This September, we’re celebrating those emotions, thoughts, and behaviors most of us would usually rather ignore. The ones society demeans, devalues, and delegitimizes in women. The ones that earn us labels like “bossy,” “bitch,” and worse. The ones that simply make us human beings—and that we shouldn’t have to apologize for. Here, Chidera Eggerue a.k.a The Slumflower, the author ofWhat a Time to be Alone,explains why her self-assurance is non-negotiable.
What is self-assurance? It’s an unwavering belief in your own abilities. An impenetrable faith in your purpose. It’s an unmoved conviction that cannot be replaced. But in a patriarchal world that thrives off women being in significantly less power, the very system benefits off you not being aware of your greatness. That’s why self-assurance is so powerful to me.
When I say “patriarchy” I mean the system our society has been built on, in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. It’s why it’s absolutely encouraged for a man to be vocal about his abilities, yet when a woman states her skillset and vocalizes her excellence, she often either finds herself apologizing straight afterwards, or shrinking her statement to avoid being called a “bitch” or a “know it all.” But we all know that when a man exudes the same confidence and authority, he’s a known as a go-getter. A leader. A boss.
“There are no rewards for martyrdom in a world that already believes in placing women in a position of servitude, sacrifice, and scrutiny.”
Being a black woman operating in an industry run by white men (as a blogger and public personality) I had to let my own self-deprecating ship sail REAL QUICK. Why? Because when the rest of the world has been conditioned to believe that it’s entitled to my labor, the most efficient way for me to protect myself is to resist the heavy pressure to let myself be taken advantage of. It’s often isolating and scary because there’s always a voice in the back of your mind whispering to you that if you don’t let them snatch away this valuable piece of your right now, nobody ever will.
But I have learnt that it is my duty to protect myself because I am my own keeper. Sometimes, protecting yourself looks like leaning further into those very “stereotypes” black women are told to avoid, including being “difficult”—which actually means being demanding of clarity, with a refusal to compromise on your core values.
Other times, standing up for yourself looks like being stubborn about my vision. People won’t believe in you until you do. So if that idea still isn’t winning them over and they’re wondering how on earth it’s going to materialize, that is NOT an indicator that you should discard of it.
“Self-assurance is the least aggressive, yet most effective form of intimidation. And I carry it with me at all times. Armed and ready.”
Give yourself a chance. Step the idea up a whole new notch and make it yours. Develop it further, fill your mind with all the research needed to execute it, and finally, return with a coherent, well-packaged delivery that will leave them asking “so when should we start?”
Everyday, my aim is to lean closer and closer to the highest possible version of myself. I deserve to stand tall in my excellence. So I am slowly preparing myself for the woman I am about to become. She is going to need all the strength I have in me to move through a world that will continue to fight to shrink me. But I believe in her. And I believe in you.
Listen to me sis, the next time you find yourself being terrified of asserting your self-assurance—your excellence— remember: there are no rewards for martyrdom in a world that already believes in placing women in a position of servitude, sacrifice, and scrutiny.
Self-assurance is the least aggressive, yet most effective form of intimidation. And I carry it with me at all times. Armed and ready. Here are some things to remember when you are finding it hard to thrive in an environment that doesn’t want you to be self-assured:
Be ready to disappoint people
You may or may not have noticed, but some people in our lives prefer us at our smallest; when we are always asking them for help, when we are seeking permission from them to be great, when we’re saying “yes” to them all the time. Don;t cave. Which leads to my next tip.
Stretch those boundaries even further out
Nobody will die if you say “‘Unfortunately, I can’t stay back an extra hour this evening, as I’ve already made some commitments,” or “I like your suggestion but I would rather develop my idea a bit more.” Stand your ground.
Do not respond with a self-deprecating sentence when someone commends your brilliance
Never ever refer to yourself as “lucky” to be exactly where you’re meant to be. You worked for this. Take the credit. Absorb the praise. Dance in the light. This was ALL you.