Confidence is more than just walking with your head held high. Confidence is looking doubt in the eye and telling it to back off. Confidence is swallowing your fear and introducing yourself to potential employers at a career fair. Confidence is recognizing your mistakes and learning from them. Confidence is crying at night over a failure and getting back up in the morning to try again.
Confidence is demanding the respect you deserve. Confidence is looking people in the eye and defying them as they try to tell you what you can't do. Confidence is raising the bar and setting the standard for those around you. Confidence is loving the skin you're in. Confidence is knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. Confidence is walking with power even when you feel weak.
In the world we live in today, our confidence often gets swallowed. We face challenges based on who we are, the negative limitations people try to place on us, and even the limitations we give ourselves. It is hard to build an unshakeable confidence in ourselves and much easier to allow that confidence to be overshadowed by doubt.
My first year of college was a difficult one and college tried to steal my confidence. Every less than desirable grade I received, every professor that questioned my intelligence, and every hour I spent studying that seemed fruitless, it all added up. It was a weight on my shoulders that pressed on me and I had to fight to stand up straight.
There will always be nights where our pillows soak up the tears no one will know about. There will always be days where we feel like we are on the outside looking in. There will always be times where we wonder if the naysayers are right.
This is why your confidence will often be your foundation. It is what you will stand on when things are being stacked against you.
An egg will quickly crack. That cannot be your foundation.
A pillow will compress under pressure. That cannot be your foundation.
Wood will splinter and snap when put under too much stress. That cannot be your foundation.
Gold, silver, precious metals, they melt when the heat gets a little bit too uncomfortable. That cannot be your foundation.
But a solid rock, upon which you stand. A rock that neither cracks nor crumbles. A rock that does not compress when things are stacked against it. A rock that neither splinters, snaps, nor melts. That will be your foundation.
You may feel defeated after a poor exam grade, but you'll be the first student at your professor’s office hours.
You may look at a hill and feel too tired to climb, but you will climb it. You will succeed.
I will leave you with a quote that I heard at a leadership conference this past weekend: “People are like teabags. You truly know what's inside, when the water starts to get hot.”
What is inside of you?
I remember when I got my first period. I had just got finished bragging to my best friend about how I hadn’t gotten it yet. Three days later, I innocently went to go to the bathroom and it was like a crime scene had exploded in my underwear. My ovaries decided it was high time for a meet and greet, puberty edition. I pulled my underwear up (and died inside a little bit), went to my Mom, and whispered more quietly than I had ever done at a funeral, “I got my p-e-r-i-o-d. I need p-a-d-s.” Yes, I whispered and spelled like I was talking about a secret in front of a two year old.
Fast forward to five days of what will be quite a large chunk of the rest of my life, my period ended. But...I was still wearing pads. It took about two weeks before my Mom pulled me aside and asked me why I was wearing pads when I wasn’t on my period. She patiently explained that I had to count twenty-eight days from the last day of my period, then I start wearing pads again. I was ecstatic! I had been liberated! I could walk around a free woman! But I was still nervous, so I didn’t wear white pants for the entire time I was in high-school (and if we’re being honest, I still don’t).
While 13 year-old Cassia knew her period was a normal thing, I know that many other girls think something is seriously wrong when they first get their period. I know young women who got cramps for the first time and thought they were inches away from certain death. As someone with severe cramps, it’s not that hard to see why they would think that. Educating our young black girls on what a period is, why and how it happens, and what to do to make your Red Sea the easiest sea you’ll ever have to cross is crucial.
Everyone experiences periods differently, too. Twenty-eight days wasn’t a schedule my body followed when I first got my period, so I only had a vague clue as to when my ovaries would express their disapproval of my precious unused egg. Some women don’t get cramps, some only get mild cramps, or some, like me, have such severe cramps that it can them out for an entire day. Some periods only last two days, some last a full seven days. It varies from woman to woman. Proper education on what’s going with your body makes experiences a lot less scary. That education includes making sure that our girls know that their period isn’t taboo or shameful.
All in all, the female human body is pretty interesting. If time is an oven, we’re kind of like cake! We go through some incredible bodily changes as we grow older and it’s important that we understand what’s incredible. Don’t be ashamed to ask questions and understand what’s going on beneath the surface.
My body has lightning bolts.
They are on my sides, my butt, and my thighs. These lightning bolts may appear, to the less informed, that they are just stretch marks. But they are more.
You see, the lightning on my thighs reminds me that I must walk like my feet are the cause of thunder.
The lightning on my sides reminds me that every time I take a breath, I must breathe in greatness and breathe out excellence.
The lightning on my butt...well, I’m still working on what my body is trying to tell me with that one.
Most of all, the lightning on my body reminds me that it is necessary for me to love every part of who I am. I must love my color, my mind, my hair, my lightning bolts, my thighs (that are indeed made of thunder), my lips, my eyes, my smile, my nose. I must love me.
But I know that this isn’t an easy task, especially when your body type, race, or hair (or all three!) aren’t represented as often as they should be. Loving yourself isn’t always a walk in the park or a piece of cake, but something that takes serious effort. However, take it from me, the result makes all of that work completely, undoubtedly, and wonderfully worth it.
When you love yourself, you begin to see how valuable you are as a person. You glory in your personhood. You are comfortable being a black person, a black woman. It is that understanding that helps you to know exactly how you must be treated. You will then exude an aura of expectation that alerts those around you that you are aware of the respect you deserve from them. And they had better deliver.
My wonderful people, we are powerful, excellent, amazing. We are earth-shaking, stereotype-defying, groundbreaking people. We don't reach for the stars because we are them. Instead, our hands are outstretched to grab even greater. We have cornbread and resilience deep in our souls, spirituals woven in our hair, rhythm in our hands and feet. We have generations of stories on our tongues, laughter and smiles on our lips, unshakeable joy in our hearts, brilliance in our minds, and natural skill in our fingertips.
And we must love ourselves.