You can watch this episode on Youtube here: https://youtu.be/BU7OCDKJ-YE
As Ofosu and Leah make their debut as YouTubers, they reflect on the vulnerability of sharing images of their lives with friends, neighbors, and the public. They also explore how shaping that image—whether it's how we maintain our homes, what we wear, or what we post on social media—can both help and harm us.
About Balance: Well Balanced is co-hosted by Ofosu and Leah, Balance’s Co-Heads of Meditation. Balance is a highly personalized meditation and sleep app that's been named Google's App of the Year and Apple's App of the Day. Completely free for the entire first year, Balance is helping 3 million+ people around the world improve their stress, sleep, focus, and mood. Unlock your free year of Balance today by downloading it from the App Store or Play Store: https://balanceapp.sng.link/Arat1/h3qp/icji
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Ofosu: Hey, what's up? I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey.
Leah: And I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We're the meditation coaches on the Balance app.
Ofosu: And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced, where we explore ways to live a healthier, happier life.
Leah: And today marks our start as official YouTubers from here on out. We'll have video versions of every episode available on YouTube on Mondays.
Along with the audio version of the podcast on all the usual podcast outlets. If you wanna check us out in video, though, we've got a link to today's YouTube episode in the show notes.
Ofosu: We're excited for you to see our faces and our spaces. Um, but it's also a little nerve wracking, too. So like, I feel like I gotta shave all kinds of stuff, you know?
I mean, we've been in your ears for a while. And now you can see us the whole time and, um, I'm not gonna lie, feels a little bit more vulnerable. Um, it's another layer of, uh, presentation. Not only do I have to make sure that I sound presentable. I wanna make sure that I look good, too.
Leah: You mean it's not effortless? You didn't wake up looking that way of Ofosu?
Ofosu: Um, I want to say yes, but the answer is no and I mean, it really does speak to like, what's the image that I want to convey to y'all and since it's, since it's such a vulnerable, sticky, real thing, that's what we're gonna talk about today. How do we get to control or affect the way the world sees us? In what ways do we, you know, take ownership of our image and how does that affect our self-esteem? How does that affect our wellbeing? How does that affect even the authenticity and the strength of our relationships? So, I mean, Leah you'll remember - I'm thinking about this because last week we were talking about maybe showing y'all around the rooms in our home.
And for me, that just raised my stress level to a billion.
I've been traveling all summer. I'm living outta suitcases. You know, this space right here is like a small snapshot and it looks good enough, but literally one. Like, like right outside of this is just so chaotic, just so many suitcases and singing bowls and just stuff is in disarray cause I just haven't moved back into my house yet. So yeah.
Leah: Yeah. We were talking about sort of an impromptu, just kind of flash see our house and it’s sort of like if someone just showed up at your house unexpected, and you weren't put together, your house wasn't put together, what would be running through your mind?
I'd be really excited. If someone showed up at my house unexpectedly to be like, oh wow, excited to see you. And then the next minute I'd realize, oh wait, I'm not presenting to you. The forward facing presentation that I normally put together is like all the pillows in the right place. And the toys are all picked up around my house, cause I've got a toddler. And so there'd be a little bit of like, oh I guess, you know, they're gonna see me raw and vulnerable, and this is me and, and hopefully I have the good people in my life that don't judge, but there's always a little fear of judgment.
Ofosu: I think, I think it really, really depends on who's coming over. Like if it's a neighbor that I'm not that close with and they're knocking on the door and they want to tell me something about something happening in the neighborhood, if I open my door and the house is in what I perceive to be disarray - I'd be, I'd feel really uncomfortable.
It'd be really hard. Settling into my body, I'm just putting myself in that scenario right now. Like we don't know each other like that, like that you've got the perfect lawn. Now you're knocking on my door and my house looks like it just vomited toys. I'm gonna really feel this image of like toys pouring out of your house.
Ofosu: Like an avalanche of ninja turtles. Yeah. I mean, I'd feel super uncomfortable, but if one of my best friends from college who I have been absolutely filthy with in, you know, in our living situations 20 years ago, came to the house, I'd be like, what up? You know, it'd be totally fine. I don't know.
I don't know that I'd make any adjustments. I might start putting stuff away here and there, but like, it wouldn't be as deep. So I think it also depends on who's coming around. I don't know. What do you think?
Leah: Yeah, I mean, I think we, we create friendships and we hopefully surround ourselves with the people who we feel accepted by and who we know accept this for all of us and we can be more authentic with, and we can like let our hair down and be, you know, so to speak and be comfortable and relaxed around.
But the fact of the matter is human beings judge. Yeah, that is just built into the way our brain is wired. It's how we move through the world and we make quick, uh, split second decisions about what's good for us and what's not good for us. You know, whether we like it or not. We do judge books by their cover.
Yeah. It's not usually within our control and it happens in sneaky ways. Like this happens to me, I'll see somebody and just based on the way that they choose to express themselves through clothing or like their mannerisms, I will make a quick opinion about whether I would hang out with that person or not.
