I once read an article that said the term “personal growth” is misleading because it sounds like it’s going to be fun.

The article went on to say, if we called it “deliberately making yourself so uncomfortable it’ll feel like you’re dying” no one would do it.

I agree and can personally attest to the level of discomfort true personal growth requires.

In the past I’ve shared personal struggles that I’ve experienced with my physical health, which resulted in issues with my mental health. This is something I’ve dealt with for over four years now. Every time I thought I was making progress, another roadblock appeared, I gave up, and I was back where I started.

I’m so grateful to be able to say that I’m in a place now where my physical and mental health has improved significantly and I feel really great!

Those closest to me know that this has been a very off and on again journey for me.

2019 was definitely the year of my reprieve. I have done more self work this year than I have within the past four and I want to tell you all about it as well as highlight my village that helped me get here.

Mental Health

The third time was a charm for me when it came to finding a great therapist. She’s a licensed psychologist who also happens to be a millennial, coily haired, black woman, who believes in God.

Now, you may be wondering why all of those details are so important? Well, not only is she qualified because of her experience and credentials, but she relates to me personally. I jokingly say it’s like having a smarter version of myself to talk to! I’ve been able to uncover my issues in my relationship with God as well as deep rooted issues related to race/identity that I didn’t even know were impacting me.

I’ve discovered so many things that I’ve been unintentionally taught that have caused me to struggle with vulnerability as an adult. I have always viewed vulnerability for others as a strength, but subconsciously viewed it for myself as a weakness which has influenced a lot of my decisions throughout the years and negatively impacted relationships.

Through therapy, I learned a lot of hard truths about myself. I examined how I talk to myself and how I treated others sometimes as a result of everything I disliked about me. I am learning how to show myself kindness, patience, and grace. It’s been really overwhelming to learn so much about myself in such a short period of time, but it’s truly making me a better human. I’m really excited about the person I’m becoming!

Something else I learned that helped me get to a better space mentally, was the power of NO! In the past, I would be quick to say yes even when I likely didn’t have more time to give. It was basically like standing up for myself, but instead of it being a bully I was standing up to, it was me. I said no to opportunities related to career, blogging and community serving, no to dating and unhealthy habits I once ran to whenever I was stressed.

I prayed, a lot. I read more scripture than I have in a while. I went on three “fast” this year where I unplugged from everything for 7–21 days at a time. I unplugged from social media, television, music that wasn’t positive, junk food, fried food, and alcohol.

You may think this is too extreme but I truly believe, “One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.” I proved to myself how disciplined I can be.

I spent a lot of time alone, getting to know myself again. There is no person that is more important for me to feel comfortable around than me and I’m glad that I took the time to discover this.

Physical Health

I’m extremely proud of the progress I’ve made with my physical health but it has nothing to do with weight. I’ve finally shifted the way I think about my health and I’ve given myself so much more patience and kindness because of it. It took years to get to this point because my focus was always on losing pounds and physically looking a certain way, which leads to fad diets which aren’t sustainable.

This year I lost 23 pounds and that’s not including all of the muscle I’ve gained. I didn’t do any fad diets, I didn’t weigh food or deprive myself, and I didn’t kill myself in the gym. I worked out 2–3 days a week. I ensured 80–85% of the food I ate was whole, healthy foods that I cooked at home, and on occasion I would still enjoy french fries, tacos, and wine.

I still see an endocrinologist to manage my thyroid disease and the challenges this presents, but it has improved in comparison to when I was diagnosed two years ago, which I attribute to my healthy life choices.

Now don’t let me take all the credit for these physical changes, I’ve had some pretty amazing people who had a hand in helping me arrive at this point.

Dr. Carrie Dennie at Grand Rapids Natural Health is my naturopathic doctor who focuses on mind, body and spirit and she was a huge support in changing my relationship with food. She encouraged me to eliminate gluten and dairy and it was one of the best choices I’ve made (although it was not easy). We spent a lot of time discussing the root cause of my health concerns, mindful eating, and what being healthy looks like for me. This type of doctor isn’t covered under my insurance, it was definitely worth the investment because she wasn’t just focused on treating symptoms, she focused on healing.

I’ve never enjoyed exercising, but this summer I participated in a 6-week Meltdown Challenge through Life Addicts Studio and they made exercise fun! The Meltdown Challenge was a group fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle program that promoted community. The 30–45 minute bootcamp classes were challenging, but it was a super supportive environment. This is the program that helped jump start my fitness journey. The experience felt like working out with family every week.

