Likability

There are a couple of books that I reread on the regular.  They feed my soul.  They answer questions I didn't even know I'd asked.

One of those books is Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

In this book, Adichie lays out suggestions to a dear friend who has asked how to raise her daughter a feminist.  The suggestions are wide ranging, but the one that resonates with me is the eighth.

Teach her to reject likability.  Her job is not to make herself likable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people. Remember I told you how upsetting it was to me that our friend Chioma would often tell me that "people" would not "like" something I wanted to say or do?  I always felt, from her, the unspoken pressure to change myself to fit some mold that would please an amorphous entity called "people."  It was upsetting because we want those closest to us to encourage us to be our most authentic selves.  Please do not put this pressure on your daughter. We teach girls to be likable, to be nice, to be false.  And we do not teach boys the same. This is dangerous.  
(Adichie, 2017, p. 36-37)

As a young woman, this wasn't something that I considered.  I was just me; I don't really remember ever feeling like I needed to change myself in order to fit in or be more liked.  I recognized there were people who didn't like me, just as I recognized there were people I didn't like.

Once, Liz, a dear friend of mine, looked at me incredulously (after some event I don't remember) and said "You don't take any sh-t from anybody, do you?"   I remember thinking in that moment "Why would you?"  "Why would anybody?"  It was around then I realized that wasn't considered "normal" thinking and that I come from a long line of "strong women"- the sorts of women who might get called in less polite society "ball busters" or in even less polite society "bitches."

Lately though, I feel less like me, and more like the terrified little mousey version of me, the version that wants everyone to like me.  I'm painfully craving validation and for sure feeling "the unspoken pressure to change myself to fit some mold that would please an amorphous entity called "people.""

Deep down, I'm pretty sure this sudden and strong urge to be liked is due to a lot of different factors- new job, recent move, and everything that goes with those- but, I don't really know how to deal with feeling like this.

For now, I'm going to try to follow the rest of Chimamanda's eighth suggestion.

So instead of teaching Chizalum to be likable, teach her to be honest. And kind.

And brave. Encourage her to speak her mind, to say what she really thinks, to speak truthfully. And then praise her when she does.  Praise her especially when she takes a stand that is difficult or unpopular because it happens to be her honest position.  Tell her that kindness matters.  Praise her when she is kind to other people.  But teach her that kindness must never be taken for granted. Tell her that she, too, deserves the kindness of others. Teach her to stand up for what is hers. If another child takes her toy without her permission, ask her to take it back, because her consent is important. Tell her that if anything ever makes her uncomfortable, to speak up, to say it, to shout.

Show her that she does not need to be liked by everyone.  Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will.  Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike.
(Adichie, 2017, p. 38-39)

I am going to focus on just being me.  Just like you get to just be you.  And it doesn't matter who likes us and who doesn't.  We can't control that.  We can only show up and be our best most authentic selves- the biggest, kindest, bravest versions of us.

And that is enough.

We are enough.

Adichie, C. N. (2017). Dear Ijeawele, or, A feminist manifesto in fifteen suggestions. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Popular posts from this blog

The (Alternative) Commencement Speech*

Go ahead and stick a fork in me, I'm done

Talkin' funny

Life is hard and things are shitty sometimes

Faking it