In one of his most noted plays, Shakespeare asked “to be or not to be, that is the question?” It's a question that plays out in our everyday lives. There is a daily temptation to “be” or “not be” for the season, for that day or even for that moment. To some people this phrase is as simple as choosing life or death, but Being is more than just existing.
Being is accepting who you are in spite of who you are. Being is exuding everything that makes up you...every good thing, every bad thing, every insecurity, every mistake, every gift, every talent, every success, every failure, every dream, every secret, every hope and every fear. It's because of those contractions and because of that weird, awkward mix of ingredients that make up all of us, that many people lack the courage to be. The courage to be is the act in which a person affirms their own being in spite of those wonderful, weird and awkward elements of their existence that may conflict. It's not until we choose to confront ourselves and embrace ourselves with that courage that we will be better students, actors, daughters, sons, parents, musicians, scientists, artists, writers, leaders and anything else. Courage is that unction that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain and challenge without fear. Courage is the ability to move forward, “in spite of.”
Read: The Popularity of Unkindness
Society is constantly pressuring us to be something or someone else other than who we are. It's not acceptable to just be 100% you and that be good enough. There is an old commercial where there is a young man standing in the center of the room, and all of a sudden someone comes and puts a fitted on his head and then a coat. Then someone else comes and takes that fitted off and puts on another cap and then another person comes and puts on another outfit. Then someone comes and puts a cigarette in his hands and earphones in his ears and before you know it there are dozens of people all around him putting things on him and taking things off of him. Finally he decides to push all the people away and takes off all the clothes and items they put on him and walks away by his self, wearing his own clothes. He decides at the end of the commercial that it was enough to just be him. Can you imagine all the layers society puts on us every day? We must act a certain way and dress a certain way and talk a certain way to be accepted. We have to come from this background and have to have this much money and to listen to this music and hang with these types of people. In every space you enter into there is a different set of unspoken rules and we all find ways to conform.
In this season I'm challenging myself to somehow rediscover who I really am, apart from what all of those people and spaces have told me that I should be. The question is, will I have the courage? When I rediscover the reality of who I really am, I’ll have to make the decision that I am more than enough. That I'm Black, i'm young, I can be stubborn, my family is quirky, my friendship are scattered, I don't have the best style, and I can be moody and insecure, but I’m fun loving and playful and I’m talented and gifted and all of that is enough. Having the courage to accept all of who you are will catapult you to a place where the majority of people in the entire world, have yet to get to. The majority of the people in this world have more courage not to be, than to be themselves because they feel as though it’s just not enough. As a result we will give into any idea or any image that we feel will help us get ahead, as long as we can be someone other than ourselves.
Read: African Buttaflie: Reflections on Self-Acceptance
I remember I saw an article in People Magazine titled, “Obsessed with Being Perfect.” It was about how in one day Heidi Montag (formerly of “The Hills”) received 10 plastic surgery procedures on her, chin, nose, lips, ears, thigh, backside, stomach, neck and breasts. She went through excruciating pain and a few near death experiences during and after the surgery. She said, “I'm competing against the Britney Spears of the world” and called her surgeries an "investment for my career." But most alarming was that she said that these surgeries and transformations were intended for her to be“the best me.” This is how far we have gone as a society and in American culture out of fear that we aren't enough. Being all that you can be simply means being all that you are. However, if our attitude is one of merely “Keeping up with the Kardashians” then I’m not only afraid for what the future holds for courage but authenticity as well.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
For Harriet is an online community for women of African ancestry. We encourage women, through storytelling and journalism, to engage in candid, revelatory dialogue about the beauty and complexity of Black womanhood. Learn more.