I Stopped Being Normal & Started Being Me

normalFile this post away in your “Confessions of an Ex-Poser” file cabinet. Have you ever been or met a poser? You know, those people who claim to have been born in some exotic locale so they can sound well-bred. Or, a young lady who claims all her hair is her own but she might “clip a little something in sometimes.” Or, one of my favorites, black folks who claim that they are “part Indian” but they have no idea what tribe, province, or “part” they are. These are the hallmarks of a poser. And, I am no different. I have been a poser at different points in my life. I was afraid that if people knew who I really was, they wouldn’t be impressed enough. I was trying so hard to be normal that I wasn’t being myself.

My Posing History

The most prominent pose for me has been about where I grew up. I came from a single-parent household headed by my beautiful, talented, and strong mother. I lived on the east side of Oakland, California. My family was always large, but we didn’t come from money or anything. We were and are a humble family with humble origins. But, growing up, my mother often exposed me to groups that were diverse. I was used to having folks of different nationalities, family structures, and ethnic backgrounds around all the time. And, I was always ashamed when I heard how they lived. Their houses were bigger than mine. They usually had two parents. And, in high school, they all got cars on their sixteenth birthday or graduation.

At some point, I realized that I was poor. And, I had never cared before, but when I switched high schools for my senior year from one in North Oakland to one in the suburbs of San Lorenzo, my shame came crashing down on me in an instant. I didn’t have the clothes and shoes everyone else had. I didn’t have the jewelry. These girls had expensive weaves and I was still rocking the braids. I was teased about my clothes. And, for the first time in high school, I wasn’t really popular anymore. I felt like I had been left behind.

During that time, my family unit broke down completely. I was on my own when I graduated. So, I carried that with me into college. In college, it was the first time I had been around so many “rich” people. They were driving in their Porsches and Mercedes to class as if that were normal. I didn’t even have a license yet. I was lucky enough to have a group of misfit friends who had rides, but we never fit into the general populace. I felt like the other students were smarter than me. They had such better preparation for college. And, they all had families back home supporting them. I had none of that. So, I withdrew from the groups of black students on campus feeling as though they really didn’t understand me anyway. I still got called names since I was so different. And, it drove me away from many social circles.

When people would ask me where I was from, I would say “the San Francisco Bay Area.” I thought that would throw them off my trail. San Francisco always sounded so much better than Oakland. But, soon, I would get the question “what part?” and I’d have to come clean. They would often make a face or a sound that let me know they knew exactly what Oakland was like. And, they would be associating me with whatever judgments they had made about the city. Then, the shame would come. I thought being from somewhere “normal” like everyone else would help me fit in better. I thought it would make me normal. But it didn’t.

The truth is, I struggled through most of high school and college with accepting my background, social standing, and economic status. It wasn’t easy visiting financial aid every semester to get my school tuition in order. And, it was even more difficult watching everyone on campus with their parents. I often felt isolated and alone. The posing was my defense mechanism in an attempt to avoid the shame I felt. But, it never really worked.

Then I Started Being Me

It wasn’t easy letting go of my shame and moving toward authenticity. It took some time and maturity. But, the most important lesson I learned through my journey was that I had to forgive and accept. I blamed my parents for a lot of the hurt I experienced in my adolescent years. And, it took me some time to forgive them. But, what I didn’t understand was that, at some point, I had to accept my history, my life, and my upbringing so that I could move on and be healthy. It was the acceptance that allowed me to conquer the shame.

My posing was never something I wanted to do. I was hiding. I was ashamed of myself. And, my self-worth suffered because of it. I couldn’t see the beauty in myself because it wasn’t like other people’s. I couldn’t appreciate my talents because everyone else seemed so much more talented. I really didn’t think much of myself because I didn’t fit in. I felt like a stereotype. I felt abnormal. So, instead of embracing my unique-ness, I tried to hide it.

Now, I proudly tell folks where I am from. I do what I can to publicize the issues in my hometown to make it better for my childhood friends and family. I embrace who I am and where I come from. Because avoiding meant that I was avoiding part of myself. And I am not willing to do that anymore just so others can feel comfortable.

Lessons on Posing and The Worth Campaign

My goal with this organization is to teach young women that being normal is never the goal. The idea of normality is synonymous with the idea of the “other.” And, as long as we embrace normal-ness, we send some people to the fringes for their differences. Often, young women of color find themselves on these fringes. Their natural normal is so different from everyone else’s. A key part of truly knowing one’s self-worth is to understand that one is not defined by everyone else.

So, my goal is to reverse this mentality and teach young women that normal is what you decide it is. For me, my natural hair is normal. My brown skin and my hometown are normal. Yes, it makes some people uncomfortable. But, I can’t live in a crooked room because of that.

The Worth Campaign Lessons: These personal experiences will serve as the foundation for the future programmatic lesson on posing. A very common issue for young women of color, this lesson seeks to teach individuals about the importance of accepting their differences in order to truly live out their self-worth.

Food for thought: What everyone else thinks is normal or acceptable may not agree with your natural and authentic self. And that is okay. What is your normal? That’s the same place where you find your worth.worthSignature

Trackbacks

  1. […] I Stopped Being Normal & Started Being Me […]