I'm Not a Bitch, I Just Look Like One by Diamond Coleman

Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve had people tell me either directly or say behind my back that I "look mean" or “like a bitch.” And my best friend, whom I first met in my late teens in a dance program, felt no different. “Not even gonna lie, dude. I thought you were a complete bitch when I first saw you,” she told me, probably while we were both stuffing our faces because, honestly, we love to eat.

“Yeah,” I said, “I get that a lot.” And that is true; I really do get that a lot. It’s almost to the point where I expect people to think I’m mean before they even talk to or get to know me. (I should probably preface everything I'm going to say in this post with this: I don't always look mean in public when I'm by myself, just the majority of the time.)

But expecting this perception of who I am upon first glance doesn’t mean that I’m OK with it. I really hate giving off the vibe that I’m unapproachable, because nine times out of ten I want people to approach or talk to me. Not only does that alleviate some of the anxiety I get when meeting new people, but it also is a clear indication that people think I look nice enough to just start a conversation with.

Sure, there are times, although rarely, when I look super uninterested and irritated because, well, I just am. As people, we all get annoyed and rubbed the wrong way in certain situations and sometimes it’s just impossible to conceal it.

As years have passed, though, I’ve realized that my cold countenance–which in today’s modern world has been coined “Resting Bitch Face” (RBF)–is a part of who I am. Does it suck that most people who first lay eyes on me think I’m cold-hearted and stuck-up? Of course. And as much as I’ve tried to alter my facial expressions in everyday life (i.e., walking down the street, going shopping, getting on and off public transportation) on a continual basis, it’s not that simple for me.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. OK, it most definitely is a defense mechanism, at least in certain situations, anyways. When my anxiety is acting up and I feel as if I'm not in control of it, my RBF is in full effect. (For some background, you can read more about my anxiety here.) But because I've been mean-mugging since I was rocking knockers in my pigtails (read: since I was a toddler), it's a little difficult to just stop.

And then that begs the question: Should I change? And if I do, would I be doing it solely because I don't like what people think when they first see me, or would I be doing it for myself? Well, I know that one obvious benefit of changing would be that I would interact with strangers more often, especially in places that I frequent, like train stations and coffee shops. (I mean, what single woman doesn't want to meet a cute guy in Starbucks and strike up a conversation about the CDs on display near the register while you both wait in line?)

On one hand, I think I should learn to accept my RBF simply because it's been a part of me for so long. Also, because it is a part of my personality, depending on the circumstances. But on the other, I think I'd be doing my well-being a disservice if I just became complacent with perpetually looking mean or sad. After all, when you radiate happiness and smile often, you attract positivity and good vibes from others.

And that's what I desire most–to exude true joy even in the most adverse of times and then transfer it to those around me, even to people I don't know. And I really have been smiling a little more lately, partly because I want to seem approachable, but mainly because I witness a positive shift in mindset when I do.

Now, I'm not saying that I should just go around talking to random people all day just for the hell of it. But I do believe that when you have positive interactions with strangers, especially in the morning, it can improve your day. Besides, sometimes talking to strangers is just fun.

So, to all you passerby that I’ve come across–whether it be in the street, on the train, or in a bar–I’m not a bitch, I just look like one.

Header image: via T.R.G./Flickr Creative Commons

This Is What It's Like To Live With Anxiety by Diamond Coleman


“We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.” -Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Everyone is, in one way or another, internally conflicted; we all have within us a fire we want to put out, and some are able to tame it. But for others, the flames of the fire grow so ferociously to a point where you can’t see a way out.

For me, that fire is anxiety.

Since childhood, there's always been an undercurrent of anxiety in my life. The earliest account of it that I remember experiencing was on my first day of third grade. For most children and young adults, the first day of school is an exciting time. However, for me it was usually a nerve-wracking, nausea-inducing event that I worried about during the days and even weeks leading up to it (this, I later learned, is called anticipatory anxiety).

