I can beat the night, I’m not afraid of thunder
I am full of light, I am full of wonder
Ugh the generalisations! Quelle surprise, women do not all want the same thing. Women, akin to other racial, ethnic, sexual, etc., minorities, are not a monolith. I really hope that this rather is obvious, nevertheless let the record explicitly show: women are not a monolith; we don’t all want the same things. The other day, I came across a LinkedIn blog post about the professional woman. Suffice to say, I have many thoughts I thought I’d mull over here.
The globalness of this so-called global LinkedIn study
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this… How does a global LinkedIn study exclude the entirety of the African continent? Apparently, there are no working, professional women in the whole African continent who could lend voice? The study managed to survey two-thirds of North America, seven countries in Europe, yet only two countries in Asia and one country in South America. Deplorable. I realise that this is just an infographic, but as a critical reader and ingest-er of information, I have to ask: what the hell was in the inclusion criteria that not a single country in Africa made the cut? But, you know what? I’m venting.
The point is: if you want to talk about the experience of professional women globally and exclude the whole of Africa, it sends a very strong message about LinkedIn’s perceptions of the professionalism of African women, does it not?
Don’t re-invent the wheel
At any rate, according to their data, professional women in the US believe success in the workplace means finding the right balance between work responsibilities and personal life. I can’t disagree – a successful career is one where there is optimal balance in all aspects of existence. She goes on to outline how women can achieve this grand career desire:
1. Build a name for yourself.
2. Be heard.
3. Be informed.
4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Point number four, specifically: don’t reinvent the wheel. As a young professional, I think it’s challenging – albeit not impossible – to find that unique, totally original space to occupy. Innovation is not easy. Let’s be real; what idea have you had that’s not already been done? Hence, to a degree I can appreciate the comment in the article: “get access to the information that is readily available and add to it”. Add to it. However, innovation is not solely in the additional parts. It is in the very voice you (and you alone) can bring. Literally, you are an endangered species. So, while starting a blog about natural hair care for Black girls with 4A-4C hair types, for instance, is not unique – you know there are hundreds of blogs and YouTube channels for that – blogging from your experience is.
The innovation is the combination of your voice and whatever you are adding to whatever is pre-existing. Wheel re-invention is often necessary in order to find those unique additions. Creating something brand-spanking new is good, novel even. But honestly, it’s challenging as hell. So, rather than fret over being the next stellar blogger with international readership and Forbes Magazine’s blessing as the best blog for young people under 40, start from what you know, add to what you know, and tell your authentic story.
Shoot. That’s what I’m doing…
And for creative inspiration, listen to some of the things Ira Glass said on the creative process. I re-visit it from time to time.
I think I have an extremely mild version of body dysmorphia. There. I’ve said it out loud. Body dysmorphia, not at all to be taken lightly, is a serious disorder involving the belief that your appearance is unusually defective and in need of being hidden or fixed. Half of those diagnosed with this condition spend over three hours everyday attempting to conceal or correct their perceived flaws. If said perceived flaw had any actual merit, it is typically minor, though severely exaggerated. While relatively common (affecting 1-2% of the population; I assume the US population), it is prevalent equally among men and women (thusly proving my initial point!). So, no, this is not a disorder to be taken lightly. Please read on, I will link to some support networks to tap into. You are not alone.
I don’t think my insecurities are at all unique, but growing up, I’ve always harboured the notion that I’m a big girl. Intellectually, I know I’m not. Emotionally, I’m a big girl. So once I crossed size 10 into size 12, I was fairly solid on the fact that I had become a whale and with it came the layered outfits and the large sized clothing and the leggings, in lieu of jeans. Man, I refused jeans for so long that I began to actually believe that I don’t wear jeans on principle. The lies we tell ourselves!
…and it has never helped that throughout my life, when encountering family friends or relatives, I’d get hit with the “ahhh udee, you’re putting on weight o!” Nigerians have a knack for unsolicited insults in the guise of harmless observations. Kicker? I’d get that commentary after said noble observer hadn’t set eyes on me since I was a straw-like adolescent. In my head, I’m screaming, “You realise I was a child when you saw me last, right? I’m a damn woman now! You see these hips?!” Still, the comments stuck.
Enter OrangeTheory Fitness in July 2014. I’m at my heaviest and least confident. But I had found the holy grail! Fast forward eight months later, despite the tears (cried in my car after a workout twice, cos I was so tired and it was so hard and I couldn’t get 12 minutes in the orange!) and the monetary commitment, I am a better woman for it! Can’t lie though, I have not lost a tremendous amount of weight, but I am stronger, I feel better and I’m more mindful. Yes, it has taken me eight months to get into better mental thinking about my health. Shoot, juxtapose that with a lifetime of caring somewhat, but doing nothing. As if I need to defend myself!
The real mental challenge in all this has been in the shredding down from large sized clothes to mediums. Now I have no clue what size I am. Am I still the comfortable large or the work-in-progress, getting-there, more-toned medium? Do I take the risk of attempting to slip into a medium, only to be sorely disappointed and re-begin my “I am enough for this damn top” mantra? This is my current struggle. Eight months in, still super confused. Interlace that with all this new-found confidence. Just a mess.
Anyway, the moral of the story: losing weight, scheduling regular work out sessions, eating clean, replacing sodas with water… (in the face of sufficient resources) is a mental realignment. My perception is still skewed. I’m not fitting into a size 6. Jean shopping still causes me anxiety. I dislike hate loathe burpees. But.What.Ev.Er. I’m happy, that’s all I need.
If you are reading this and feel like you or someone you care about is experiencing any form of insecurity about your/their body that goes beyond the fleeting “damn I ought to get to the gym” three-second thought; if you need someone to talk to, please use the following helplines (USA & for the state of Georgia):
- National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Helpline:
Provides support services, help, and guidance to people struggling with eating disorders, their loved ones, and families.
- National Mental Health Association:
Provides free information on specific disorders, referral directory to mental health providers, national directory of local mental health associations, and a Stigma Watch.
EATING DISORDER PROFESSIONALS