got going.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, and I also think it's really important to remember that you are the only one living in your life. So there may be some things that I know because of my training, because of my work with clients, and just life experience. But ultimately, you are who knows you and your relationship best. So there may be things that you see us share on Instagram, and tips and helpful hints and all of that, but ultimately, it has to be about you kind of digging in. Doing the inner work to know whether that is something that's going to be a good fit for you or not.
Dr. Oriowo: Take what's yours and leave the rest.
Dr. Joy: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I would love for you to maybe talk, Dr. Oriowo, about some things that may help us to kind of untie this connection to worthiness being connected to our relationship status. I know that you do a ton of this work with your clients and with your workbook and all of these ways. Is there something that you can leave us with, perhaps for our Press Pause moment, that might be like a journal prompt or something that people can kind of really reflect on how to do some of this work?
Dr. Oriowo: Absolutely. And I have said this before, but sit down and do a list of 100. 100 things that you want, and do it in one sitting. That is hard, but try your very best to do it in one sitting. Because what you'll find or what I have found, not just through doing it myself–I've done it now twice for myself that it once was my partner. I’ve walked my clients through it, etc., etc., and I'm just like, you know what, when you do this list of 100, some of the first things that come out, probably not even about you. It's almost the things that you want so that people can see you like a whole person or a worthy person or so that you can have your basic needs met. But that stuff that comes later, the stuff you've got to dig for, those are the things that it’s like, oh, now that I have gone through all the layers of other things, the real nitty gritty, these are the things that I want.
And they can be anything. And if you feel like you’ve still got the power to keep going, you keep going. You can go on until you wring that rag dry. So if that means you go beyond 100, you go beyond 100. Taking that sit down and really writing out those 100 things that you want. Not you want for others, not what you want for your mom, the same way that people come to therapy talking about some “well, they need to be in therapy, but they're not.” I’m like, no, no, no, let’s come back to you. What is it that you want?
Sitting down and really taking the time to consider what it is that you want also gives you... I think it gives you an honest list so that you're able to take a good look around at your life. And know what of the things that you said you want do you actually already have, and what are the things that are taking you in the opposite direction? It allows for a beautiful amount of reflection.
Dr. Joy: Yes. So this may be more than one journal pages of activity. I love it. Thank you so much for that. Remind us where we can find you all over the web.
Dr. Oriowo: You can find me at DonnaOriowo.com, AnnodRight.com, @AnnodRight on Instagram. You can find me at Dr. Donna Oriowo. My name is kind of distinctive so if you put it in, something should pop up on Facebook, Instagram and on websites.
Dr. Joy: Yes. And do not forget the workbook. That is incredible Cocoa Butter & Hair Grease. Dr. Oriowo has been here talking about colorism and texturism before, but now she has an incredible workbook that I think is a must-have for all sisters and the little sisters in our lives. So definitely grab a copy of that. And we will of course be including all that in the show notes.
Dr. Oriowo: Thank you for plugging the book.
Dr. Joy: Of course. Thank you for always coming back to have these conversations with me. I know I appreciate it as well as the community.
Dr. Oriowo: Well, I hope to be here again.
Dr. Joy: Of course. It's always a pleasure to have Dr. Oriowo join us. To find out more about her work or to grab a copy of her workbook, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.
com/session201. And don't forget to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode right now. Don't forget that if you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.
And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all, real soon. Take good care.