This day was unfortunately no different. The night before, I was overcome with fear and grew so unsure of myself. I was insecure about my ability to make new friends and shuddered at the possibility of not having any of my best friends to talk to in my homeroom class. Once the big day arrived, I was so nervous that, as I was leaving my house to walk to school, I threw up in the driveway. Being eight years old at the time, I wasn't aware of the tricks that my brain was playing on me; I just assumed this was a normal reaction to what I was feeling.

Looking back at that moment as an adult, I know for sure that it was anxiety and not just nerves that caused me to react so strongly to a normal and safe activity (i.e. going to school). But I did well that year academically and also made new friends. There wasn't anything to be nervous about after all, but imagining the worst outcome in almost every situation, especially in social ones where I was surrounded by strangers, would become second nature to me.

Fast forward to September of 2002. I am now attending a far-away private school where I know absolutely no one except my brother, who is in the "upper school," aka high school. Again, I dreaded the first day of seventh grade, but this time around, it was drastically different. No longer would familiar faces assuage my nervousness, but rather, it would linger and dwell in the seemingly judgmental gazes of strangers who looked nothing like me.

I was the only black person in my entire grade (and would remain the only one until I graduated twelfth grade) and I presumably had less money than all the kids in the entire middle school. Needless to say, I felt like an outsider and labeled myself as such, which had a detrimental affect on my confidence. But I did a good job at hiding my loneliness by hanging out with the popular kids and ignoring the outcasts (oh, the irony). I also started talking and acting like them so that I didn't stand out.

I didn't fully realize it, but I was slowly losing sight of who I was as an individual. I desperately missed my friends from my hometown and feeling comfortable in my own skin at school.

Keeping up this false happy persona only worsened my anxiety and made me feel more alone. I became well acquainted with the secretary, coming to her every few weeks to complain about an ailment I didn’t have just so I could be sent to the nurse’s office. I did this to avoid lunchtime whenever my anxiety was too overwhelming. The mere thought of walking into the lunchroom looking around for an empty and welcoming seat oftentimes made my heart race, so hiding was my go-to defense mechanism.

For the first few months of seventh grade, there were days when I would come home crying, begging my mom to let me go to the public school in my town, which was, and still is, one of the top public schools in Massachusetts. But she saw within me the strength and potential that I hadn't yet discovered, and although she eventually gave me the option to change schools, I decided to stick it out to avoid the discomfort of change. I stuck it out for six whole years, and in due time things did get better with the help of friends, teachers, and faculty.

With my high school days behind me, I was more than ready for college. Going to a new place where no one knew me was refreshing; it was the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself. Like any other naive freshman, I had already envisioned what my life at college would be like. As a result, whenever I did something that didn't reflect that vision, I got a bit discouraged. For example, I was sure that I was going to find that solid group of friends, kind of like the cast of Living Single.

But instead, I ended up being a floater, which was fine, but it didn't match up with what I originally had in mind. At times, floating made me feel isolated, but I always had fun and enjoyed the time I spent with my friends. I wasn't, however, actively involved in any clubs or organizations, although I showed support for my friends' clubs whenever possible. It's not that I didn't care to be a part of these groups. I just had never confronted my anxious feelings and, therefore, didn't know how to cope with them. Avoidance was that instant relief; it felt like a ton of bricks being lifted off of my shoulders. It was how I chose to protect myself from feeling anxious.

But one day, while I was in class my sophomore year, I froze in my seat. I felt paralyzed and my writing in my notebook became nearly illegible. My palms got sweaty and my heart started pounding like I had just run a marathon. I tried to conceal what was happening, but the more I did, the worse it got. After a few minutes of this torture, I got up and stepped out into the hallway to recollect myself. About five minutes later, I returned to class sans sweaty palms, but my heart was still beating like crazy.

