THE LEVEL – Anxiety. For some, it’s a temporary state. For 40 million others, it’s a chronic and debilitating condition, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, which reports that 18.1% of the population is impacted annually.
Many, like bestselling author and entrepreneur LaTashia Perry, keep it hidden.
“I don’t have any fancy degrees or training in writing,” says-Perry. “And I am certainly far from being a great public speaker. “I have social anxiety that I’ve hidden pretty well most of my life.”
As a young adult, the condition led Perry to make poor decisions that caused additional trauma, as well as a cascading set of additional issues that took years to finally overcome.
“My major in college was social work,” says Perry, “And, now, I finally have the guts to say I never completed it. I knew when I applied for school that college wasn’t for me. But I wanted to make my family proud, so I went anyway.”
The decision, and related heightened anxieties, were the catalyst behind many life-changing events for Perry, who became a first-time mother when she was 21 years old and at 22, became a wife.
“The babies just kept coming,” laughs Perry, who says that she learned to cope despite feeling unprepared and ill-equipped to deal with her new roles.
“It was crazy difficult,” says Perry, who settled in and devoted herself to her family.
“For a long time, I didn’t think I deserved success because I did not have a ‘formal’ education,” says Perry. “But let me tell you…God will open doors credentials can’t.”
Perry was determined that her kids would grow up without the debilitating social anxieties she experienced and to feel comfortable with the skin they were in.
Her first children’s book, “Hair Like Mine,” was created to help her daughter, the only Black girl in her dance class, feel comfortable and confident about her hair, which was dramatically different than her white, straight-haired peers.
“She was the only black girl in the class, which wasn’t any big deal for us at all,” Perry says. “She loved the class, at first, but then on the second or third day she wore her hair in two big ponytails. A little girl in the class told her hair looked funny. She told us she didn’t want to go back to the class anymore.”
Perry began creating the books that she could not find.
Today, she’s a role model to women and girls everywhere.
“When I started , I wanted to empower brown kids to not get caught up in what they see in social media and TV, and to not believe we have to alter our appearance to be deemed pretty,” says Perry.
The Kids Like Mine and Divine Dolls founder and author strives to empower all kids to be who they are and love who they are.
That’s a message that’s more important now than ever given pandemic-related increases in kids social media consumption, according to the author, who sold 100,000 books over the last three months.
Editor’s Note: Find Kids Like Mine shirts, bags, puzzles, greeting cards and party décor can be found on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble and Target. Visit Kids Like Mine website to see Perry’s African American doll collection. If you want to learn more about social anxiety and stigmas, visit Anxiety and Depression Association of America.