Minding Your Business: The Therapeutic Benefits
Lately, I have been involved in a few conversations that went astray!!! Just to give some background, I use social media as a learning ground. I am in a lot of different groups on Facebook. I get to learn from other social workers, therapists, students, etc. I am learning from various people in all kinds of life stages and I generally find that to be stimulating. My goal and purpose is to be a lifelong learner. I do that by interacting with others in a way that makes me feel comfortable, social media. You know how they talk about people who are internet gangsters? Well, I like to think of myself as an internet anthropologist. I am learning the culture from afar. I like it because I can step away whenever I need to and keep moving forward with my day. I also like that I am able to interact with people from all over the place, within one group. For example, I have learned a lot about ethics and expectations in other states (and countries) because there are so many clinicians from other spaces. I also learned about the dropping of Beyonce’s new album on social media! Oh the things you can learn! But with all this greatness, can come foolishness. Within the various groups, from private practice groups, to social groups; from learning groups, to gossip groups, there are so many people who seem incapable of minding their business. I understand that the phrase “mind your business” does come off as rude, but it can also be effective. It seems from Beyonce and Jay-Z to Drake, from loved ones to lesser acquaintances, there seems to be a collective issue with knowing what business belongs to a person and what business isn’t or shouldn’t be of concern.
For those who are not necessarily “in the know” the phrase Mind Your Business, is a verb, in which the person who has been told is expected to respect someone else’s private matters by refraining from being meddlesome, dropping their 2 cents (thought, opinions, or suggestions). This includes but is not limited to minding your own based on someone's appearance, attitude, situation(s), or other occurrences as defined by the giver of the statement either verbally, through text, or through body language (which includes but is not limited to putting up one hand in your direction, rolling their eyes, or turning away).
There! Now that we have defined what it means to mind your business, we are officially on the same page.
You know how it goes, someone creates a post or comes to you out of some level of “concern” for someone and they are asking how they can/should interact with that or those people in a way to let them know about some very obvious aspect of themselves, that they are really sure NOT to miss. Or they see something in public and want to address someone for something. For the sake of this writing let’s go with the example of having a big afro! So, here this person is with this big beautiful, full, and luscious afro. Now there is a person who wants to let them know about having an afro...like the person wearing the hair doesn’t know. They want to find a way to tell them that they might not be able to get a good job in the current market because their hair lacks the conformity required in corporate America. They want to tell them how they don’t look presentable and how they can come off as militant. This person is saying that they want to approach the Afro wearer but not put them in the position of feeling judged, etc. But what I really hear is that they want to approach someone without being seen as the “bad guy.” My question is why? Why talk to them at all about the implications of a ‘fro that on their head? Are they soliciting your advice, or is this a moment where you think your 2 cents is going to be invaluable?
Minding Your Business as an Exercise in Reflection
Here is the thing, when I am saying mind your business, I truly mean that. I am saying, be reflective of WHY you want to interact with that person about the chosen subject in the way you would like to. I am saying to mind that business because often times when we want to approach someone out of concern, we really want to police someone, their body, and their choices. I get it, truly I do. We often want to do this because we have already policed ourselves according to the definition of others. This is especially true within the context of the Black community. We are constantly shaming others based on what they are doing or not doing, to meet the standards we think we have fallen beneath. Respectability politics abound, and we end up policing ourselves far more efficiently than others.
*Need a list of examples? Check out it out below. *
The questions you should be asking is why it bothers you so much? So, because we wish we would have done better on X, we now make it our crusade to make sure that X is met by everyone else. If we have done a great job of monitoring ourselves, and somehow feel (secretly?) resentful that we are not free, we resent that freedom in others and want to curb it. One of my favorite examples of this is regarding relationships. This weekend I was speaking to one of my very best friends. I have told you I am a Nigerian American. We spoke about the pressures to get married and then ot have children. But then we were also noting that the adults we respected with the most to say, couldn’t even begin to take their own advice. How often has someone been telling you one thing but living their lives in a completely different way? Think about the implications of that. Yes, they may be speaking from their expericine in wanting you to do “better” than they did, but also acknowledge that it can be seen as someone trying to correct the mistakes of their life through yours. If you are able to live for yourself, in the way you want to, you will be more happy in the long run.
