‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.’ – Dr Seuss
Iam raising a girl and I want her to grow up knowing that she is good enough, that she will be everything she needs to be, whoever she wants to be, and that she will be amazing at it because greatness is already within her. I want her to know that achieving her dreams and reaching the highest level of success in her life is entirely up to her. I do not know if I will be able to achieve these goals, but I will do my best.
I don’t want my child to look at other people and start wishing she was different because, the truth is, she never can be anyone else no matter how hard she tries. She can only be the best at being herself. I am her mother and possibly one of the biggest influences in her life, and if I start comparing her with other children and making her feel that she should be different, she will grow up believing that she is not good enough. I find that we, as parents, have bad habits that we learnt at an early age and that we impose them on our children. Sadly, most of the time, we are not even aware of these bad habits, and even when people bring them to our attention, we might not realise what we are doing wrong.
I am not a perfect mom, but I am learning every day and there is nothing that makes me sadder than hearing parents label or compare their children. “This is xx, she is smart, but not like her sister.”
This is why I get upset when people call my child a “Yellow Bone”. For context, a “Yellow Bone” is a term used to describe the lightest type of light-skinned black women. Why do we label people? Why should Kairo be labelled? Are we labelling her because she is different? Are we saying that it’s not okay to be different? What if this starts making her wish that she was darker so that she can fit in?
Each one of us can identify a moment when we were young when someone made us feel that we were not good enough. I was called vila voco, which means extremely lazy. I know people who were called names like spongo, sdudla, slenda, shorty and even mubi, which means ugly. There is nothing wrong with being thin, fat, tall, short, dark or pale, but the minute people draw attention to these attributes as if something is wrong with us, we might start doubting ourselves and wishing we were different.
As children, we are constantly told to get to the top of the class, or at least be among the best. If we play games, we must play to win and be the best player. If we do not measure up, we are shamed and even humiliated. We are compared with others from an early age and, eventually, we catch the habit and start comparing ourselves with other people.
Awareness is a very powerful tool. The minute I realised how bad the habit of comparing myself with others was, I immediately made it my mission not to do it again. Obviously, it’s not that easy, but awareness is an important starting point.
Why do we compare ourselves with others? I know that we are not born with this desire. As young children, we were happy to be who we were and we did not notice or even bother ourselves with how different we were from other people.
It was only as we began to grow that we started believing that, to be happy and make others happy, we must be better or do better than others.
Comparison is not good for us; it puts the focus on the other person, wasting precious energy that could be spent on ourselves. There is nothing wrong with learning from others. I have always grown when I worked with people who were better than me or had achieved the things I wished to achieve, but wishing to have what they had, even wishing to be them, is a different story.
I have very successful friends and they have things that I wish for in my life, but I know and understand that I will get those things when the time is right for me to do so. I am happy with my life and I understand that we are all on different journeys. They managed to achieve certain things before I did, but that doesn’t mean I am a failure. I am comfortable with my journey.
All I can do is learn from other people and be happy for their successes. Instead of comparing myself with others, I look to them for motivation; they are my inspiration, not my competition. The minute I start comparing myself with anyone, I am likely to become jealous, which is a burden I do not wish to carry. Comparison may also lead to resentment, which is something you should not have in your life because it is a very negative energy.
Wishing to be someone else is robbing the world of the greatness that you are. If you give up your place in the world, who is going to take up that space? No one can be you; no one can be great at being you. Only you can do that. By the same token, you cannot be great at being anyone else.
So rather use your energy on loving and discovering yourself. Focus on your blessings, count them and be grateful for who you are and how far you have come.
I have been hearing and reading a lot about self-love. Loving yourself is easily said, but the truth is, we are not inclined to love ourselves – in fact, we are very good at neglecting ourselves. There are people who know, love, appreciate and understand other people more than they do themselves. While this is great, you need to teach yourself always to start that process with yourself. You need to love and appreciate yourself before you can do the same for others. You cannot pour from an empty cup; you need to fill your life with love before you can share love with others.
I admire Kairo. She stands in front of the mirror, singing, dancing and even kissing herself. If I asked you to go to the mirror right now and stare at yourself for a minute, smile, wink and blow yourself a kiss, you’d probably think I was crazy.
But I challenge you to do just that. I do it every morning before I go out.