And I might not be rationally consciously thinking that it's sort of in the subconscious, in the background. Yeah. So we just make judgements. And I think a part of our survival skills it's built to also present ourselves in such a way that we are appealing to a certain type of person and saying, hey, I'm your people like, yeah. You know, like we're like-minded or I'm safe or whatever it is that you're expressing.
Ofosu: It does. I really do believe it comes from this ancient, primal social need of ours to be, to be perceived positively so that we can be included in the group or so that we can have power to include others in our group. To be accepted and not rejected.
Leah: Even people who think they're being rebellious and who are like, ah, I don't care about what other people think, and I'm gonna address and act in a certain way. They're still fitting the mold of the types of people that are like that. Right? Like they'll be sure, you know, like the punks, you know, when that was like, first that, that era of the punk that came out and they were like, oh, anarchy, rebellion against people.
But they all dressed and looked similar to each other. So they fit in their own tribe.
Ofosu: Yeah. They all, they all had their uniform. Yeah. I mean, how we present ourselves is such a huge part of humanity. Even in religious orders where they're supposed to have like, you know, given up worldly possessions.
And in many cases they have, but their uniforms, the way they present themselves are still striking. Even if it's like the sort of brown unassuming robes of a Christian monk or something like that, it's still a statement piece. You know what I mean? I mean, it's literally making the statement that I've taken on this life.
How we present ourselves is so fundamental to our humanity, but I feel like it gives us opportunities in our modern way to be very creative with that. It also presents the opportunity to cause harm. And I think we see that harmfulness played out, um, on social media sometimes.
Leah: Like when people portray just everything being perfect in their lives. And then other people are watching, going, like comparing themselves to this standard, which is so fake. Okay. I live in Bali. And there's a lot of Instagrammers, like people that come here and you can just tell.
This is me being too judgmental again. Yesterday, I was in a workout class and this woman pops in and she's dressed to the nines, like in the neon outfit, like an eighties, like the whole. Yeah. And she sets up her camera in the workout class. And she spends half the class texting, sitting down, texting, or setting up the camera or doing something on social media, half the class.
And while everyone's doing lunges and squats and we're all in sync together and I'm like, this is super weird and distracting. And then she sets up her camera and then she'll do a few exercises, like with gusto and then she'll come back to editing her thing. And then she bounces out halfway through the class.
And I'm sitting here going that was not even - people are watching your Instagram. [Ofosu:Yep.] Thinking like you are a fitness person. And this is how you got to where you are in reality. Like you are not participating in this fitness class at all. And there's this really fake, uh, aspect to Instagram that people, I think are starting to become aware of, but it's still hard because it's like, your brain doesn't know the difference between what it sees and what's real.
Ofosu: I get into what we call comparison mind all the time on social media and it can be anything. I recorded myself training today with my, like at home punching bag and I, I'm still moving kind of slow. I'm not like a professional fighter, but I'll scroll through my Instagram and I'll see all these legends, or even just like regular people who are just way more skilled than I am. And I'll wanna post my little workout video, but I'll see those and I'll, and I'll just be like, ah, yeah, you know, nobody wants to see me being imperfect, you know, and I certainly don't want to present myself as being imperfect.
Now there are some times where I'm okay with that. I'm very much okay talking about myself as an imperfect meditator or meditation practitioner, because that's an area that I care about people reducing their expectations of perfection.
Whenever I'm talking about it, it might sound like I've never meditated before meditating for the first time cause I'm happy to play the role of the beginner forever. I'm not happy to be caught, like wearing something whack.
Leah: And because of the way that you put yourself together, I can't even imagine you having something whack in your closet.
Ofosu: Thank you so much. I remember when I hit a certain place where nothing I put on made me upset and I felt so accomplished. I was like, oh, I'm going to the grocery store. And this is still a decent outfit. Alright. Okay. Not, not too shabby. I mean, I grew up with my parents placing a very, very high bar on appearance. I mean, it's something that they cared a lot about just in Ghana, just as just, just as them as people. But when we, when they got here to America, it started to play a different role for them, like my parents, with their accents and with their, with their names, et cetera.
[Leah: What are their names?] Their Western names are Gill and Gina. Um, but my dad's Ghana name is Ni qute and my mom's Nia name is A robina. But everybody in the west knows them as Gill and Gina.
Leah: But their real names are so much cooler.
Ofosu: That's a whole nother thing. It's like, you know, adjusting, adjusting their names so that they're perceived as you know, less foreign and then dressing to the nines to even go to the grocery store, to disarm prejudice and to disarm being negatively perceived.
Leah: I think there's this whole spectrum of on the one hand on this end of the spectrum, we're presenting ourselves out of a fear of being judged, a fear of what other people think or trying to avoid a certain, uh, perspective that most people might take of us. That is like a commonly held perspective or prejudice. I even find myself in that category sometimes. I get this idea. I'm like, okay, well I'm a mom and I'm a meditation teacher - I need to dress more modest. And sometimes my husband's like, you used to dress a lot, sexier when I first met you. And I was like, yeah, but I have a career teaching meditation and I'm a mom, like it's not appropriate. And he is like, well, why?
So he's not into the whole, like mom jean trend it's going on right now.
Ofosu: It's time to bring sexy back.
