Raise Your Hand
I distinctly remember attending a freshmen orientation program that was designed for students of color and first-generation students to assist in successfully navigating college at a predominantly white institution. Prior to attending the orientation, I was extremely nervous. Feelings of inadequacy immediately surfaced.
This was the first true exposure I had with my peers as a college student. I also felt a strong sense of insecurity. I absolutely hated the way I looked and even who I was. Years of comparing and obsessing over altering who I was to fit who and what I felt was ideal certainly reached a peak in college. I was just a 17 year-old awkward black girl with no sense of identity.
During one of the sessions at the orientation, the facilitator asked a specific question, "Are there any young ladies in the room who struggle with low-self esteem?" I immediately identified with the question as soon as she uttered it. I recall pausing for a few moments and scanning the room to see if any of my peers would raise their hand. I knew that if I saw at least one person who identified with the same struggle, I would feel some sense of comfort.
Somehow, I mustered up enough courage to raise my hand. After I raised my hand, I scanned the room one last time only to find that I was the only young lady in the entire room who responded. In that moment I felt completely alone and flat out embarrassed. If I could have ran out of the room without feeling equally as embarrassed, I would have.
I began to internalize low self-esteem as a singular issue. On the other hand, it was beautiful to know that my peers were confident in who they were, but I couldn't help but wonder if there were any ladies in the room who silently identified with me. I began to realize just how many people in life silently identify with others.The absence of validation is essential, but so is the presence of support through the means of outward agreement.
I do not have a personal connection to the Me, Too movement, but I know without a doubt that a portion of its effectiveness is rooted in the solidarity and openness among women. The plurality of the movement produced a domino effect that empowered other women to speak out against sexual harassment.
Those simple words "me, too" are immensely critical because suddenly the person who feels alone, feels included in a network of women of shared experiences.The movement subliminally pushes the importance of harmony. If you truly ponder it, harmony and connection are what draws us to others in the first place. There is great power in identifying with people on the basis of connection, or "me, too." It creates community and inclusion where one would otherwise feel alone.
The Power of our Testimony
I realized at an early age that this world is not meant to be navigated alone. I believe in independence equally as much as I believe in interdependence. I have a responsibility to the person next to me; not a sole responsibility , but definitely a responsibility. We truly need each other, as well as our stories.
One of my favorite aspects of going to church is when someone comes forward to give a testimony. A testimony typically consists of a problem, when and how the problem originated, the solution, and the aftermath. In life, you often hear people speak of the aftermath, but they totally conceal the journey to the aftermath. When an individual gives a testimony, however, they are completely vulnerable.
Testimonies allow us to see people as completely human. It's a moment in which you can identify with the struggles and triumphs of people. I love seeing individuals who have the boldness to testify, but I equally admire seeing the congregation stand up to affirm and support the individual for his or her vulnerability.
I follow a YouTube couple named Kaelin & Kyrah . The couple met when they were 11 & 12 years old, but they fell in love when they were 15 & 16. They were 19 & 20 when they got married, moved out, and built a multi-million dollar business.They also both waited until marriage to have sex. On top of their journey, they recently brought a beautiful baby boy into the world.
Kyrah posted a postpartum blog on YouTube in which she expressed how she felt so conflicted after giving birth to her son. One day she absolutely loved him, the next day she wished he was never born, especially considering he totally altered her plans. One day she was happy she brought a son into this world, the next minute she wished she could give him to someone else.
She felt incredibly guilty for her feelings as a young mother, but she felt it was her duty to be transparent to her millions of followers. She eventually determined that a lot of her anxiety , sadness, and frustration were largely rooted in the fact that her baby boy had a difficult time latching on to her breasts during feeding. In reading the comments on the video, hundreds of moms commented on how this issue of conflicting feelings of being a mom are rarely discussed.
One mom commented, " I felt like you shared my same exact story. Such a great feeling to know I'm not alone." One woman who is not a parent made a great statement, " I am not a mother,but your transparency is sure to help so many women out there that are thinking of having a child or are dealing with the same symptoms that you have. I know this must have been hard for you to film, edit, and upload, but your courage is what will help you overcome."
I can't even begin to fully grasp the beauty and weight of motherhood, but I immediately felt a ton of emotions not only in watching the video, but also in reading the comments. Not only was Kyrah courageous to share her feelings, but millions of women affirmed her and were in turn affirmed.
This notion of affirming one another is portrayed in the incredibly funny yet insightful movie, Mean Girls. There is a scene closer to the end of the movie in which Ms. Norbury (Tina Fey) stands in a gym and asks , "How many of you have ever felt personally victimized by Regina George?" After Cady (Lindsey Lohan) raised her hand, everyone else followed suit.
A few of the teachers in the gym hesitated to raise their hands at first until they saw their other fellow teachers participate. I found this scene to be hilarious, yet powerful. All it takes is for one person to be a catalyst for another person to feel supported in telling their individual stories.
Next time, raise your hand. You never know who you might save.
"Tell your story. Shout it. Write it. Whisper it if you have to. But tell it. Some won't understand it. Some will outright reject it. But many will thank you for it. And then the most magical thing will happen. One by one, voices will start whispering, 'Me, too.' And your tribe will gather. And you will never feel alone again.” L.R. Knost