Why Black Women Should Not be Modest About Their Talents

Being born and raised in the UK, is to grow up in an environment that doesn’t like to see people show off.  British culture is very much rooted in humility and not making grand declarations that will draw too much attention to oneself. It’s OK to be great but don’t be too loud about your greatness. From a very early age I realised that that wasn’t quite making sense even if I couldn’t quite work out why.  I’m Nigerian, Yoruba specifically, inherently we are a proud and vibrant people. We celebrate ourselves and each other boldly and so to be born in a country where that is frowned upon (unless of course you’re a sportsperson who has won a medal for the nation) is challenging.  To make it more difficult is the constant knowledge that there are unspoken rules which dictate who is allowed to be boastful and who must always be “know their place”.  It was clear and never really hidden that anti-black racism and discrimination and working class prejudice were going to be barriers not only to progress and entry to certain spaces but also to my confidence as a Black woman in the UK.

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Joyful Black woman – photography by Prince Akachi via Unsplash

I grew up watching Black Hollywood or as I call it Amerinollywood films and content from the US in which Black women were given space to boldly declare their greatness. I grew up on Nollywood films and Nigerian music videos in which women were highly visible and never hidden. So seeing that and knowing intrinsically what I was capable of,  I have often felt boxed in as a Black woman in the UK; like the environment in which I am living, though home, wants to contain me but not necessarily let me shine beyond a certain point.  When I first started my business I was extremely gregarious, I knew what I wanted to accomplish and where I wanted to go. I was so full of ideas and energy and light, light that I think has been dimmed slightly along the way but I often find new ways of reigniting that light .  I know I am not alone in this feeling I have often had conversations with other Black women in my network who have wondered whether their best bet is to leave this country.  From my own personal experience the constant questions about what I’m doing, why I’m so active on certain social media platforms, why I’m so intentional about self-promotion have always to me come across as another way to remind me of my place in this society. This is not to say that there are not extremely successful Black women in the UK, but if you look around how many of them are allowed to take up space at anyone given time. In fact I would argue that by allowing this one at a time unspoken rule it not only gives the impression that the UK is “meritocracy” (this is not the case, hard work is not enough) but it makes those of us who are not given a spotlight despite being good at what we do, question whether we’re good enough and so continuing to “work twice as hard” even though we are more than good enough.  As someone who proudly represents Black business owners, mainly but not exclusively women,  I am a champion of ensuring that Black women receive their proverbial flowers. I am also an advocate for not waiting for those flowers to be given to you:

By nature I am a confident person but the environment and society which I have been raised in made me question that confidence many times, I am not necessarily someone who requires a vast amount of attention to validate me in fact I do not require external validation to know what I am capable of. I have the humility of someone who knows that nothing in life is promised and this world is tough but I have the confidence to know that I can overcome – not immediately and not easily but I can overcome. I am not modest about my talents; I know that I am gifted, multi-faceted and that I do not wish to be contained to the limitations of society. I want all Black girls and Black women who read this to know that they do not have to be modest about their talents and gifts either.  It’s absolutely OK to admit that you’re proud of yourself and even if you’re the only one in this moment who recognises it make sure you pat yourself on the back and give yourself the credit that you deserve. So many of us have been conditioned to downplay our achievements and accept the crumbs of opportunity that this country offers us when in fact we deserve more than crumbs we deserve the entire cake with tea.

 

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Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

Comparison can be a confidence killer! It is one of those habits that we form from a very early age and becomes so embedded into who we are that we do it everywhere both consciously and sub-consciously. But we have to learn how to stop comparing ourselves to others. By constantly comparing yourself to others you are blocking your progress, all the time and energy that you use to compare the lives of others to your own could and should be used to grow and plants seeds of progress. Being inspired by others is one thing but allowing comparison to make you feel down or even feel jealous is a misuse of energy and here’s why:

  • Comparison is a thief of joy – it can make you look at your current situation and feel disappointed in your lack of progress or your lack of “things”; too often we compare based on the superficial and it distracts from appreciating what is going well in our lives.
  • Comparison is a distraction – by distracting you from your own goals it keeps you stuck in place and can often stop you from getting the things that you want because you’re spending so much time looking at what others have.
  • Comparison kills your confidence – when you compare where others are sometimes you see them as better than you or having more than you, this can leave you disappointed with who you are and really has a negative effect on your confidence.

I know that it is particularly difficult in this digital era, social media almost forces us to compare ourselves to each other on a daily basis but we have to find other ways to measure our progress and monitor our joy. One of the most powerful ways is to stay focused on your path whilst still appreciating that the wins of others is not a sign of failure on your part, the wins of others is actually evidence that great things are possible for you too. You can learn from the wins of others without comparing yourself to them in a way that undermines you.

In this video I give you some advice on why you need to stop comparing yourself to others.

Are you really shy or are you just afraid to shine?

According to the dictionary the definition of shy is to feel” nervous or timid in the company of other people, less than”. Feeling nervous is natural when it is compounded by doubt, however if we allow nerves to rule us it can block us from our progress. The mindset of feeling “less than” means that individuals are not stepping into spaces that they might need to be in, in order for them to thrive. Feeling shy is normal, it is sometimes cute and is absolutely not something to be ashamed of but when it becomes a persistent part of our lives it leads to habits that do not allow us to truly grow. As the founder of a PR consultancy, I often meet people who are super excited about working with a PR agency but then suddenly shut down at the very idea of having to give interviews or shine the spotlight on their involvement in the business. This stems from their own shyness, as they would describe it and yet more often than not I have to say that they are not shy, they are simply afraid to shine. Being shy is another symptom of fear, fear that you do not measure up, fear that you will be exposed as a “fraud” and it is that fear that keeps holding people back. It is a fear that often stops people from networking, public speaking, media interviews and even getting started on a new idea.

People need to build their confidence when working on being the face of their brands or the public face of their businesses. It is so important to do the work to allow your business success to shine and thrive and even if it is not for business use the thoughts I have shared in this video to work on overcoming your shyness and build your confidence.