1.I am beautiful: Depending on who is reading, this statement might either sound like an obvious fact, or an arrogant assertion. For me, making this statement is a BIG STEP. I don’t think I have ever consciously said the words out loud to myself( well I just did!),because up to a certain stage in my life, I didn’t really think or even believe that I was worthy of being called beautiful. For the greater part of my teenage years, I suffered from low self-esteem-in terms of body image. I had internalized comments that: I was too tall for a girl, I was too skinny and needed to consume more food so I could be a bit voluptuous, and that my forehead was really high, so I needed hairstyles that would cover it up. I thus decided hey, but at least I’m smart-that’s all I’ve got, so I just have to do well academically. The years of adolescence are very sensitive-they either build or break you and thankfully I have always possessed qualities that have carried me through those difficult years-resilience, ambition, and stubbornness. I am now blessed to be surrounded by beautiful friends who uplift me, people who possess inner and outer beauty, and they have lifted my esteem in ways I am really thankful for. Nevertheless-no woman should have wait for verification of the beauty she possesses-and that’s the point of realization I came to in 2013.I have slowly come to appreciate and love the body I am in-I am 5’9-a beautiful height, I am slim-I can wear any type of clothes I want-I have a prominent forehead-a mark of intelligence-I am beautiful. For me to say that to myself-is more than enough.
2.I deserve respect-too: I am guilty of trying to be a people-pleaser. Sometimes I look back, and I wonder why I did half of the things I did to try to get people to like me. As in…why? Well, the reasons are very simple to me, but might sound complex to other people. Firstly, I am not the most emotionally secure person in the world, so I sometimes feel like, if I can get people to like me, by pleasing them and massaging their egos, then that would make me more favorable and ‘nice’ in their eyes, and then they will really get to like me. Secondly, I can’t stand the idea of people talking behind my back, so I try to be extra nice, so they would, hopefully, be nice back, and the spirit of “niceness” would just spread around, and everything would be beautiful. Well, of course that kind of attitude leads to a habit of just accepting other people’s sometimes negative behavior towards me, without questioning it, or speaking up about it.2013 was a year of revelation and lesson-learning, and of course, tremendous growth for me in this area. I don’t have to get people to like me, by going ALL OUT to please them. I just have to be myself-good old me-Ngozi. I have always taken people for who they are-and I deserve every ounce of that respect too.
3.I am a feminist: In case you haven’t heard this before, yes, I came out as a feminist in an article I wrote in October this year. I am a feminist-a proud Sierra Leonean feminist. Feminism is all about acknowledging and advocating for equal rights and access to opportunities for women. I believe in dressing up and looking good, and in the power of 6 inch heels. I believe that women should strive to be whatever they want , without being dictated to, and that feminism does not necessarily mean rejecting motherhood or marriage ,it just means you don’t have to strive for them just because you are a woman. Declaring myself as a feminist has done marvelous things to my confidence in being a whole woman and my perspective at looking at the world. I was able to embrace a label that still holds many negative connotations like “lesbian man-hater” ,or “bitter spinster”, and unashamedly wear the badge of feminism. Feminism, for me, is a way of life, not a fad I have adopted to pass the time or to “be cool”, and I am proud of myself for that.
4.I should stop shrinking myself: “Don’t dull your shine for anyone else”-Tyra Banks. This has been one of my life mantras for this year. Sometimes, I’ve been afraid of being “too much” or a “little over the top”, being “too ambitious”. I have come to realize that there is no such a thing as being too ambitious, being too overdressed, being too driven, being too sexy, being too beautiful, being too intelligent, being to articulate or being too “anything”, for me. I want to live my life to the fullest, if there is even such a thing, and try not to put myself in a box . Sometimes, I am scared of dreaming too big, and when I do dream big, there will always be naysayers who proclaim that it will never be possible. Thankfully, I have slowly been eliminating and deleting naysayers in my life, and toxic people no longer have a place or say in my space. I will keep on living up the mantra in 2014 and beyond, because the greatest form of self harm is to shrink my abilities and capabilities, because I am too afraid to stand out.
5.There is inner peace in being positive: I have found so much joy and peace in removing toxicity from life. Being positive is a not just a state of mind it is a way of life. This year, my road towards being positive has included: dedication to fitness (yoga, gym), consciously eating well (trying to focus on a pesco-vegetarian diet), investing in fulfilling and uplifting relationships, and paying more attention to my needs. Being positive has also really re-strengthened my relationship with God. I went through a phase where I stopped thinking about my faith, and then I got to point where I said to myself “Okay, there’s no way I’m going through this alone, I actually need God, to maintain my sanity!”I also happen to be a worrier-a very mild one though-thankfully! But that worrying sometimes led me to have to force relationships and life events to happen. Thoughts like “Oh my God, I don’t have enough friends! I have to go out and make more friends-I HAVE TO!”, or “Why don’t I have a boyfriend?-I need to find one right this moment! I will do ANYTHING for a boyfriend!” “Will I pass this paper? Maybe if I add two more pages to this 15 page paper, I will pass for real!”… Well all that worrying just added to my stress levels, and needless to say, some bad decisions were made. However, everything started to fall into place anyway, by being open more positive, I have developed beautiful and uplifting friendships both on and off campus, my grades were awesome for both semesters this year, and I am no longer panicking about not having a significant other, because being positive and open, brings the most beautiful gifts into one’s life. I’m still a work in progress and those who know me well, know that I fret more than I should, because usually in the end, things always fall nicely into place anyway. I don’t have to force friendships and relationships, and force things to happen (well, maybe academics –wise, that’s a different issue!).The beautiful thing about life is that when we stay open, we allow beautiful things to walk in.
6. I should never (EVER) forget where I come from: Leaving Freetown, to come all the way to Wooster was definitely one of the bravest decisions I made. For the first time in my life, I became a minority, and that came with a lot of baggage I wasn’t prepared for: stereotypes, weird assumptions, hyper or under-visibility, and just the fact that Wooster, and the US, is not really my home. I am grateful for the many people who have tried to make me feel at home here-host parents, my friends, but the reality is-unless I start vying for a green card, or try to gain a US citizenship, this is not home. And that realization can be good and bad in many ways. One prominent way is trying to fit into the standards of the majority-changing or tweaking the accent, for example, anything to not be too different. At some point this year, I felt like I was losing myself, my core, who I really was-a Krio Sierra Leonean girl, who had been raised in the typical Krio manner, who ate fufu on Saturdays and adored Nigerian movies (don’t judge, most of them are awesome). I felt there was a pressure to change my accent so it would sound more American (by the way, my Krio/Sierra Leonean accent is going nowhere, I don’t even know how to change it.), to involve in typical college weekend stuff like “hook-ups” and whatnot. Going back home this summer really helped me rouse myself and realize that yes, there are many American things I can embrace-if I choose to, but that I don’t have to and the most important thing is to never forget my roots, because losing touch with myself and trying to be who I’m not, will make me a phony, insincere and very unhappy person. The highest sense of shame I will ever have is to look at myself in the mirror one day and ask “Ngozi-na u dis? Aw u don tan so? U don forget usai u Komot?”