#SWW: A Conversation with Malek Mayo

I absolutely love #SelfWorthWednesday! I think for millennials, basically this generation’s 20-30 year olds, the pressure is high! It always is for this age range, but seeing as we are what I call “transitional millennials”, the pressure is not only high, but sometimes unrealistic. Transitional millennials are a group of people in between times. We are somewhere between revering traditional/older ways of thinking/approaching the world, while also releasing others and discovering alternatives that have been present, but not normalized or celebrated.

We need space to think and reflect on our lives so far because we’ve done and learned so much, it can be easy to not take notice.

For this #SWW post, I had the opportunity to interview Malek Mayo. He is one of the most introspective and authentic artists I know. We talk about this time a lot as we continue living, we discover, re-evaluate, re-define, and make our own way. Because our path, like everyone else’s, is unprecedented.

Samantha V. Richards: How do you define self-worth?

Malek Mayo: Self-worth is valuing the limitless possibilities of self, based on the understanding of one’s potential. It’s more about knowing who you aren’t. The biggest mistake people make is estimating their worth based upon how they measure up to others. It’s about who you see when you look in the mirror. You won’t know who you are or where you need to go unless you evaluate where you’ve been and how you got to this point. You won’t know your worth until you know the cost of those who came before you had to pay.

SVR: Prior to this definition did you have a different definition? What caused it to change?

MM: Yeah, I was one of those people who compared themselves to others. Every time I got on Instagram, I saw people who were enjoying life while I could barely afford to feed myself. I would wonder why I don’t have that. I deserve that. I evaluated where I was in life and focused on what I needed for my growth instead of what I wanted for my ego. Life isn’t always about what you deserve. Sometimes, it’s about getting the best value for what you can afford.

SVR: In moments where your worth is questioned (externally & internally) how do you re-affirm yourself?

MM: When my worth is questioned, I reaffirm myself by understanding that only I can affect my self- perspective. It’s a decision to allow someone else to affect my worth. I never allow myself to make that decision. I never try to “prove the haters wrong.” That’s stupid. Doing that would give them too much power. I only have to prove things to myself. Logically, it doesn’t even make sense. How could someone determine my worth when they don’t even know me? Even if I don’t know this value of myself, I’ll never allow someone else to determine it for me.

SVR: Are there any women/men/people who constantly provide a well of tools & reminders for you to draw self-love from where you’re running low?

MM: Yeah, there are a few people who I go to when I’m feeling low on self-love, but it’s not what I rely on. I write in my journal about it. When I write in my journal, it allows me to release all of my negative emotions out. On some of the pages, there are holes because I would stab them out of brutal anger. Other pages are wrinkled with smeared ink because they were once covered in tears. Once I dump all of my emotions on the page, I close the book and leave them there, so I can look at the situation through logic. Self-doubt or self-hate is a negative emotion that you must release. If you allow emotion to take control, it will swallow you into an abyss of darkness.

SVR: How would you prepare your 15-year-old self to embrace your current perspective about measuring your worth?

MM: Dear Mayo at 15,

You have a competitive fire about you that is your greatest strength and weakness. It’s your strength because it gives you the will power to be the best at whatever you do. It’s your weakness because you are working to become a perfect human being. I get it. You were raised to always do your best and you feel like your best is perfection. I get why you’re so hard on yourself whenever you make the smallest mistake. I know it comes from a place of passion and high expectations for yourself, but it’s slowly eating you alive. You will get older and you will feel like nothing you do is good enough. It’s an unreliable foundation because whenever you make a mistake, you will get discouraged to the point where it will consume you. Treat mistakes as opportunities to get as close to perfection as possible. Perfection is a estimation, not a destination.


Mayo at 25

SVR: You are an artist. Does self-care/self-worth, the measurement of them both, show up in your work? If so, how? If not, is that intentional?

MM: My measure of self-care and self-worth is apparent in my work. As an artist, I can only create based off of my truth and my understanding of the world. After I graduated college, my life circumstances put me in a dark place, so I made an aesthetic out of it. My work represented all the pain and struggle I felt. I made art from the perspective of someone who felt like the world was against him and God didn’t know he existed. I had lost everything, and I had to rebuild myself from scratch. I took a look in the mirror and realized that I could get through anything because I am Black. Now, my work is a reflection of the power of Black people and the inspirational future of us.

SVR: Has this current definition of self-worth affected your relationships (platonic or intimate- all forms)?

MM: My past definition of self-worth has affected my intimate relationships because it pigeonholed my idea of the type of person I want to be with. I wanted to be perfect, so I wanted the perfect woman. I found myself looking for a woman with specific attributes that I felt I deserved to be with. Once I re-evaluated my idea of self-worth, I realized how idiotic and entitled I was being. I remember thinking, “Who the f*ck do I think I am?” I wasn’t even half of these things, so how could I expect it from someone else? Now, I’m in a space where I’m still finding out who I want/need based on who I am and where I am.

SVR: What would you say to someone not fully aware of their worth yet? What seed could you plant to bring them a step closer to home?

MM: There’s nothing that I could really say that they don’t already know. It’s just a matter of going through experiences that unveils them to themself. I guess, don’t be afraid to experience things because you may surprise yourself. Allow yourself to be free.

SVR: Would you change anything about your journey to your current version of self-worth?

MM: Nah, not really. Cliché, but everything I’ve been through made me the person I am today.

SVR: Social media, as great of a resource as it is, can also play a part in negating the daily work we do inside to be better. How do you cancel out the noise and redefine it as a tool to push forth the manifestations you need?

MM: It’s all an illusion, really. Social media is a tool people use to control other’s perspective of them. It presents the opportunity to tell whatever narrative you want and create your own community. I’m very selective with who I follow because there’s a delicacy to what type of energy that I invite into my life. It’s tricky because some people on social media act like they’re positive because that’s how they want to be perceived. To cancel out the noise, just unfollow them. It’s a really simple solution lol.