“Okay, Jasmine. Tell me something interesting about yourself.”
“I’m not interesting, Miss.”
A portion of a conversation between me and my primary school teacher at seven years old. The assignment was to write about what makes you unique, and I was drawing a blank. This baffles me because at seven years old, I loved to draw, write, sing and dance. Not that I was particularly good at any of those things, but I enjoyed doing them. It allowed me to transcend the shyness I had and invent universes where I was limitless. But somehow, that didn’t seem to qualify as an interesting thing.
Self-celebration doesn’t seem to come naturally – well, it didn’t for me. I don’t know where the misconceptions originated from, but I used to associate self-celebration with arrogance. If you displayed pride in yourself, the way you looked, spoke, and the things you did, then you were prideful, and pride always comes before the fall, right?
The second misconception was that seeing yourself as virtually nothing was humility.
Pinning all of your abilities and accomplishments down to “luck” was the morally correct response.
I can only speak on behalf of my experiences, and I noticed that as I adopted these two mistaken beliefs, my self-esteem plummeted. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to sing and dance anymore. And it didn’t stop there; I became bitter towards those who were multi-talented, and weren’t afraid to show it. Women were no longer my allies, but my rivals. I tried behaving and dressing more masculine just to distance myself from them.
As for my own cultural community, I started to only see the bad things that we did. Being black suddenly carried several negative connotations.
School didn’t help with this: when I turned thirteen, my history teacher decided to put Roots on, and I was exposed to the dehumanisation of African people without warning. And then there was the issue with diversity and representation in the media, aka, the lack of people of colour being in storylines that weren’t about racial oppression.
I had a terrible attitude. My understanding of self-love and humility were completely wrong, and as a result, I simply didn’t like myself. Note that all it took was about nine years of the wrong thinking. Almost a decade of telling myself that my demeanour was a result of my humility.
Marianna Williamson’s book A Return to Love touches on this subject. ‘We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ she writes. Maybe it’s the kind of society we live in, where most of what we do is because we’re trying to fill a hole. We’re made to fear something, and are then given the solution, all in the space of a commercial. Be honest: who has ever feared their enamel rotting away until they heard it on an advertisement? Who even knew what an enamel was?! We’re constantly told what we’re lacking and what we need. Who are you to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented or fabulous when you constantly need things to make you that way?
Williamson says ‘Actually, who are you not to be… Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.’
Not gonna lie, it felt like she was addressing me directly. The idea that I had of humility did not serve the world. It didn’t serve me. All it did was make me and everyone around me miserable. And I reluctantly fell into the stereotype of the loud, angry black woman. I was that person she was talking about; the one who was insecure around people. ‘We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.’
One day it hit me: it’s not about trying to be as good as someone else. It’s about becoming the best version of yourself. And there is no way you can do such a thing if you don’t acknowledge your worth.
Facts. It doesn’t matter how much people love you, because if you can’t love yourself, then you’ll still be empty. Your light will always be dim if you do not give yourself permission to shine. ‘And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.’
In life, we become a success by what we give. If you can give liberation just by loving yourself, then you are a success, and surely that is worth celebrating! Appreciate all the good things you do, no matter how small. Being your biggest critic can be debilitating if you cannot be your biggest fan as well. Speak affirmations over yourself. Ask yourself who you are NOT to be great. Tell yourself that you’re brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous. Because you are. It might be difficult at first, but persistence breaks resistance. I’m still learning to speak up and remember who I am and what I’m capable of. It takes time. But it’s worth the investment.
‘We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?’
Written by Jaz Morrison.
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