You know, there are things I agree with and disagree with when it comes to how BWE reaches black women, however there has always been one thing that has concerned me and it was actually a recent post that brought that concern to the forefront.
A side-effect of many organizations, causes, religions and whatnot is that often there is a special segment of people who are drawn to them. These persons, to put it simply, are looking for someone to tell them what to do and think. They are highly susceptible to falling into a mindset of expecting other people to empower them. They may actually go so far as to credit someone else for “empowering” them.
This is simply not how empowerment works.
I made a comment in the referenced post on why that was:
“The idea of empowerment is not about talking points and being able to quote your favorite black woman blogger by heart. It doesn’t come with living your life exactly as any individual in this space or any space says you have to. However strongly worded an article is…all any of us can do at the end of the day is apply what works for us and reject what doesn’t. Empowerment is proactively living your life and charting your own course. Not validation-seeking and not waiting for someone else to tell you how to think and feel.“
EMPOWERMENT ISN’T WHAT SOMEONE ELSE GIVES TO YOU. IT’S WHAT YOU WANT FOR YOURSELF AND MAKE HAPPEN FOR YOURSELF. Understood?
Remember that fable about the caged bird? It didn’t matter what either the free bird or the cat said to it, it wasn’t a truly free bird itself until it made the decision to act for itself.
And this is true in life. Other people can tell you what it means to be free, to live a good life and be happy. But it’s never going to happen until YOU decide to be proactive.
It doesn’t matter how much you respect which BWE blogger and their group. Yes even us and our awesomeness. Not I, nor Brenda, nor Chris, or anyone else here can empower you. Khadija can’t empower you. Evia can’t empower you. Halima can’t empower you. Blogs from WhatAboutOurDaughters to NotYourGirlFriday cannot empower you.
Because it was never on these individuals to do so. It has always been your individual responsibility to determine who you are, what your own happiness is, and what ways you were prepared to go about living your own life to the fullest. In addition to arming yourself against groups and individuals that often try to work again your best interests.
Are you living your life? Are you about your best interests? Are you actively in control of finding ways to make your life better? Then you are empowered. Not because of anything anyone else did or said. But because what YOU did for YOURSELF.
It’s not abnormal to want others to like you. And sometimes when you come into new spaces as I did with BWE, you may worry about trying to appeal to the “cool kids”. And before you know it you’re back in highschool all over again. You are suddenly more concerned with conducting yourself a certain way so that this total stranger will like and approve of you than getting joy from being a free and better person. What this individual thinks of you becomes more important than your own empowerment.
And here, you’ve fallen victim to ugly validation-seeking behavior. Again, it’s not wrong to be liked or to want to make a positive impression. But when your validation-seeking behavior regarding what other people think and believe gets in the way of actively determining what you think and believe, it’s time to hit the brakes.
The thing is, validation-seeking behaviors do not suddenly render themselves harmless because you’re doing them in a space like this or in a popular BWE space. It is not harmless to go through life waiting for someone else to give you permission to be happy or looking for whoever to define your personal happiness.
I have written so many controversial comments and opinions, I know damn well there are people who have been mad at me for years regarding what I’ve written. I’ll save you the trouble of asking me whether or not I care: I don’t. Because I do not wake up in the morning thinking about who likes me or doesn’t or spend the last few seconds before I sleep wondering if I’ve supported or boycotted the right causes in order to please the interests of whoever.
Some things I agree with and actively promote. And some things I don’t. Some people I respect highly and yet have disagreed with them in person, in offline or online conversations. They may have written me off, but who cares? Life goes on. I’ve also lost my share of respect for individuals. And I doubt they care. Life still goes on.
It can be painful seeing groups of women you admire and respect disagree. But that’s what happens when you get so many willful women together. Somebody is bound to say or do something that someone else disagrees with and someone will let them know.
Doesn’t mean you have to think of it as a crossroads where you weigh the perceived importance and authority of the women involved in order to determine who you’re supposed to listen to regarding how you’re supposed to think and feel.
Remember: You determine your happiness. No one else. And rather than live and die by what other people think of you, self included, you can elect to take responsibility for your own thoughts and behaviors and how you live your life.