Leah: But anyway, so back to what I was saying, this end of the spectrum, like the fear of what people like your parents and what people might think. And then on the other hand of the spectrum, it's like, well, I dress this way because I'm expressing myself out of like a, a reason for my own self-esteem.
There's nothing wrong with presenting ourselves or dressing up or, you know, wearing makeup or doing our hair or putting the clothes on or presenting our house in a certain way. It's not about that. It's not about like, oh, well you're fake if you do those things. I think it's more about like, where is the intention of it coming from?
[Ofosu:Yeah.] Is it coming from a place of fear or is it coming from a place of love where it's like, I'm loving myself. I have a buddy right now who um, just called me and he's like, I went through this whole makeover and I changed my hair and I changed all my outfits. I got rid of my entire wardrobe and I have a whole new wardrobe and ever since I changed this like outer appearance of who I am now to match what I feel inside.
He's like, I wanna eat healthier. I wanna exercise more. I wanna do all these things. So for him, it was like an outside in project. Instead of an inside out.
Ofosu: So today I was having kind of a rough day and I, I, this just speaks to what you're saying here is like, I was gonna go pick the kids up from the bus stop and it's literally like a hundred yards, you know, but, um, as I was gonna go, just walk a hundred yards to go pick my kids up, I could easily have done that in the workout clothes I had on, but it just wasn't making me feel good. And you know, the outfit that I have on right now, right? This is like my standard uniform, but I love this outfit and I love, you know, it really makes me feel good. So I put on my leather jacket, I put on my, like my black, skinny jeans and I put on my boots and I put on my jewelry and I put on like my superhero outfit basically and, uh, and went to go pick up my kids. And I felt so much just, I just felt better. It's a way of completing my living statement, you know? It's like, yeah, I'm here. And this is the sketch that I'm putting on the canvas of the world at this moment.
Leah: I think there's a certain amount of pride that we can have in ourselves.
And it's like a self respect to take care of ourselves and to groom ourselves and you know, the hygiene and then you add on this layer of like, oh, I'm gonna dress this temple of mine in something beautiful. It’s something that feels really shiny and new and awesome.
So as much as I think we're advocates and coaches and teachers of the inner work being so important, I think it's also important to remember that the outer work isn't just a superficial thing. That's like, oh, well, you know, you're superficial. If you're worried about your appearance. I don't think that's true. Actually, I think that's missing a really big importance of the way we present ourselves can actually be very healing for ourselves - if it's done with that intention. If I go teach a meditation class, I'm probably not gonna wear a shirt that shows a lot of cleavage, but maybe I could.
Ofosu: Yeah, but it's just like, but does it help you accomplish what you set out to accomplish? For me, I'll show up to a teacher meditation class dressed exactly like this, because I also want to like challenge what you think a meditation teacher ought to look like.
So there's a way in which the way that I dress is an artistic expression, depending on where I'm at, this same outfit is a rebellion against a norm. I think it is important in how I show up as a teacher and, and like what I'm trying to express as a teacher is like, you know, we, we need to examine our perceptions and see whether or not they're valid. But even that rebellion to me is an extension of my artistic expression.
Um, you know, thinking about my parents and them being really concerned with how they presented themselves. It's a way that they could move up in society with ease. It was a way that they could protect themselves.
So, I mean, when they go to the grocery store, how you present yourself is important to survive in America as a black person, as an immigrant person, et cetera, you know, you could literally be profiled or targeted by the police or, and, you know, any kind of thing if you're dressed a certain kind of way. One thing that I definitely noticed though, is as my parents got older, their way of dressing became much more elaborate, much more expressive. Llike my dad will wear floral pattern pants and like these super colorful shirts. And I mean, it's just, he's like a walking painting. And for him, it's just all about the art and for my mom too, they're pure expressionists now, whereas in the arc of their life, there was a point, at least from my perception where they were dressing well, but also as a means of, um, of protection, self preservation.
I think this conversation for me is asking us to examine, where are we coming from in how we present ourselves as we make our debut on YouTube. But, you know, you know, and not just us, but us, the big us, us, all of us, you know, are we coming from a place of fear or are we coming from a place of genuine, authentic self expression?
You might actually put on the exact same thing, but one is going to be of detriment to your wellbeing and one is gonna really lift you up, and come from a place of healing. It's really, are you coming from a place of armoring or a place of artistry?
Leah: Well thank you for sharing vulnerably about what it means to you.
And it's nice to hear, to have this conversation, which I think a lot of people don't have. It's a little taboo perhaps. Enlightening.
Ofosu: Yeah, I think it's, I think it's, um, it's fitting for our maiden voyage on, uh, on YouTube. And, um, uh, if you like our show, you can check us out on YouTube. Our channel is called Balance, and we've got a link to today's episode in the show notes.
If you're not watching this there already, or if audio is your thing, you can listen and follow wherever you get your podcast. We're literally everywhere. Apple, Spotify, Amazon music.
Leah: And we're gonna be back next week with a really exciting talk about sleep with an expert who teaches a college course on it that helps students get better sleep.
We'll talk to you, then have a beautiful week.
Ofosu: Don't forget to be kind to yourself. Peace.
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