Reflection (Self-Portrait)

An Everlasting Journey of Self-Actualization

First and foremost, therapy or counseling (or whatever word you want to use) is AMAZING and beneficial for anyone’s overall mental health and personal growth. I hope this post inspires you to invest in your well being.

We are constantly growing and changing so it’s a great practice to reflect on the person you’ve become and who you aspire to be because our journeys are everlasting. Seeing a therapist has really helped me to become a better person.

Why did I initially seek therapy?

I’ve always had a fascination with personal growth, understanding the energy around us, and meditation to reflect and harness that energy. I hit a mental block where I could no longer guide myself and figured there must be something deeper affecting my behavior, but I didn’t know how to access it. I became aware of this mental block when my ex mentioned he felt he didn’t really know me after a year in our relationship. He felt I was always holding back and not allowing myself to be vulnerable with him. I was dumbfounded because I thought I was super open with him. But to his point, I always had a hard time expressing my emotions. I seriously cringed at saying “love” to people (even to my mother) or just hearing it from others. I genuinely wanted to work on that, so it was clear I needed professional help.

The journey to Achieving Joy definitely wasn’t a walk in the park, but I was very receptive to the process. I learned A LOT about my acquired ideas, behaviors, and experiences that led me to be the person I was at that time (2017). Today, I can wholeheartedly say I’m the BEST version of myself and continue to become the person I aspire to be.


The Assignment

Paint the person I was when I started therapy (2017) and who I am today (2019).

rashad-ali-muhammad-self-potrait.jpg

Self-Reflection

2017-Left/Blue

Blue skin
my cold, emotionless mindset

Golden mask/veil
my facade, barrier I hid behind

Black background
depression/despair, being lost

Shirt pattern
my rigidity, seeing life as mainly black and white

2019-Right/Gold

Gold skin
my vibrant, warm, fun loving spirit

Golden rays
opening up, inviting people in, sharing my vulnerabilities

White background
light (hope, positivity and happiness)

Shirt design
recognizing there’s so much grey area in life


Reflection with Joy (Therapist)

*The self-portrait is sitting in a chair in front of us as we sit side by side staring at it.* 

rashad-ali-muhammad-portrait-sitting-in-chair

Joy: This is amaaaazing! Not just on the artistic beauty, but I KNEW HIM [the 2017/blue version of me]. The black reflects all the experiences we’ve talked about. There was a lot in there. The veil is so indicative of the intricacies of who you are and people in general. People believe they know others because of how they perceive the holes in their veil. 

This is no small thing! I can see there is so much more and I see how the gold veil becomes the gold rays [on the right side] and multiplied. 

Me: I definitely want to do this more, so I can really see myself. It’s awkward and difficult doing a self-portrait because it forces you to really sit with yourself. 

Joy: Have you watched the series She’s Gotta Have It?

Me: Of course! 

Joy: How do you feel about her use of self as her political and personal statement?

Me: I was mesmerized, it was next level to me. Her painting of herself lynched with her own hair was deep. It took me a sec to really process how I felt about it. I thought to myself, I don’t know if I’d ever feel bold enough to do that in my own work. Maybe I’m not ready to be that raw with my emotions and thoughts. But it definitely made me wonder what’s deeper in what I’m trying to say and how to portray it. 

That’s why I haven’t painted a lot lately. I don’t really know what I want to say. The first paintings I did were me getting back into art and exploring my skill/techniques. As I’ve been immersing myself in more art and artists I feel there is way more to say from my perspective. I just don't know what I want to say yet. Nola lost on her art journey spoke so much to where I’m currently at. 

Joy: The anguish around your eyes is quite distinctive. On the gold side, there is a clear ‘peace’ that you don’t see on the blue side. You may not have been as intentional about it when you were creating it. 

Me: Somewhat. I definitely noticed it as I was painting the gold side. The blue side definitely had a melancholy quality to it, my features looked droopy. I didn’t realize how I was unintentionally adjusting things as I painted. 

Joy: The energy of it is so wild. The features [on the gold side] have become more pronounced like you are willing to hear, you are willing to speak…everything is larger on the gold side. FASCINATING how it becomes real, it becomes more alive. 

Me: Did you know this was going to happen when you gave me the assignment? 

Joy: Not exactly. It came up to me so I knew it needed to be done. I like to allow people to speak in the mediums that are their strong suit. Painting is one of the ways that you communicate. I always thought it was interesting when you would say you don’t go that deep in your art. I was like “Whaaaaaat?… What do you mean?” But it’s interesting that out of all the artwork I’ve seen of yours, I feel like you’ve bought every single one of them into this piece. 

You are all of what you create. This gave you an opportunity to see all the different aspects you may not recognize that you are channeling in the creation process. I’m here for it! It’s so expressive. I appreciate you going into it because I know it wasn’t easy. 

Me: Ya damn skippy it wasn’t. Clearly, I kept putting it off.

Joy: What would you tell someone who saw themselves on the blue side but had no way to identify with the gold side? 

Me: As I stare into the painting…the blue side feels very heavy like I’m stuck. I would tell that person, “Don’t wallow in the darkness...there is more, there is better, there is a positive future state.” But I know that headspace and how hard it is to really hear anyone's positive words. But I think the real question is how to pull yourself out of the darkness and get to that future state. 