What caused these overreactions was the feeling that everyone in that classroom was staring at me, scrutinizing my every move. The rational part of my mind knew this wasn't true, but my conscious mind, the one that had been perpetuating unrealistic thoughts since I was a young child, was incapable of accepting reality.

Later on that day, I decided to schedule an appointment with a behavioral therapist at my school. My friend and roommate at the time (who was also in that same class) encouraged me to follow through with it and agreed that it was a good idea. Once the day came, though, I couldn’t bring myself to go. There was really no excuse, as I knew for days that I had the appointment.

My emotional independence hindered me from seeking help. I thought I could get through this on my own because I had been for so many years. Besides, everyone had their issues and they dealt with them, so that meant that I could, too. Or at least that’s what I told myself to justify my lack of action. But the reality of the matter was that I didn’t want to know if I had a problem.

College soon came to an end, and after a short stint of living in Los Angeles after graduation, I found myself living back at home, pretty much broke and jobless like a lot of my peers. During this time, I experienced a more common kind of anxiety, the kind that didn’t make me feel like I was insane. This was because I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling so confused and scared of the future. It was also because this type of low-level anxiety was easier to talk about with people than the type I was used to.

After what seemed like months, I finally found a decent-paying retail job, although it was obviously my last resort. Nevertheless, I made the most of it and to my surprise, stayed there for 14 months. Being there made me more aware of everything I was capable of achieving, even if I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do in the long run. And after losing some faith in finding a job I actually wanted, I eventually landed a fellowship in Los Angeles at one of the most world-renowned internet media companies. Things were finally starting to fall into place.

On the first of September, I arrived to LA with hope, ambition, and no place to live. Thankfully, one of my friends let me stay with her until I found something and within a few weeks, I did. That alleviated some of my anxiety, but not for long. All of the changes I went through over the summer combined with my moving 3,000 miles away from home at a month’s notice intensified my anxiety to the point where it was truly unbearable. Not a morning would go by where I didn’t wake up with a pounding heart and a million worries.

Soon I realized that it was time to talk to someone, so I went online to search for a therapist in my area. Luckily, I found one and gave her a call. We chatted briefly so that she could get a sense of what I was struggling with, and then I scheduled my appointment. This time, I went.

With neutral expectations, I entered her office and was immediately greeted with a genuine embrace. Maybe she thought I was in need of a hug, or maybe she did this with all her patients to make them feel comfortable. Whatever the case was, I accepted her gesture and within a few minutes, began venting to her about my current situation.

Towards the end of the session, she gave me a few exercises to do to keep the anxiety at a manageable level. Our meeting was a full hour, but I thought it went by so quickly, and I would think this about every session thereafter. When you have nearly twenty years worth of anxiety to discuss, time escapes you.

I only told a select few people about my attending therapy and what I had been going through over the past four months. One of the reasons was because I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. The main reason, though, was because I feared being judged; I didn’t want people to think I was crazy or to misconstrue my emotions and experiences.

But I underestimated the healing power of being honest about this disorder. The immense shame I once felt had decreased once I started being more open about it, and I was a bit surprised at the support and encouragement I received from friends and loved ones.

It should be noted that I'm not anxious all the time and that I am, in many familiar situations (i.e. when I'm with friends, family and so on and so forth), confident and calm. The issue occurs when I'm taken out of my safe havens and to a certain extent, it makes sense that I would feel some uneasiness when going out of my comfort zone.

Still, anxiety is very real in my life and isn’t something that I can simply eradicate from it. It will always be there. I still hear that negative voice creep up on me when I’m trying so hard to see the reality of a particular situation. Some days are better than others, and I’m slowly learning that having what I consider to be a bad day doesn’t erase all the progress I’ve made up until this point. Yes, I’m living in a burning house, but I refuse to stay in it long enough to disintegrate with it. We can all break the lock or, at the very least, fight like hell trying.

