By Njoki Karuoya
“I began the journey of being the confident woman I am today when I decided to stop being ‘cool’.”
This was a statement made last Saturday by Ruthpearl Ng’ang’a, the communications manager at APHRC, a research-based organisation. We were at a luncheon hosted by the officials of the Women Students Welfare Association (Woswa) at the University of Nairobi. Ruthpearl was giving a motivational talk on building confidence for the growing woman alongside Irene Mwathi, Proctor & Gamble’s Public Relations Manager.
One of the challenges that many of us face is trying to fit in with the rest of society, particularly with those we consider cool and sophisticated. We follow such people on the Internet, buy books and magazines about them and generally try to mimic their ways in the hope that this will make us as cool and revered by society. The message that Ruthpearl and Irene gave that Saturday was clear: Don’t bother trying to be cool: Just be yourself.
Truth is, when we try so hard to be cool, we become everyone else’s target and the butt of their jokes and criticisms when we get a concept wrong. Yes, we shall be envied when we get it right and everything is perfect and in place, but woe unto you when you have a bad day. The sneers, smirks, giggles, gossip, the hate...
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Ultimately this demand to please society brings with it the pressure to be perfect in the eyes of others. And with that, we stop living our life and start living for others. Thus, instead of doing what we want, we do what others want. For instance, instead of wearing your favourite pair of jeans regularly, you buy the latest pair every month just to show people that you are with it, in the process spending, nay wasting, loads of money that could have been used on something more useful. Or instead of eating the juiciest rib in the restaurant when out with friends, you find yourself choosing the salad and lemon tea option even as your stomach growls for ‘real’ food. And instead of marrying the guy you truly love and who genuinely loves you back, you opt for the man with the money, the bling and the highly connected friends to enhance your social profile, although it is common knowledge that he is also a womaniser and heartbreaker.
This is imprisonment to the demands of a society that does not really care for you. When we put the perceptions of others about us first then we lose our freedom and independence. We are tied to the pleasure of others and will bend backwards to gain their approval. Yet these same people we bend backwards for will be the first to diss and hate on us when things go wrong. The strong ones grow a thick skin when society betrays them in this manner and move on, while the weak ones wallow in self-pity and disappear from society.
The trick is not to get sucked into this social deception. If you already are, it is not too late. You can slowly turn your back and begin to rediscover the real you. The journey towards real self-confidence is the appreciation of oneself. This self-discovery includes conducting an honest self-evaluation that truthfully identifies one’s strengths and weaknesses. Next step is accepting the weaknesses after celebrating the strengths.
There is no greater joy than appreciating one’s weaknesses because they stop being something to be ashamed about. Instead, the weaknesses become an endowment to be celebrated. When we do this, we experience true freedom; because others will not be able to hurt you by pointing out your weaknesses. When they do, you laugh it off easily — and instantly gain the upper hand because the last thing a hater wants is to see you happy with your whole self.
And when you appreciate everything that God gave you, you fully love yourself warts and all and can then love others, warts and all.