Joy: You said something very rich, “Do not wallow in the darkness.” If I am not to wallow, then I am to do what? 

Me: *Deep sigh* It’s a journey that starts with being very self-aware and honest with yourself. Even though in some aspects you don’t know where to begin: understanding who you’ve become, what led you to be that person, and how to even start moving beyond that. For me it started with a lot of self-reflection, “This is who I am now, but who do I want to be and who do I want people to see me as?” I was a different person before getting to ‘me’ on the blue side of the painting. 

I remember in college, I had to stop and recognize I was being a mean, nasty person. I saw myself pushing people away but a story my mom always told me kept popping up in my mind. When she was younger she was really mean to people but her mother told her, “If you continue to be this way you’re not going to have any friends, you’re going to be alone.” When I stopped and really took that in I realized how I was pushing people away and wasn’t this friendly person I thought I was. It forced me to stop and look at who I was and who I wanted to be. I started to figure out who I wanted to be by watching the people around me who I admired. I started to pull the qualities I wanted to emulate. That’s kind of where I picked up my humor in a sense, a college friend of mine had this great sense of humor, she was very magnetic and full of life! I thought, “I want to be like that! I want people to gravitate towards me.” So my advice would be to look at your surroundings and figure out what isn’t working and seeing how you can make changes.

Another piece of advice is learning when to let go of things that aren’t benefiting you in any way. Not staying in situations because it’s easier to deal rather than confronting the problem. When I was in the headspace on the blue side, I was very complacent in the situation with my ex because I didn’t want to deal with the potential backlash of anything, which just led me to more darkness. You eventually get to a place where you say “enough is enough” and get real honest with yourself. You know when you have to pull yourself up and let go of whatever non-beneficial situation you’re in and walk in your greatness. It was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned it. 

Joy: Do you have any questions for yourself? 

Me: What will the future self-portrait look like? I’m so intrigued to see how I’m going to paint myself next time. I feel like it’s going to be way different. Instead of being such a stark contrast, I see it as a melding of colors and feelings. It’s interesting because I’m already seeing who I’m starting to become even after just finishing this self-portrait. I remember when you initially gave me the assignment I saw myself as pink, bubbly, and sweet…like bubblegum. It reminds me of a memory my mom mentions quite often…when I was a child I was very very very warm, bubbly, and affectionate with people. Then there was definitely a moment where she noticed it all switched—she’s not sure when—and I became cold and guarded. 

Joy: Do you know when your behavior switched?

Me: It definitely happened some time in school with bullying and all that. I definitely started to shut people out and build walls, which makes sense when reflecting on the experiences we’ve talked about in our sessions. There definitely wasn’t any catalyst inside my home for me to not be that super affectionate and sweet person my mom knew. Although I would say I learned my rigid, solemnness from my father, I didn’t have a reason to exude that. But once all the “bad” of the world came I became closed and less expressive. 

Thinking on all that, I’m not sure why I chose the gold for the right side of the portrait. Maybe I didn’t think I was there yet [the pink, bubbly version of me]. Butttttt artistically, gold pops with the blue LOL. So imagining where it will go further I see the gold and pink swirling together.

That was definitely interesting to reflect on [staring into my self-portrait]. Didn’t realize all that was there.

Joy: Oh, it’s all there. I heard you confirm this piece is transitional…you knew what you wanted the end to look like, but you were able to recognize you’re not there yet.

What I think is beautiful is you recognizing who you know you want to become..and that you were able to give it words like warm, bubbly, affectionate. My question for you then is, “What do you believe you have to do over the course of this year to become that person?”

Me: I definitely would say I have to continue to be open and vulnerable with my thoughts and feelings, negative or positive and be open with my love. I noticed I don’t cringe as I used to when I say that word. Also, acknowledging that…I AM that [warm, bubbly, affectionate] person and letting go of the fear that people will try to use my vulnerability against me. I’ve let it go for the most part, but I recognize I still have a sense of hesitation. I absolutely noticed I’ve been better with being more affectionate and sharing my feelings with people around me. It’s so interesting to see how people respond after I’ve been so honest and vulnerable with them. It goes back to something you mentioned before, “you receive what you put out.” People have certainly been more honest and vulnerable with me after I’ve led the charge. I always want to be that welcoming, non-judgmental person my friends can come to for an ear or advice.

Recently, a friend opened up to me about a health scare they were experiencing and it had my mind spiraling into all these thoughts of my mortality and the people close to me. It was…a lot.  

Joy: For now, until your departure time, what version of yourself do you want to spend the majority of life as? 

Me: The future me I envision, the bubbly me!

*We segued into a conversation about shifting friendships* 

Joy: The people we have around us are a reflection of who we are. When we begin to shift, the people connected to us will shift too. One may be evolving, the other derailing and we may find each other again at different times and places in each other's lives. We are all on a journey, growing and changing and growing and changing, and we’re going to be around people doing the same. Where things fall will constantly be shifting and we can’t hold onto anything. We can’t say “this is what love is and this is where it stays” because you’ll meet someone tomorrow and your whole journey gets disrupted again.

I’ve observed people that have mastered always having an open heart, understanding that people will come and go from that space, wherever they reside in that space. And you get to choose, will you create space to let them warmly return or will you give them shade in their reentry.

Me: That’s the kind of person I want to be.


Thank you for venturing into my world.

Hope you enjoyed and felt inspired.