Beyoncé is Not Jesus by Diamond Coleman


It's rare in this day and age to meet someone who isn't obsessed with Beyoncé, or, at the very least, doesn't appreciate her talent. When you go on your Facebook and Twitter feeds, she's there in lyrical and GIF forms. When you turn on the radio, one of her songs is playing, and you inevitably begin bobbing your head and rapping or singing along. When she broke the internet (sorry, Kim K. Jk---I'm not) with the release of her new joint "7/11" a few weeks ago, my Twitter timeline was immediately bombarded with hyperbolic tweets. Because of this song, supposedly several proverbial wigs were "snatched" from the heads of non-believers and "peasants," while members of "The Beyhive" (the name given to the Beyoncé fandom) were seemingly incapable of turning off caps lock as they vividly described the apparent religious experience they were undergoing in real time. I don't think I've ever seen the limit of 140 typographical characters reached in such ways before. Nonetheless, I wasn't at all taken aback by this kind of reaction; in fact, I was expecting it. I mean, after all, it's Beyoncé, a woman whose significance has, through the eyes of several people around the world, surpassed that of Jesus. Yeah, THAT Jesus. I'd like to think of myself as a spiritual person rather than a religious one; the latter implies that I'm devoted to a specific religion and practice it regularly, which isn't the case. If anything, I'm agnostic. Agnostically spiritual? Spiritually agnostic? Clearly I'm a work in progress, but basically what I'm getting at is that even though I'm not devoted to a religion that believes Jesus to be the son or prophet of God, I find it offensive that some equate a human being---yes, contrary to what some of y'all believe, when Beyoncé gets paper cuts, she bleeds red blood just like us, not gold---to Jesus Christ. I mean, homegirl is even called "Beysus." Since when was it ever justifiable to make a mockery of religions that are the very core of many people's lives? Have we become so diluted as a society that we now turn to celebrities for guidance?

Yes, it's true that Beyoncé has saved the lives of many, both actually and figuratively; trust me, I know very well the healing power of music. And I give her some props for having the innate ability to have such a profound effect on hundreds of thousands of people that she hasn't even met. But her fascinating influence on others isn't enough to warrant a comparison to a religious figure whose influence is far greater than hers. Exalting her to a divine level is not only ridiculous, but it's also demeaning to us everyday folks. If people continue to react as if they've just witnessed the resurrection of Jesus when she does, well, anything, it will only give more power to the impression that she transcends humanity. She doesn't. No one does. She knows this, so why don't we?

I am not a Beyoncé hater. Actually, I was a huge Destiny's Child fan growing up and when she went solo, I bought Dangerously In Love as soon as it dropped. I also bought B'Day and when her surprise self-titled album was released last year, I even succumbed to the hype and purchased it and the videos. But my opinion of her has definitely changed over the past 17 years (OMG, has it really been that long?!). No longer is she the woman who can sing and dance her ass off while still maintaining a humble disposition. Now, I don't think she's necessarily pompous, but I get the sense that she and her very famous husband are elitist. Is she a great performer? Absolutely. Can she sing? Uh, obviously. Is she pretty? Of course. She also makes catchy-ass music every now and then. But these attributes don't make her a deity; they just mean that she's really talented and possesses star power, whatever the hell that is.

Here's some truth for us all: Beyoncé wasn't thinking about us yesterday, she wasn't thinking about us during any part of today, and she sure as hell won't be thinking about us tomorrow. Not only is she one of the busiest people in the entire world, but she also has a major business to uphold, which means she has no time to even think about her Beyhivers, let alone grieve with them or hold their hand when they're going through a crisis. So why put so much faith into her? There's nothing wrong with being a hardcore fan; hell, I'm guilty of obsessing over some famous people. But now that I'm older and am fully aware that they, just like me, are human and are not infallible, I've chilled out with treating them like they're saints. They make a lot of money and sure, some days I imagine myself being in their shoes. But all that glitters isn't gold, kids.

Let's do better. Let's stop saying Beyoncé is Jesus, because she isn't, and she will never be.