I was a really bossy child. If you were one of the few kids I invited over to play, you were subject to my rules. I chose which games we played, the toys we played with, and who played with what. When we played “house” I was always the one in charge; If we were pretending to be siblings, I was the oldest sister; if we were parent and child, I was always the mother. I liked being in control and felt no shame in letting everyone around me know it.
That changed when I started elementary school. Apparently, I was a little too unique for my classmates. I was singled out for speaking differently, I was picked on because I read all the time, I was too quiet, and kids got annoyed with me because I always raised my hand in class—and to add insult to injury— gave the correct answers.
I was made to feel ashamed of my confidence. To my peers it came across as me thinking I was “better than everyone else” and they never failed to let me know. All I was doing was being me, but that wasn’t good enough for them.
In an effort to gain their approval, I changed. I stopped raising my hand in class. I would pretend I didn’t know the answers to questions so the other kids wouldn’t think I was showing off, and I tried to speak their slang.
Sadly, the more I tried to fit in, the more I was ridiculed. As a result, I spent the next 15 years feeling insecure, depressed, and suicidal. Not only was I being pressured externally to conform, but internally as well. I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn’t want to be like everyone else but felt that I had to.
It wasn’t until I turned 25, (I’m ashamed to say it took that long) that I got sick enough to do something about it. I realized that I’d spent most of my life up to that point catering to other peoples’ vision of me. People thought I was meek and timid, so I acted meek and timid. Everyone thought I was flaunting my intelligence, so I played dumb so they wouldn’t feel insecure. I didn’t want to be seen as a stereo-typical “angry black woman” so I stifled all my dissenting opinions, and never stood up for myself. This was the polar-opposite of who I was as a child.
I decided that it wasn’t up to anyone else to define me. I believe in God, I believe He created me. In order to discover the real me I had to get to know Him. I spent more time reading my bible; I meditated more, prayed more, and got rid of self-destructive habits.
When my true character was revealed to me I rejoiced. As it turns out, that assertive, confident, precocious 4 year-old is who I was supposed to be all along. But I was bullied into being timid, taught that it was shameful to be proud of being smart, all of my interests were ‘weird’, and my love of reading was ‘nerdy’.
I was scared into my shell by people who didn’t understand me. They were intimidated by my authority, so they made every effort to undermine it.
They almost succeeded.
Fortunately, that bold, bossy, confident 4 year-old has added 27 more years of wisdom and experience. I’m no longer intimidated by anyone. Actually, to quote one of my favourite literary heroines, “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” –Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
I value God’s opinion of me above anyone else’s. I am quiet, but I can talk endlessly about topics that interest me. I don’t engage in small talk to be polite because I don’t think it’s genuine. I can be the sweetest person you’ve ever met…or the meanest. I’m weak…and I’m strong. In the words of Marilyn Monroe, ‘If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best’.
I have been given another chance to do things the right way and I’m not turning back.
And neither should you.
Don’t wait as long as I did to set things right. Always remember that you are valuable, you are loved, and you will find people who will accept you just the way you are. Don’t compromise who you are to fit in with people you don’t like. Surround yourself with people who will love and encourage you and never mind the rest. After all, the greatest insult to anyone who tries to diminish you is indifference.
Do yourself a favor and live the best life you possibly can, not because of your critics, but in spite of them.
Peace and Blessings 🙂