Paul Archuleta—FilmMagic/Getty Images
Advice

Tracee Ellis Ross: Stop Worrying About What You’re ‘Supposed’ to Be

March 16, 2016

The actress on journaling and finding your truth

Correction appended March 16

Part of the beauty of the TV show Blackish is that its characters are decidedly three-dimensional human beings who don’t adhere to stereotypes. That kind of messaging allows “space for one’s humanity”—and Tracee Ellis Ross, who plays Rainbow on the show, says we need more of it in our culture.

That’s why the actress and comedienne partnered with Special K for its “Nourish Your Next” project, which will honor a series of inspiring women this year. Motto spoke with Ross about what she thinks every woman can do to celebrate her inner strength.

On the messaging directed at women:
“We spend so much time as women in our culture being told that we are ‘supposed’ to be something: ‘Supposed’ to be married, ‘supposed’ to be a certain weight, ‘supposed’ to do a certain thing. There’s so much that gets left out. If you’re so focused on the scale, you’ll miss a lot of other things. I’m known for my style, I love beautiful clothing and makeup. I love all of those things, and there’s space to be all of those things as a woman. There’s space to be sexual and beautiful and intelligent—all of it. And I think any messaging that limits it, it’s time for it to be done.”

Subscribe to the Motto newsletter for advice worth sharing.

On finding your own truth:
“That is a daily exercise big and small, finding one’s own voice and finding your truth. There are a ton of tools I use. I think, first and foremost, having a relationship with a core group of like-minded, supportive, compassionate humans that become your counsel is extremely important. Having your own tribe of people, some of which are in exactly the same place as you, that mirror your own experience and help you to see your own experience in a loving and compassionate way.”

Read more: President Obama Told Misty Copeland He ‘Appreciates’ The First Lady’s Curves

On the importance of kindness and self-compassion:
“Having a gentle spirit, a kind spirit, a compassionate spirit toward oneself and others really does make space for the growth and the teachability that keeps us moving into the direction that we want to go. And it’s not always easy to hold that kind of compassion and kindness for oneself, but to me that’s often where the work is. Because I don’t know about you, but I know about myself, and I don’t learn, I don’t grow, I don’t speak in my most beautiful voice when I feel small, scared or shamed.”

Read more: Lisa Vanderpump: How To Support A Cause That Matters To You

On journaling:
“The third tool [I’d recommend for finding your own truth] would be to write, to journal and to know yourself. To really ask yourself those hard questions with a sense of curiosity around, ‘What is it that speaks to me? What makes my heart sing?’ Because using anyone else as a litmus test or a guide to what is your truth will never lead you there. So spending the time knowing yourself and gaining that relationship is part of where you find your voice and gain the courage to use it. … One of the things that journaling does for me is it creates pause. It creates space, allowing me the ability to respond and not react. And to navigate my own thoughts and feelings with a little bit of objectivity, allowing me the space to, as I said, respond instead of react to things in life.”

Correction: The original version of this misstated the name of Tracee Ellis Ross’ character on Blackish. It is Rainbow.