Merriam Webster Dictionary.
What do these four things have in common?
You can find definitions in each of them. Definitions for theories, concepts, words, and so on, they can be found in at least one of the three sources I mentioned.
So where are you defined and who or, what, defines you?
For a generous part of my life, my academics defined me. My 3.8 GPA in high school. The grades I got in college courses. The leadership roles I took on inside and outside of my school.
If I told you about myself, my school would be the first thing I said and if I could find a place to appropriately mention it, my leadership roles as well.
Truthfully, not too much has changed. I've only just realized that I placed so much emphasis on my academics that I've forgotten to tell people about who I am outside of my grades. It's something I have to work on.
Make no mistake, you should do your absolute best in your academic career. Fight for good grades, do all extra credit, meet with your teachers/professors, and study hard. But that shouldn't be all that you are, you know?
I see the aftereffects of allowing my academics to take up so much of the plate that is my self esteem. This morning (11/29) I found out I have a B in one of my fairly difficult courses, which means I can't get an A in the course.
And you know?
I felt crushed. I went to my next class feeling dejected and stupid. I wondered if I even deserved to be an engineer if I can't even get good grades and maintain a good GPA.
But...a B isn't bad. And I have a good GPA.
When you eat a meal, you don't have just bread rolls or just string beans or just meat on your plate. You have some bread, some string beans, some rolls, and mayberoom for dessert.
If your self esteem is a plate, you can't only have academics or only the opinions of others or only your financial status or only your physique. Your plate must have a little bit of everything. It's okay if it fluctuates, but be careful to not let one thing take up your entire plate. Learn to balance it.
In case you're wondering, by the end of the day, I picked myself up. My self esteem is back in check and I'm fiercely competing to still make my goals. Some days you have to pick yourself up and keep fighting.
And I will. We will.
Because our first name is Resilient. Our middle name is Excellent. And our last name is People. And we REPresent ourselves exactly as our name is. Because that is who we are.
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.