Once upon a time, you put on either a super hero costume, a tutu, a princess dress, or a cowboy hat, and basked in your potential. I know you did. I did too. We believed that we weren’t just okay, but extraordinary—magical actually. Perhaps, we could even be a super hero or a princess one day? I fully believed that I had the ability to fly when I was 5 years old. Think back for a moment—back then everything seemed possible; back then–we thought that we were sensational.
And then we started school, ballet class, Pop Warner football practice and stopped believing in super heroes and princesses. More tragically, we stop believing in the magic of ourselves. We realized that we couldn’t save the world, fly, kill all the bad guys, run at the speed of light, or talk to the animals. We are mentally stripped of our magic–our gargantuan potential– and become ordinary and vulnerable.
So, we start to build our armor—to toughen up, to protect ourselves, to elevate our stature, to show the world something shinier. “Look, I have the latest big wheel, cute new pink patent leather shoes, Little Debbies in my lunch, the latest Jordan’s, or I’m the best player on my team.” We don’t really care about the features of the latest gadget, but what having the gadget says about who we are.
The process of building our armor doesn’t end when teenage peer pressure halts, yet continues well into adulthood. We stay married when we are miserable; we stay in careers that we despise; we sit on boards when we are apathetic; we have friends whom we don’t particularly like. We hold titles, get into clubs, join particular churches, we drive certain cars, wear certain name brands, and play certain sports (honestly, I know people who don’t genuinely like golf, but play it for what it symbolizes). Piece by piece, activity by activity, purchase after purchase, we build our suit of armor: chainmail, breastplate, visor.
I realized halfway through my doctoral studies that one of the main reasons that I was pursuing the degree was because of the way “Dr.” sounded and looked. I convinced my husband to buy me a piece of jewelry that I didn’t particularly like because all of the ladies were wearing this particular brand. I repeatedly ate at a restaurant that didn’t have great food, but had been deemed “the place to seen”. I just kept piling on the armor. “You see me world? I’ve done well. I’m shiny and special. At a minimum, I’m okay. Right?”
We are all unconsciously building armor– working hard to be special – yet doing so by being the same, following the crowd. The girl who would wear her tutu, favorite red shirt and lavender rain boots to the mall becomes an adult clone because she believes that designer outfit will protect her from ridicule. She is safe.
Then, life happens. It hurls at you either a tragedy, such as death or illness; or a blessing such as the birth of a child or a spiritual experience so forceful that your armor is penetrated and your heart starts to beat more loudly than your ego. You are taken back to you– and the armor actually starts to feel heavy. Wearing it feels too burdensome.
Additionally and hopefully, with age, you start to accept and to like you–the naked you–and the armor doesn’t seem as necessary. You start to believe that you are enough—just as you are. You may not feel capable of saving the world; killing all of the bad guys or flying; but but you feel capable of saving yourself, weeding out the bad guys; and walking tall. You are enough.
You begin to walk away from things and people and groups who no longer serve you. Teenagers care about being popular; women above 30 start bragging about being selective. No longer are they concerned with whom accepts them, but whom they accept. They aren’t seeking anyone’s acceptance, once they have achieved their own.
Older, secure people start shedding things (their pieces of armor): hair, friends, careers, unnecessary obligations. They stop doing things that outwardly speak for them; and start doing the things that speak to them.
As you age, your voice becomes more valid than everyone else’s. Life has taught you about your vulnerabilities and your power; your weaknesses and your strengths. And you become comfortable with all of it. It’s undeniably, uniquely and beautifully –you. And you are enough. You start embracing all that you are–doing your thing—and realize that all along–you were a Wonder Woman after all.
“Do My Thing”
Estelle(feat. Janelle Monáe)
I wear my clothes like this because I can
I wear my hair like this because I can
I walk around like this because I can
And I do my thing like ’cause this who I am (this who I am)
If you are expecting me to give you an apology
For being nothing that you used to, used to
Well go on right ahead and wait
Hold your breath and concentrate
Keep holding till your face turns blue
My road, it ain’t your road but trust I know just where I am going
My flow it ain’t your flow, but trust I know, I know just how I’m flowing
I’ma do my thing
I’ma do my, I’ma do my thing
Please feel free to hate and complain
Said I’m a do my thing
I’ma do my, I’ma do my thing
Say what you want cause this one ain’t gonna change
I’ma do my thing
Ha ha ha ha ha ha
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more