The Word 6 minute read

Do You See Yourself, My Sista?

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There is a woman I know (and by “know” I mean that we travel in the same social circles, have had brief chats at events, are social media friends and sorority sisters; but we haven’t talked on the phone about personal issues or anything).  Yet, I feel as if I know her, know her because she is a Sista who is striving to do some thangs professionally (while being a wife, mother. daughter, social activist, and pleasant human-being generally).  I feel, when I meet these Sistas, as if I know them immediately.  I see me in them; and them in me as clearly as I see myself in those full-length mirrors surrounded by soft lights that are found in dressing rooms in high-end department stores.

We are hikers on the same path, experiencing similar challenges: getting corns, blisters, twisted ankles and bruised egos; encountering bad weather, dog shit, rude mountain bikers, steep hills, loose rocks, and poison oak on our proverbial trails. The best of us, most of us, encourage each other (those who are behind and ahead of us on the trail) because we know intimately the journey and the challenges it brings.

Whether the other sister be far ahead of us or lagging far behind, we are praying and rooting for her. Perhaps because we see ourselves in each other, seeing each other on the path gives us strength to take steps that we thought we were too emotionally or physically exhausted to make. We run past, walk past, limp or crawl past each other; or watch the other run, walk, limp, or crawl past us and silently or loudly wish each other well. “You go, girl.  You’ve got this.”

That’s what me and this woman have done every now and then through a FB comment or passing word at an event. You go girl!  Recently, she added a comment to one of my Instagram posts that said something to the effect of “I’d like to travel fabulously like you do.”

My first reaction (and I’m being candid) was “Girl, bye!  You are the 28 year-old Flo Jo of these trails; the woman she was right before she won Olympic Gold.  The only reason I may be on the path ahead of you is that I’m 10 years older than you, so I’ve been running longer.”  But I didn’t say that because I realize that she, like me, like most Sistas I know don’t truly see themselves, our fabulosity, our brilliance, our magic.

We claim we do; and sometimes we truly do; but a lot of the time we don’t really–not fully. I am filled with self-doubt; always wondering if I look okay, if what I’m wearing is appropriate, if my stomach looks pudgy, if people think I’m crazy because I’m fairly non-traditional. I stay up late at night sometimes reviewing something I said, and wondering if I shouldn’t have said it; or checking articles I’ve written and stressing because no one has liked it.  When my sons do poorly in school, I question if it’s because I’m not spending enough time with them or because I didn’t breast feed long enough, or make them read more during the summer.  I am able to find a flaw with every picture that has been taken of me: if only I had smiled more, stuck my hip out more, noticed that my hair wasn’t quite right.

If I’m honest, at best, I feel good; but I rarely feel great. I rarely feel like I did enough or am enough.

I don’t think that I am alone.  A Black woman in particular, is the rose that  grew in the crack of the sidewalk.  We blossom INSPITE OF. The thing is – if as a Black woman, all your life you’ve been told that you ain’t enough: by well meaning family and friends: (Girl, you sure must love that food down South cause you finally have some hips. What happened to that guy you were dating? I like you better with short hair.  All that money ain’t going to keep you warm at night. A man likes a woman who can cook.  By co-workers: Why are you so angry. Your work is great but your attitude could use improvement. Some people feel as if you aren’t a team player.  By society: Black girls just don’t look right with blond hair. If you perm your hair, you don’t really love yourself. No man wants a girl with the same haircut as he has or with a weave. You are pretty for a dark skin girl. I thought Black women were supposed to have big butts. You’d be so pretty  if you lost some weight or had boobs or got your teeth fixed. Girls that look like us are rarely featured On magazine covers, shows or movies, so sometimes we question if we are enough.

I hear the self-doubt in the conversations that I have with my Sista-friends. They will negotiate accepting less than kind behavior from a man, less than fair wages from a job–just less than they deserve because they are not fully embracing their tremendous  worth.  I always want to cut them off mid-sentence and say: do you see you?

Do you see you, my Sista?

In the times that you don’t, it’s important that you have those mirrors on the trail, the others that are hiking too, the ones who will encourage you, regardless if they are ahead or behind because they see themselves in you.  You need those women (and yes, I am specifically talking about women) who will pray or whisper silently (though you can feel it) or scream loudly: You go girl. You’ve got this!  You need those women whom remind you that you are indeed enough.  Actually, you are more than enough. You are overflowing with abundant talent, beauty, possibilities, and drive.  You are a product of the strongest, finest, most resilient ancestors who have already paid for your crown. It is your crown. And the sisters with whom you surround yourself should remind you of that, primarily because you see yourself in them and them in you.

Do you see yourself, my Sista?d

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

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