I am unapologetic about being a black Nigerian woman – it is the core of who I am. But, being a black Nigerian woman does not always come with flowers, in fact, when it rains, it pours. As I have matured and reached many personal milestones, I have found that the experiences I have overcome have moulded me into who I am today – strong, resilient, able to face the many challenges that I know will still come my way. Such experiences, however, have not been devoid of emotional turmoil and mental battles – they never are.
As a woman, your life is often seen as a crutch for the advancement of others and not yourself. Your identity is wrapped up in the happiness of others because that is how you become a “good woman”. This is perhaps one of the most dangerous beliefs you could ever imbibe because the moment you begin to do things for yourself, you either feel guilty for taking that time out to pursue your happiness or you are judged as falling short of the standard that societal expectations place on you.
I am sure many women can relate to the feeling of inadequacy and have experienced incessant scrutiny, especially when who you are falls outside the parameters of ‘normal’.
I know most times I am my own worst critic. I used to often catch my mind racing with no less than a 1000 thoughts per minute, 75% of which were around struggling with conforming with what society demanded of me.
Being trapped in a constant cycle of self-doubt may lead to depression and anxiety. What’s sadder is that many people, especially in our community, men and women alike, are taught to keep these emotions bottled up and are discouraged from showing vulnerability as this is erroneously deemed a sign of ‘weakness’. You are either “sane” or not. The colours are either black or white. No one understands the mental or emotional struggles that you face.
With hindsight I realise that such beliefs are counterproductive to truly living and embracing the beauty of my identity and circumstance, even if this is ‘imperfect’.
In fact, it was in opening up and confiding in my support system that I overcame so many mental and emotional hurdles. Personally, without my family and friends, religion and passions, I do not know that I can say that I would be who I am today.
Whenever the stresses and pressure of life get to me – and believe me, as a lawyer and business owner, they do – I choose to spend time with my family doing the things that I love and which bring me back to my centre. I have also found peace in refraining from comparison and joy in accepting the here and now.
I would like to encourage anyone who feels stuck in a low place, or who is struggling with a mental battle on a daily basis, to continue to push through with self-compassion. Take as much time as you need to iron out those inner knots, you are worthy of that self-investment; after all, you are stuck with you for eternity – not even in death do you part!
You may believe that your present moment is just how your life is and will be for the foreseeable future. You may believe that you are uncared for or forgotten. I want to assure you that this is simply not true. Some days are truly awful for me, but for many more days I am thankful that I committed to myself and relied on loved ones when I needed them the most.
So, to everyone reading this, your daily battles, whether they are known or unknown to others, will become your greatest victories. You must believe in the silver lining and that your best is yet to come. Even on your worst days, when it seems easier to accept, trade those negative intrusive thoughts for ones of hope and faith - in yourself, your friends, your family, in those who raise you up when you feel down, those who cheer you up when the race seems too long. Ultimately, we can choose from which lens we view ourselves, I have chosen to view myself from the lenses of those who love me, after all, my people say – and it’s richer in my dialect - “People are the best shield you can use in covering yourself’. On this score, I am thankful – I have all the covering I need.
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