I was 24 when I finally stopped suffocating.
When I was younger, I always got into trouble for my mouth. I was always talking in class and my mom would constantly get notes from the teacher that said, “Diamond got in trouble for talking in class again.” I’d go to daycare after school every day and get yelled at by the teacher because I would give my opinion on something they said (that wasn’t what they wanted to hear) and get accused of “talking back.” My mom would constantly sit me down and talk to me or I’d get punished.
Was I not allowed to speak my mind? Was I not allowed to use this huge gaping hole on my face that God gave me to project a sound?
By the time I turned 15 and got to high school, I stopped using my voice because I was fearful of what other people would say. I had completely shut down because I realized that I didn’t like when people got upset, that I’d get into trouble, or that I would displease my mom.
I was constantly walking on eggshells just to please everyone around me. As a result, I used fashion to speak for me. Surely enough, I continued to lose myself throughout my 4 years in high school because even then people continued to criticize what I wore.
As hard as I tried to tone down my lovely 2000’s fashion (because everyone knows that was a sketchy fashion era in the first place), I couldn’t. It was a part of me that I couldn’t suppress because I’d suffocate myself just to help other people breathe.
After I graduated college in 2018, I made the decision to pack my bags and move to Germany the next year to work with an NGO. I put myself in a scary and uncomfortable situation because I needed to breathe.
And breathe I did.
A year later, I find myself experiencing a pandemic in a completely different culture, but also coming to the conclusion that I would no longer suffocate. I would allow myself to breathe and help others do the same.
In other words, I’ve accepted my gifts and I want everyone I encounter to do as such. I want you to do as such. It’s liberating when you decide to live for yourself rather than for other people.
The other day, I was watching an interview with my Nigerian Auntie, Luvvie Ajayi Jones (A QUEEN). During her interview she said this:
“So often the thing people want you to quell, the thing they tell you to be less of, is the thing you are gifted at.”
WHEW! AUNTIE WHAT? ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT MY LOUD MOUTH, VOICE, & FASHION ARE GIFTS THAT OTHERS CAN ACTUALLY BENEFIT FROM?
I wonder if I would have acted differently had I been taught this throughout my childhood. Imagine what I could have accomplished had I not been punished for my opinions and criticized for how I chose to express myself.
Imagine how miserable I'd be now if I continued to suffocate my gifts at the expense of other people's opinions.
Imagine where you would be if you did the same. What would you accomplish? Who would you be?
Ever since I’ve decided to use the mouth that I always got in trouble for, I’ve seen immense growth and joy in myself. I've already made people feel uncomfortable, challenged, and even question my intentions - that’s how I know I’m doing what I was meant to.
What are you gifted at? What is something that people tell you to be less of because it makes them uncomfortable? Do they want you to be less direct? Less creative or loud? Do they want you to smother your voice because they only want to hear their own?
Often times people project their failures onto us. We have to understand that that isn’t our problem. It isn’t our responsibility to make sure other people feel comfortable with their failures. Are they uncomfortable with the fact that you are constantly growing and striving for success?
Good, that means you’re on the right track because the best growth doesn't come from comfort. It comes from doing and saying things that make you uncomfortable. It could also, at times, make other people uncomfortable. What you're afraid to do could mean that it's something that you are meant to do.
So my love, I challenge you to stop suffocating yourself just to let other people breathe. I need you to breathe. I need you to stop letting people cut off your air supply by wrapping their hands around your neck and smothering that gift.
You are a gift. You have gifts and talents, so why aren’t you using them? And if you are, are you using them to their fullest potential? (Hmm. I just spoke to myself here. It’s okay though, I’m a mess, but a work in progress).
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