On radical self-assurance

Being a black woman with self-assurance means gathering all of your strength to move through a world shaped to diminish your power.
Being a black woman with self-assurance means gathering all of your strength to move through a world shaped to diminish your power.

There’s a rising tide of women who are pushing against traditional values. Around what and who women should be. And instead they are choosing to celebrate their emotions, thoughts and behaviour – something usually frowned upon in society.

As women become increasingly self-assured about their worth and value in a male-dominated world, they are increasingly maligned for supposedly being “intimidating” and “threatening”.

I once read that self-assurance is the least-aggressive form of intimidation, yet the most effective.

Take a scroll through your social media feeds when women’s issues are discussed, or when women share their personal experiences of gender discrimination.

Invariably you’ll find retorts describing these women as “bossy”, “bitches” and worse. In the face of this, self-assurance is a necessity.

Self-love becomes a radical act necessary to face the challenges of a patriarchal, oppressive society – and to survive them.

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This epiphany came to me in my thirties when I discovered that I had a choice: either I would let the societal burdens (placed on me as a woman) crush me, or I would practise self-love.

In my case, this meant nurturing an unwavering belief in my abilities and developing absolute faith in my purpose in the world.

Our patriarchal, male-dominated society thrives off disempowering women and that’s why I find empowerment through self-assurance so powerful.

We women are given little to no training on how to survive our twenties in one piece.

We have to make hard decisions about just what we are willing to tolerate and accept from other people; how we will survive events that can break one’s spirit and isolate us from society.

We also have to learn and determine of and from ourselves exactly what we are willing to tolerate.

Naturally we make mistakes again and again. Sometimes we repeat the same mistakes for years before we have the ability to move on.

But learning to be kind to myself about my faults is what made accepting my own humanity that much easier.

As a black woman working in an industry largely run by white men, I’ve had to learn to let go of the self-deprecating narrative conditioned into me from a young age; that narrative that leaves others with the belief that they are entitled to my efforts and sweat, regardless of the toll it takes on me.

I’ve learnt that the best way to protect myself is to resist the persistent pressure to allow myself to be taken advantage of by others.

That resistance alone can be isolating and scary, but we have a duty to protect ourselves and other women around us. Protecting ourselves and others means leaning on the same stereotypes black women are routinely told to avoid, such as the “difficult” or “uppity” woman trope.

A most recent example of this was the treatment tennis champion Serena Williams received during the US Open final. When she demanded fairness, she was typecast as being “ungrateful” and “arrogant”.

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As a result of Serena’s experience – as well as others I have witnessed or experienced myself – I have chosen to lean on being a “difficult woman” which, to me, means standing tall in my excellence. Being a black woman with self-assurance means gathering all of your strength to move through a world shaped to diminish your power.

But you must believe in yourself and you must push on.

And, to my fellow women, the next time you find yourself terrified of asserting yourself and your self-assurance (which is, essentially your excellence), remember this: there are no rewards for suffering in a world that already believes women should be placed in a position of servitude, sacrifice and scrutiny.

Push back by believing in yourself and your power.

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