Let’s not be threatened by the choices others make. Acknowledge their choices--as much as you can based on what is visible. If you find that you all of a sudden want to give unsolicited advice, pause yourself. Ask yourself where this need to speak to them is coming from and what purpose you are TRULY trying to serve. There may be multiple reasons for having the conversation you want to have, but usually there is THE nugget of truth that will be covered in a bunch of other possibly good reasons, that aren’t your real reason. When you dig, if you find that your own insecurities are fueling your need to have the conversation, continue to mind your business. Don’t bring your insecurities to that person. It is not their responsibility to coddle you and make you feel better while you may be in a quest to make them feel worse. You will not shine any brighter just because you try to dim the lights of others.
If you should find that you really are coming from a place of love with advice, consider if the person needs to hear it and if you are the right person for them to hear it from. Often times, if someone is not talking to you about something, it is because they are talking to someone else about that issue. If you find yourself truly concerned, it may be appropriate to pull them to the side and ASK them if it is okay to talk to them about something specific. And No, I am not saying don’t have conversations with the bigots in your family about how YOU feel when they something racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise. That impacts and concerns you and others, and should be a conversation. I am referring to “concerns” about someone’s attire, hair, body, boisterousness, etc. Things that don't really concern you. Understand?
Minding Your Business in 3 easy steps!
1. Think about minding your business
REFLECT! This is where you would reflect on why you want to approach someone about a subject. Is it about them? Or is it about you? It's a check yourself moment, don't lost the opportunity.
2. Actively mind your business
If you have determined that you are speaking from a place of your own stuff, do not approach the other person! Take the time to work on you. If you have determined that yes, you are in a good place to have the conversation, consider if it is the right time, right space, and if you are indeed the right person. Proceeding, of course, with caution and respect.
3. Continue minding your business
Basically, rinse, wash, repeat. This is your repeating cycle. When you are done with one and two, come to three for a brief rest, then repeat steps one and two as necessary.
Things to Consider
When you are trying to go to someone about their situation, you should consider that they have already spoken about it with someone else. They did not choose to discuss it with you because you may not be the right person. With our example of the afro, you may want to have a conversation with them about what else they could do when it comes to their hair, but do you know if they have already spoken with their dermatologist and hair stylist? No, you likely don’t. There can be a variety of reasons why they are choosing to wear their natural including being allergic to chemicals in various products, having an issue with heat being applied to their hair, sensitive scalp, because THEY WANT TO etc. You don’t know the efforts they have made nor the people they have spoken to but, you fancy yourself the expert of their situation? Is it about your ego or really about them?
Also, please note that just because you notice or think something, does not mean that the other person has not already considered it or thought about it. I can tell you that prior to my going natural, I thought about and knew of the various implications it could have in my life. There are many ideas floating around out there about how it is more difficult to get a job, find a mate, and be seen as a presentable, beautiful, or professional individual. The other thing is, I am willing to bet that those with bountiful afros know this as well. Often times, we want to tell somebody something about themselves out of psedo-concern for that person. But, I will challenge you again to think about why you really want to have that conversation with them. I have seen that some people simply want to feel superior to the other person--smarter, more knowledgeable, etc, they want to put someone “in their place,” or they feel threatened by the other person and want to feel better.
Mental Health Benefits to Minding Your Business
When you mind your business, you open up a whole world of possibilities! You make it possible for you to reflect and learn more about yourself, your insecurities, and find ways to be more comfortable in your skin. When you mind your business, you are also able to better engage with the people who think your 2 cents is priceless. Find those people, cultivate those relationships, be comfortable with yourself and watch your life unfold before you! When you are minding your business you also take up less of your time with situations that don’t involve you. There is more work to be done on and for you. Can you still be the honest and blunt friend, yes, of course. But like I have said, knowing and understanding yourself can help in making sure you are the friend you want to be, they friend that is needed, and not the person who comes off as wanting others to hurt the way you hurt.
Examples of Policing:
1. Generally, women are told that to wear something you like can be seen as “asking for it” by others. Policing.
2. Young Black girls feeling themselves because they just got their hair done, or are wearing a new outfit and are strutting their stuff are seen as being FAST. Policing.
3. Black people who are boistrus and vocal in public get the eyes of shame and head shaking from others, Black folk included. Policing.
4. Being mad at Gabby Douglas or Blue Ivy’s parents because you feel the hair was not adequately “done.” Policing.
5. Being mad at Beyonce and Jay-Z for releasing whatever pics that they damn well please. Policing.
6. Being mad at Cardi B. and Tiffany Haddish for being their boistrus boughetto selves. Policing.
What are some of the examples of policing you have seen?