I have this friend I want to tell you about (and its really my friend, not one of those instances where I’m talking about myself but trying to disguise it). She’s one of my closest friends, so you know I think she’s special. She’s gorgeous, intelligent, smart (because they’re not the same thing…), FUNNY, enterprising and very encouraging. She likes to cook, she works efficiently with numbers…. I can go on and on. She has such a positive spirit and whenever I’m around her we have the best time ever.
But y’all, I don’t know if she realizes all of this. Her and I talk about how we’re both great and have it going on. But I don’t think she sees herself as the dynamic creature that she truly is. Whenever she discusses her own value and attributes, she’ll begin tooting her own horn and then stop. I can’t even fault her though, because so many of us do that. And I used to be the same way, until my old roommate, another close friend, gave my confidence a huge boost.
If you don’t toot your own horn, who will?
What my old roommate taught me was this: of course we can’t wait for others to toot our horns and sing our praises. We must do this for ourselves. What was important about her lesson was the value of positive self-talk. Not only must you tell yourself how great you are, but you must repeat this often. And I’ve learned on my own how sneaky and tricky the mind is. Saying it once or twice won’t do, repetition is needed for any validation to sink in. Our minds need constant assurance that we really are the bee’s knees. Because for some reason, when we stop saying it, we stop believing and acting as if.
Now my old roommate definitely knew her value and acted on that belief. And I saw that others saw this too and treated her the same way she treated herself. Its become such a cliche, but its definitely true that you have to treat yourself better than you want others to treat you. And part of that is hammering it into your own head that you are a creature like no other. Your positive self-talk and your confidence in yourself and your abilities will start to permeate your being; you’ll walk taller, hold your head up higher, and people will see this distinction in you and fall in line.
I’m not advocating that you take this approach to self-confidence for other people. Its important to your own growth to value yourself highly. For one thing, a strong self-confidence will help to combat some of the fear I discussed previously. Because you’ll know your own abilities and have confidence that you can handle your aspirations as they come, you’ll be less likely to hold yourself back from what it is that you really want. And in those moments of weakness its easier to remember the things you’ve been constantly telling yourself, than it is to begin speaking lovingly of yourself when you’re feeling down. And in a way, telling yourself how wonderful you are is a form of self-love. We’d tell our children that they were smart, pretty and could do anything – why not tell ourselves?
How to begin your tooting
I think we as black women hesitate to hold ourselves too highly. First of all, its against the upbringing that some of us have had. We’ve been told to ‘be seen and not heard’, that we’re no better than anyone else, and ‘God don’t like ugly’. We’ve also been taught that its wrong to be conceited and that God rewards those who are humble. But again, whats wrong with speaking positively to yourself? We’d instill these same words of confidence and love to children, just because we’re grown now doesn’t mean we don’t still need to hear it. And the best person to tell us is ourselves.
If you aren’t sure where to start, I’d start with reversing the habit of negative self-talk. If you stub your toe, don’t curse. Rub it off and say “thats ok”. If you break something by accident, don’t call yourself an idiot. Say, “thats ok, we all make mistakes. I’m not perfect.” Once you get the idea, take the initiative to say positive things to yourself. Begin the habit of paying yourself small compliments when the chance presents itself. When you wear your favorite outfit, tell yourself how beautiful you look. When you’ve had a good workout, admire your body in front of a mirror. Describe the body parts you like, and why. Try to do this out loud if you can. And if you’re a Christian sista, pull out some of those Bible verses that reinforce what I’m talking about. God says you’re “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). Who are you to disagree?
If you feel silly doing this, what does it matter, honestly? Its all in your head. No one knows what you’re saying but you. You could think of it as nurturing the little girl within you. You could also think of it as positive reinforcement of the woman you already are. Whatever you think of it as, I hope you begin to appreciate your awesomeness on a daily basis and toot your own horn.