A few weeks ago, I posted a selfie on Instagram with the caption “I woke up like this” and the hashtag “flawless,” obviously quoting the lyrics to Beyoncé’s song “***Flawless.”
If you've listened to that song, you will know that it is a pro-female ballad aiming to empower women. Posting the lyrics as my photo caption was a way for me to state that I believed in myself, I did think I was beautiful just the way I was, and I was proud to be me.
To my surprise, people began really hating on me for this photo and its caption. Some even went to the extreme of texting some of my best friends about it, stating that I was being extremely arrogant. Immediately something that I was trying to use to enable myself became something I was ashamed of. I felt guilty for believing in myself, but then I went and listened to the song again.
In the song, Beyoncé included an excerpt from the Ted Talk by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in which she says:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves. To make themselves smaller. We say, ‘You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful.’”
Adichie was referring to the manner in which society teaches women to carefully measure their success by men’s achievements so not to threaten them, but I took what she was saying in a different way. Instead, I applied the quote to my life. For as long as I can remember, people have told me and other women to believe in ourselves and be more confident. Yet, when we do show confidence, we are immediately shamed.
I have heard people refer to women who carry themselves well and refuse to stare at the ground as “looking cocky.” I have witnessed women be critiqued over their selfies and being told they are arrogant.
I have been told “You know you’re beautiful” with very negative connotations as to say I am vain. I am confused because here I have everyone telling me to believe in my own abilities and to feel beautiful, but when I actually do, I am chastised. This contradiction has occurred with more women than just me, and mostly it's being reinforced by other females.
The world is already a tough place for us as women with absurd beauty standards and glass ceilings that seem unbreakable. Shaming one another for being confident is the last thing we need and only holds us back as individuals and as a body. There is nothing wrong with thinking you have something to offer the world, whether it be your beauty, your personality or your mind. Cockiness is believing you are better than other people because of how you look, how intelligent you are or how talented you may be.
Confidence is recognizing your own positive attributes and abilities and believing in yourself. Achieving greatness is resolved by a woman believing in herself even when no one else does. Success means having assurance in yourself to achieve your goals so that you can push off the boundaries and limits that might be placed on you. So when someone is critical of another for having faith in herself, it only reinforces those limits, reinstates insecurity and tears that person down. I refuse to do that to anyone or to let anyone do that to me.
I do not think I am better than anyone. Having confidence is a daily struggle for me, but I keep telling myself that I am beautiful, smart and capable of anything I want to do because I am determined to believe in myself. I am driven to succeed. No one is perfect, no one is flawless, and I am not naive enough to think that. I am, however, going to speak to myself and to other women in a way the builds up self-esteem.
It isn't actually about being flawless, but is about a mindset. I might not be Beyoncé, I am not superior to anyone, but I am set on trusting in my own abilities and succeeding. Not only do I want to be successful, but I want all my fellow females to be as well and that means reaffirming their belief in themselves and dismantling their self-doubt.
If another woman were to hashtag “#flawless” on her photo, instead of showing jealousy, my own lack of self-belief and the desire to bring her down, I will say, “That’s right honey! You are flawless and are fit to do whatever you set your mind to!”
Photo credit: USA/Suits