Over the years, I have tried to fit myself into all the “right” and “acceptable” boxes. Straight-A student? Check. Model employee? Check. Perfect Christian? Check.
I attempted to tick all the right boxes as a way of ensuring I would fit in and be loved. I’m not the only person who has done this; I believe it’s a common problem for many people.
Lately, however, I’ve begun to have a bit of an identity crisis. Not so much questioning who I am but more accepting of what is true about me. And the main thing I’m realizing is that I don’t fit into boxes.
Both/And not Either/Or
Society and convention want me to be either/or and I admit that I’ve played the either/or game most of my life. But I’ve spent the last few years learning to live in the AND. What I have discovered is that I am definitely more of a both/and kind of girl.
- I am proud to be Jamaican AND I can’t cook a lick of the food I grew up on and I’m not a huge fan of the current flavor of reggae music (I hope all my Jamaican readers don’t disown me now )
- I identify as a Christ-follower AND my spirituality is influenced by other faith traditions.
- Along the same vein, I love Jesus AND I connect with and believe in the properties of crystals and stones.
- I’m a girl who identifies as female AND I don’t wear make-up, I HATE shopping, and I couldn’t care less about the latest fashion styles.
- I’m a black woman who grew up in the 80’s in Brooklyn when hip-hop was being birthed AND I have zero rhythm. It’s best for all involved if I stay off dance floors
I say that last one a little bit tongue in cheek. But, as crazy as it sounds, it is with my identity as a Black woman that I am most learning to make peace.
Not Black Enough
Most of my adult life I’ve heard some variation of “you’re not really black”. Often said by white friends trying to be funny (for the record, it’s not funny).
On the other side of the coin, black people have accused me of “acting white”, usually because I have a diverse and eclectic mix of friends.
Both statements left me feeling not “black enough” as if my blackness is measured on some invisible meter. My identity crisis – really awakening is a better term – is realizing that I don’t have to fit into anybody’s definition of what it means to be a black woman.
People are always going to have some pre-conceived notion of who I am and how I “should” behave.
Like my friend Kenny in college who told me he first labeled me a sell out because he saw me in the Student Union with some white friends. Then we were in the same African-American literature class together and his opinion changed he said, “the first time you opened your mouth in class.”
Owning Who I Am
Other people’s expectation of me is not my problem. I don’t have to retreat back from owning my identity as a Black Woman for fear of not being “black enough”. I get to be who I am in all my multifaceted glory without needing others to validate my existence.
I’m a Black Woman AND I will choose a Broadway musical over a hip-hop concert almost any day of the week.
That and a myriad of other atypical choices I may make don’t make me less black; they make me more me.
I am who I am and holding all the seemingly opposites in my being is part of what makes me good at what I do. Because I can hold my own paradoxes, I can also hold space for my clients when their paradoxes show up.
As I stand more confidently in my apparent contradictions I reclaim more of the power I had unwittingly given away trying to fit into somebody’s box.
I’m far too rich, diverse, and complex for some tiny box. And so are you, my friend!
Here’s to us both embracing and loving all the complicated parts of ourselves and rising into our greatness.
From my heart to yours,
P.S: If you want to experience freedom from other people’s expectations and limitations let’s talk. Click here to schedule a complimentary Courage Igniter call. On this call, we will look at what it is you want for yourself and what it will take to move you towards your dreams.