Luvvie Ajayi Jones talks de-stressing, Black women owning their power and being a professional troublemaker

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Megan Sims
·6 min read
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Author Luvvie Ajayi Jones on Nigerian confidence, good sleep and being a
Author Luvvie Ajayi Jones on Nigerian confidence, good sleep and being a "professional troublemaker." (Photo: Getty Images; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones has built a brand not only on her talent for the written and spoken word, but also her unflinching ability to laugh in the face of fear. From TED Talk stages to her just-released new book, Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual, the Nigerian-American author is known for owning her power and encouraging others to do the same — all with a bright smile on her face. It's something she credits in part to her background.

"Being Nigerian impacts a lot from how I show up and how I see myself, because Nigerians, we’re very loud and rowdy people, but I think beneath it is this bravado," she tells Yahoo Life. "We affirm ourselves very loudly because we feel like we have to."

And since troublemaking can be exhausting work, Jones recognizes the importance of rest as a part of the Penguin Random House Read To Sleep series, which aims to promote reading as a nightly wellness activity. Here, she opens up about her own sleep habits, the role therapy plays in her life and why she wants her new book to tell readers "you got this."

You’re part of the Penguin Random House Read to Sleep series. Do you consider yourself a good sleeper? What helps you switch off for the night?

I do consider myself a good sleeper [and] I like to nap. When I turn off my lamp, I honestly go to sleep pretty soon after. When I do that, I feel like my body gets the cue that now is the time to rest.

What are your go-to techniques for fighting stress and anxiety?

I think therapy is my number-one way of dealing with stress because it’s a good place to go to decompress and it’s great to have someone ask you questions you might not to think to ask for yourself. So that’s definitely one way, and listening to music is my other way — and when I can, massages, spa days and just chillin’ with my friends.

Do you have any small self-care rituals that you use to brighten your day?

I actually don’t have any daily things that I do. Sometimes I’ll have affirmations that I’ll put on a Post-it Note, but it’s not a daily ritual of any sort for me. It’s just something that I do as necessary or as I remember, or if the day lets me.

What brings you joy?

I’m brought joy from being around my family, friends, living in my purpose, doing the work that I love. I find joy in even the small moments of talking to the people I love, eating good food and [having] great times with great people.

What stresses you out?

Injustice is something that always stresses me out. I have random pet peeves: When people lie, that stresses me out a bit; when people don’t honor themselves by being honest; when people don’t use their power for good. I wrote a whole book called I’m Judging You, so there’s a whole bunch of pet peeves in there [along with] things that people do that make me side-eye them; there’s an extensive list.

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Tell us about your new book. What makes someone a professional troublemaker?

A professional troublemaker is somebody who is committed to disrupting for the greater good, they’re truth-tellers, trailblazers, they’re the people in the room who will speak up about an idea that is not good, they’ll make sure they’re calling out a joke that’s inappropriate. They will do what they need to do, even if it’s hard, to make sure there’s some sort of justice in the room. And my book is dedicated to professional troublemakers and people who constantly put themselves on the line and I wrote it because I hope we have more people doing that, who feel responsible for what happens in the rooms that they’re in. I want people to feel affirmed, and feel convicted when they’re not speaking up. I want people to [find] courage in the moment when they are asked to do something big, when they feel imposter syndrome creeping up. I want my book to be the "you got this" — it’s kind of like the verbal high five.

Why is it important that Black women in particular own their power?

I think Black women have to own our power because we deserve to, we’ve earned that by being born and the world has spent a lot of time trying to tell us that we’re not deserving of love or care. And basically it’s up for us to affirm ourselves and each other. We have to do it loudly, regularly and without apology.

You have such a large, devoted following on social media. But who inspires you? Are there any experts, authors or accounts you follow for motivation and mind and body guidance?

I follow a lot of people who are inspirational to me because I just watch them and see how they live authentically and follow their purpose. Alexandra Elle is one, she’s amazing; her book After the Rain just dropped. Cleo Wade is awesome. Nedra Tawwab, her book just dropped. I follow Tarana Burke, who’s a good a friend of mine and her work is deeply inspiring; she’s just a good person and really funny. Anybody who I follow are people who I find interesting and who I am inspired by. I think there is no shortage of women, especially no shortage of Black women, who fit in that category for me.

How does your Nigerian heritage impact your approach to self-esteem?

I think we wear our pride on our chest and how we walk through the world is with that same type of edge, which I actually think is dope, because Nigerians, we will gas each other up, we’ll gas you up, we will make sure that the people around us feel seen, feel special. And I think it’s a big part of me and how I show up right now, especially as a writer; it’s in the way I write, it is in how people can read my words and instantly feel more hyped, and I hope to continue to do that. I think a lot of that is definitely connected to my Nigerianness.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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