Being Unapologetically Me.

Some of the difficulties I have faced, have been a result of the ongoing battle of being accepted particularly in workplace environments as a young professional (black) woman.

When I relaunched FASHIONENTH, I promised myself that I would start expressing myself, sharing real experiences and making this platform a place where conversations can be generated and people can seek inspiration. I’ve taken quite some time to really gather my thoughts and recent experiences for today’s article titled ‘Being unapologetically Me’. The first quarter started on a high, I must say but admittedly, life has thrown some challenges my way which God has given me the strength to overcome. I went through a season where I found myself in complete isolation, compromising my values in certain environments and completely demotivated. Some of the difficulties I faced have been a result of the ongoing battle of being accepted particularly in workplace environments as a young professional (black) woman. However, the purpose of this post is to simply shed light and provide encouragement for anyone who has been going through a state of turmoil. You are not alone and I hope that this article can help you in your current circumstances.

I scroll through my social feeds daily, stumbling upon stories and conversations that black millennials are discussing. Many of those centred around the topic of growing up as a black woman, forced to conform to western ideals of beauty and compromise their values and beliefs due to the fear of rejection and living up to certain perceptions. In an era, where such discussions are flooding social media platforms, I’ve found myself enlightened by these recent occurrences and gained a deeper understanding of the type of society I live in. I grew up in a small town in Ireland where I was completely oblivious to the issue of racial prejudice because honestly, I didn’t really experience it so for me, the subject of race was one I always avoided due to MY lack of awareness. At some point, I felt like I was immune to or exempt from societal realities of racial prejudices. The dissertation I wrote in my final year of University on ‘Black Masculinity’ allowed me to touch on the historical and cultural context of slavery, social oppression, and a dehumanising institution. It was an invitation for me to explore political and social matters that have existed from the beginning of time.

The truth of the matter is that I’m not immune to these senseless acts of ignorance and negative perceptions. As millennials of colour we are pushing boundaries and excelling in our chosen career paths. We (or maybe some) of us find ourselves altering our personalities and who we are in professional and even academic settings to avoid being labeled or living up to society’s portrayals of us. Personally, my recent experiences in such environments have affected my ability to express myself emotionally, often concerned about the comfortability of others by just being me. This is particularly common in professional environments where colleagues are automatically intimidated by your presence. The current social and political atmosphere has been an eye-opener. I’m extremely proud that black women are fighting back and unapologetically being themselves.

This is what I’ve discovered:

Be yourself and be proud of who you are.

Don’t allow yourself to be fuelled by the opinions of others. I’ve been so worried about being accepted, liked or appreciated which has tampered with my identity, undermined my work and efforts and somewhat crushed my self-esteem. But here’s the good part – I’ve never been so aware of my identity in Christ right until now. Knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ lifts that burden. The below verses are a constant reminder:

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)

“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord will hold me close.” (Psalm 27:10)

“…so don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.” (Luke 12:6-7)

WOW! You don’t need to be liked and accepted by everyone. You don’t need the approval of others. God has created me to be me, He loves me unconditionally and accepts EVERY part of me. It’s so easy to lose sight of this but going back to the Word helps me see things in a completely different perspective. My identity is not rooted in my race. Yes, there will be obstacles that I’ll need to overcome but I’m going into my environment with a fresh outlook, being the best that I can possibly be, succeeding in my endeavours, showing love and kindness whether I am rejected or not. In all honesty, it’s so easy to be thrown off course from your goals and ambitions due to office politics etc but do not let anyone undermine your abilities and have an emotional hold on you. Be unapologetically you.

* UPDATE * This article was written during a time I worked in a Marketing agency – my first career job after graduating from University. What should have been an exciting period in my life at that time turned out to be the most disappointing and negative experience ever. It triggered my anxiety and depression. I am now the happiest I can ever be in my current workplace. It was definitely God sent. You can read more about my new role and company, here.

Photography by Ebun

Wearing// COS jacket, REISS jeans, ZARA shoes, Rayban glasses

0 replies on “Being Unapologetically Me.”

Great to read such a personal, thoughtful post, Eunice. Being unapologetically one’s self in the buttoned-up working world is a challenge for most people possessing of a personality and any sort of dreams beyond passing their yearly performance review… and for you as a black woman, there are, as you express here, added daily pressures and obstacles.
I enjoyed your thoughts about self-expression among black millennials. I fell in love with black popular culture at the turn of the 90s, when the prevailing mood (or at least one of them – this was a less homogeneous cultural time) was one of proud black self-expression and Afrocentric style, from Spike Lee’s early movies to the hip-hop of artists like the Native Tongues collective: A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Queen Latifah etc.

Whether I was watching Mookie throw that trash can through the window of Sal’s Famous Pizzeria at the sweltering climax of Spike’s 1989 masterpiece Do The Right Thing or listening to Big Daddy Kane give ‘Word to The Mother (Land)’ in-between boasting about how great he was at rapping and how many women he pulled, art like this profoundly shaped the way I, as a (SPOILER!) young white male, saw the world around me, from the political to the aesthetic to my own notions and appreciation of beauty.

It’s encouraging that one of the upsides of today’s ugly socio-political climate seems to be a return to that same sort of mood in art (at the blockbuster level, just look at the glorious success of Black Panther, a movie I’d personally been waiting for since my childhood as a Marvel comics devotee). In fact, a lot of today’s art seems to nod explicitly to the era that made such an impression on me and countless others: See the recent Netflix update of Spike’s 1986 debut She’s Gotta Have It, or Dear White People, which, in both its feature film and serialised Netflix iterations, owes a huge spiritual debt to Spike’s 1988 movie School Daze, an ambitious and audacious set-text in both racial and intra-racial prejudice. Then there’s Beyonce –an artist who, in ascending to pop superstar status, hadn’t previously negotiated race– taking Julie Dash’s 1991 film Daughters of the Dust as the thematic and aesthetic template for her ‘Lemonade’ visual album.

At the risk of coming across like some sort of tweed-wearing English-lit professor who always finishes his feedback to your posts with a quote from a great (African-American) author, I immediately thought of this absolute pearler from Zora Neale Hurston, whose 1937 debut novel Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of a young black woman seeking self-identity and liberation:

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

Sound advice for anyone of any race, gender, religion or sexual orientation as we all try our best to be our best selves. Keep the great content coming, Eunice, but most of all, keep being unapologetically you.

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