AMBER LEWIS CHRONICLES HER JOURNEY THROUGH SELF-AWARENESS, PANDEMIC SETBACKS, AND THE VALUE OF TELLING YOUR OWN STORY.
Written by Ayana Bryant-Weekes; as told by Amber Lewis with contributions by Kameron Dunbar:
Sometimes it's difficult to wrap your mind around the fact that we are experiencing what future generations will call 'history' in real time. 2020 itself has been wild, but the combined events of the past few years shed even more light on the necessity of telling our own stories and unapologetically sharing our truths. Amber Lewis has leveraged her experiences in cultural curation, social media, and community building for her personal growth as a Black woman. Here, she gives her account of that journey to self-awareness, her present state amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the essential role of narration and storytelling in our lives.
The Journey To Self-Awareness Through Professionalism
I’m a “woman of many wigs”. Behind the expression lies a real desire to show up in the world as I see fit. There's a quote that I live by, "Life is one great big canvas; throw as much paint on it as you can" and I’ve lived that in so many ways. Before I started doing social media with The City (Detroit) I was doing a lot of styling, creative direction and onset assistant work for photoshoots. Fast forward to today, I’m doing a self-shot cover shoot and I’m using all of the skills I've acquired from working with other clients. I’ve done a ton of influencer campaigns and now through my work with Bumble I’m on the other side, hiring influencers for campaigns. I spent a lot of time serving different communities in college as a member of the leadership board and now I have my own community where I serve Black women in the digital media space, #BWDoSocial. It's really about respecting the process and I'd much rather feel like I tried something and didn‘t like it or wasn't good at it as opposed to not knowing my potential. I’m used to always being on and working on multiple projects but this time has been a much needed change of pace.
"Life is one great big canvas; throw as much paint on it as you can."
There are times when I do experience fear, and I question my abilities. In those moments I just have to remind myself that I am equipped with everything I need for exactly where I am. I allow those feelings to exist because it's natural to have them - the fear and maybe even sometimes feelings of inadequacy. But you have to"let them flow by..." like my yoga instructor and friend Adria Moses says, acting as an observer of those thoughts versus internalizing them. Journaling helps me through it. I make sure to acknowledge that I feel this way, note the things that happened, and observe what the root of those feelings are while acknowledging that “That’s not my truth and I don't feel that this is valid.” Even in the midst of this pandemic, I’ve been able to use this period of uncertainty as an opportunity for self exploration and prioritization.
Self-Awareness In My Personal Life
My therapist told me that I'm pretty aware of myself and introspective but I'm also learning about myself everyday. I'll never reach a point of “maximum” self-awareness because as a ‘Self’ we change, and it’s simply being aware of your presence. My presence can change if I'm in a different room or mood or city, so practicing that mindfulness is something that I'm constantly doing and being aware of. I'm someone who wears how I feel on my face but, internally, I’ve been more mindful of how my body feels.
Our bodies tell us about the situations or rooms we’re in. Stress shows up in your body so whether it's tightness in your chest, an uneasiness in your stomach, or clenching your jaw- be mindful of those physical triggers, assess what your role is in the moments and spaces they occur, and evaluate how you can potentially improve it or remove yourself if necessary. I also have mantras and affirmations that I say to myself and get inspired. So no matter how chaotic or crazy the moment may be, I remember that it's only a moment and it will pass. “Yes, I am experiencing this but I am here to experience this and I’m grateful for this experience...” even if it's perceived as unfavorable.
Because I do so many things, I don't spend as much time at home or with myself as I would like to. I love what I do but it kind of put into perspective how little time I was dedicating to myself outside of my work so I was actually a bit relieved when we had to stay home and some of my gigs were canceled. There was this idealistic perception I had that led me to believe I would have more time to myself, and then I started working from home. I also immediately shifted into doing digital events with “Issa IG Tour” shortly after the home order was issued. I wasn't having time to myself. I was still working from the moment I opened my eyes until I closed them. I would still do a meditation, prayer, and journaling in the morning but I wouldn't be eating because I was working 10-12 hours at my regular job and then after that I’m on [Instagram] Live for an hour for the event series and then after that, recapping with metrics and strategizing partnerships. So, for me, shifting into ‘Work From Home mode’ was even more taxing on myself and that was the opposite of what I expected. I thought, “I'm going to be at home, I get to do all this deep cleaning and decluttering and work on myself!”, but I felt like I was working non-stop. I was put in a position where I was not able to work because I was so stressed so I cut work across the board. I wasn't working with The City or doing my digital events, I stopped my work with Bumble, I stopped work on my personal brand, I stopped work with #BWDoSocial, I wasn't helping other people with their projects in the ways I would normally contribute and I really just took time to rest: whatever that looked like and whatever that felt like.
I spent more time doing what I felt versus what I felt obligated to do and I really just found peace within that. My mind was definitely still in ‘work mode’ and thinking of all of these ideas. Now, I have an ‘Idea Notebook’ where I jot down all my ideas so I still acknowledge that they're there and take note of them, but I release them from my mind and then get back to resting or watching a show or being on FaceTime with my family.
This has been the most challenging time of my life; dealing with my health, the health of my loved ones, financial loss from not working, being in a global pandemic, racism and murder, working to heal generational traumas, and so much more but everyday I am working to find peace and gratitude in this time. I cry when I need to, take naps daily to reset when things get overwhelming. As a recovering workaholic there were definitely moments where I desired to be busier. I’ve realized though I cannot sustainably function without me being well. All the stuff will be there when I am better and when I feel rested--if I want. Freedom is the most important thing for me right now.
I'm thinking about what's next but not to the point where it’s putting pressure on
myself to perform. I'm still resting. I'm getting back into the groove of work but I really am more focused on what flows to me versus things that I seek. So in thinking about what's next I am also thinking about how I can work on attracting what's for me versus just saying yes to things because I can do them or because they make sense for what my brand is. I'm trying to
find the balance between having this rest and this freedom and getting back into the groove of work. So as far as what's next, that's my biggest thought behind it- how I can be more intentional with making sure that I am spending time with myself and not stretching myself too thin. I'm also interested in trying some new things creatively, so we shall see.
A lot of things make sense but they can distract you from what your overall purpose is...
Narrating Your Story & BEYOND
I'm a big believer in telling your own story--that’s literally how you build your narrative-- and also documenting, even if it’s for yourself. Even if it's just with your family or in your journal, or if you feel inclined to share your story in your business--acknowledging that everybody does not and that's okay--sharing your narrative or perspective is super important because it gives you a voice. I often ask people, what do you want your legacy to be? Build your story with your legacy in mind.
Sharing your narrative or perspective is super important because it gives you a voice.
As I work to build my legacy, I constantly reassure myself that my being is enough, my Blackness is enough, my womanhood is enough. I don’t have to do or be more than what I already am, and that is my magic.
Follow Amber on Instagram and Twitter: @socialnthecity
Creative Direction & Wardrobe: Amber Lewis
Photographer: Bre'ann White
Virtual Makeup Advisor: Kufre Udoeyop
Virtual Set Design Advisor: Trice Clark
Production Assistant: Zoie Lewis
Jewelry: Shop Xcsv
Nails: Faness Nails
Lashes: Cynthia Boss Beauty
Athleisure Set: W by Crystal White