Personal: Representation and Mental Health

Because of the new year, I took some time to reflect on my accomplishments, who I was growing into as a person, and what I wanted later in life. I could pat myself on the back because I had finally learned to separate my self worth from my professional life, ie, letting go of the self belief that I was only as good as what kind of work I was doing or art I was making.

I think this kind of rhetoric is common in creatives, and we call it imposter syndrome but sometimes it’s just racism, classism, and ableism, and any other -isms holding us back from our potential. But now more than ever, marginalized artists are working to combat what keeps us pigeon held, through a variety of ways, but with a huge focus on the big R, Representation in media.

As my career starts to elevate, I’m much more visible to the masses and because of that, I am the representation that I was dying to see as a lil’ chubby brown girl growing up, and for that I am so proud. But I’d be lying if I said that there hasn't been a dark side, even with positive representation that I get to dictate myself for the most part. As I coach myself out of reading comments under IG posts or articles of features done on me, or digital media I’m in, the stress of acknowledging other people’s thoughts, as insignificant or nasty as they might be, took a toll on my self - esteem. It has been challenging to keep my mental health afloat in the name of “Representation” because as a marginalized person who is very visibly “othered” in society, there’s a thin line between admiration and objectification by the society that has othered you.

By that I mean, it’s hard to distinguish between the feeling of finally being seen and included, and the feeling of being on display like a zoo animal for profit…to put it bluntly.

Thankfully I have a support system and healthy coping mechanisms to deal and keep going, because it would be such a shame to waste the talent I have if I let others’ opinions bother me to the point of quitting showbiz altogether. Most importantly, I keep in mind that even as talented and artistic and blah blah blah as I am, none of that sets the value of my worth as a person, because I do. Is this a brand new concept that’s still so foreign to me and I still have to intentionally implement it into my daily life because I’m not a perfect person? Of course, and I would tell anyone reading this who feels the same, to have patience with themselves as they learn to protect their mental health while navigating their professional lives.