After the Meltdown Challenge ended, I signed up for a program called SweatNET. The $9.99 per month membership allows you to attend 4–8 free fitness events each month. It was an opportunity to try all of the various fitness classes/studios around Grand Rapids and connect with people who are focused on improving their health. This was major for me because I don’t have a lot of friends and family who are committed to a healthy lifestyle, which makes my lifestyle change more challenging sometimes. I’ve tried Crossfit, Barre, Buti Yoga, and a whole host of other classes.

Through SweatNET, I discovered Motive Training, which is a private training studio. This is where I began weight lifting and I learned all about the importance of proper form to maximize my workouts.

Motive has provided so much education around exercise in such a short amount of time. I feel more confident using a variety of equipment and pay much more attention to form when working out on my own. My body has completely transformed and I’ve become so much stronger. I’ve never had muscle definition in my arms and legs before I started training at Motive so it’s something I’m super proud of.

Self Love and Acceptance

This year I started consistently wearing my natural, curly/coily hair. For those of you who don’t know, natural means I’m wearing my hair in its natural form, unaltered by chemicals (e.g. relaxer). I haven’t had a relaxer in my hair in over 10 years, but I typically straightened it or I wore extensions. I was determined to feel completely comfortable and confident in my most natural state.

I have truly enjoyed the journey of embracing my coils, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

It’s just hair. What’s the big deal? Mainstream media is part of the problem as it sends a very clear message of what society should consider beautiful. Several states have recently proposed legislation to explicitly ban race-based hair discrimination in the workplace, schools and other public places. This is to dismantle the culture of discrimination experienced by black women and men in regards to their natural hairstyles. Let that sink in… there are laws needed in 2019 to ban discrimination against someone wearing their hair the way it grows out of their head. Crazy! It’s much deeper than just hair.

I’ve given a lot of attention to my skin as well. A balanced diet, exercise, and the best esthetician, Janelle Goltz, at Grand Rapids Natural Health has helped me to feel completely confident in my skin. Every 12 weeks I get a dermaplaning and organic facial and it does wonders for my skin! I also use all organic, cruelty free skincare products by KPS Essentials. I slowly transitioned to all vegan, cruelty free, makeup products by The Lip Bar. My skin is in the best condition it has ever been.

You may be thinking my hair and skin are very external characteristics so they shouldn’t determine how much I love and accept myself, and you’re right. Therapy helped me begin the journey of loving myself exactly where I was in the moment, but I also wanted to make better choices to take care of myself. I wanted to feel confident bare faced AND with a face full of makeup, and now I can honestly say that I do. The internal and external work combined helped me to absolutely love the person I am.


I kicked butt this year at work! Normally, I am extremely critical of myself, but I am going to give myself kudos. I volunteered for several opportunities that I knew would stretch my abilities and challenge me. I led projects that positively impacted the business beyond my department. I failed at times, but the lessons learned from those failures made me a better problem solver. I supported my team through some really difficult times. I am able to see and quantify the impact of the work I’ve done. Most importantly, I grew as a person, professional, and overall leader. I had a really challenging, but great year at work and it’s because I finally see the value in being comfortable with being uncomfortable. This is probably the proudest I’ve ever been of my performance and it has increased my confidence.

Why am I Sharing This?

This was the year I invested as much, if not more, in my personal life as I do in my professional development. One of my favorite leaders, Myliek Teele, says most of us are relentless about our professional goals, but when it comes to our personal lives we don’t put in the same effort. It took a lot of time, money, and discipline to rebuild this year. It was one of the most life changing years I’ll ever have, but it wasn’t all fun. I listed a snapshot of what I worked on but it was much harder than I could ever articulate in words.

There were days when I felt like it wasn’t worth it or that it wouldn’t get better. I’m sure there will continue to be days like this. I’m happy I took the time to intentionally focus on my wellbeing and I’m thankful to every single person that has contributed to this journey of mine.

I’m sharing this with you because you may be struggling. Maybe your days have gone from bad to worse. I want to tell you that everything can and will get better. It took me over four years to truly see “better”, so I hated when people told me that because after a while I didn’t believe them. I promise you it will, but you can’t do it alone. I hope my journey motivates you to take the steps you need to get the help you need.

Doing the work isn’t just a quick fix that will have you dancing in a field of lilies after it is over. Honestly, it is never over. Everyday you have to wake up and decide what you’re going to do, what version of yourself are you going to live? Some days will be easier than others, but you’ll always be able to rest easy at night, knowing that you are striving everyday to live your best life and that you have the power to decide what that best life is.



“I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.” -Lena Waithe

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L. Alexander

“I’m writing my story so that others might see fragments of themselves.” -Lena Waithe