My siblings and myself knew the deal, when people visited our parents, the code of conduct was crystal clear and it was in our best interest not to break it. Respectful humility, cheerful hospitality and awe-striking manners were the few possible ways we were allowed to occasionally make our presences felt. Other times, quiet was the way to go. As unnoticeable as you can fathom be. Then we would get rewarded, every body happy!
As a parent, I get it, quietened kids make life bearable when you have guests to please and entertain. As an individual , I wish every child, especially little girls, could grow up with the unapologetic confidence in making their presence known, as my stepdaughter is enabled to embody.
This conditioning to produce humbly tamed children is seen and felt all around my culture, and the predominant religions in Ethiopia, with the borders of some blurring into culture itself. When someone slaps you on the face, you may not turn around and present the other cheek ,be it literally or in it's intended figurative context. You may have the mental ability to question why one would do that; in heroic selflessness, to prove a point that it didn't hurt, or maybe just symmetry?
But the more it's taught to you as the best way to behave, you are less likely to rightfully take your slapper for the bully and offender that he/she is. Less likely to stand up for yourself, you may even deem yourself slappable at some point. Less likely to have a voice and unapologetically use it for your good. Giving the other cheek may be metaphorically a better alternative to taking an eye for an eye. (Literal ouch)
But the mentality of timidity it cultivates is felt when the generation raised is predominantly spineless when it comes to the true knowledge of self worth. This is the outlook most kids are shaped up with where I come from. That's why many lack the ability to look a stranger of some importance in the eye while conversing with them. It's considered respectful to humbly bow. It's Ethiopian, It's also taught as very Christian.
Growing up and forming circles of friendships strengthened that conditioning. That girl who talked about or even gave hints about her being good at (insert skill) was considered cocky, full of herself. If she agreed to a compliment you so kindly bestowed upon her as something she already was aware of, she was a narcissistic anomaly in the land of the humble. If she nominated herself without being praised into accepting a role she knows she's fit to handle, or she dare promoted herself, she was the 'outlaw'.
Resist the urge to deem me a sexist, I went to an all girl's school all the way to end of high school. One can imagine, the forces acting on young girls, mainly culture and religion, were felt less by boys our age. When you are growing into being a woman, a 'soft' and submissive communal being, you don't have much of a voice to use for selfish needs. Selfless is good. Selfish is bad. An early death sentence to what could've become a young entrepreneur in the making. Who wants you to be one anyway? Go get a degree or five in something you know pays well, and brings with it a 'respectable' title. That way you don't need the skill of selling your skills, just pass your exams and the flying colors will usher you anywhere you would like to go. Well, almost anywhere. But going somewhere should suffice, right?
As stressful as job interviews are, they are a source of dreadful discomfort to someone without the ability to explain to a stranger, in a few minutes, why they would be an asset to hire. I have suffered this dread one too many times. With no degree to show as a tangible achievement, I've had to stutter while sounding doubtful about how my experience, personality, attention to detail and ability to learn quickly should get me that job or that promotion. Sometimes I got the job, sometimes I didn't. But the dread to say good things about myself unless recognized first, lingers. And I know many people, countless women, who share this woe.
On the contrary, I've also came face to face with women who are a polar opposite to this status quo. Especially in the western culture where I found out arrogance, a far cry from true confidence, is encouraged. I saw it influence not only natives but also children and adolescents who, after migrating, found themselves needing to adapt to this very new normal all around them, having originated in a culture that had subjugation as a tool to shape it's youth .
In an ironic twist, I seemed to attract such souls due to my subconscious craving (I think) to get me a mommy-friend, who would love me unconditionally while modeling a ruthless and independent go-getter alpha female I thought I needed to mimic. They used narcissism as a weapon against a culture that tells women it is wrong to be ones own's advertisement, to flaunt what truly is deserving of notice. Combined with egotistic personalities that were merely a defense mechanism, they ended up on the other extreme, denying the qualities of the imperfect human and the qualities of humility that they would've savored had it not been shoved down their throats at a young age. Some wanted to not turn like their mothers, having seen them voiceless and too often compromising. Some followed in their mother's own footsteps of intro-level rebellion, but put that on loud until they were deaf to their own wrongdoings.
Do you see where I'm going with this? How on earth do we strike a balance between a persistent marketer and a soulful humble human being? How do we sell our talents, gifts, skills without being sucked into the sinkhole of self righteousness inevitably leading to looking down on others, which we were rightfully taught to stand against?
Having recently embarked on a new journey of blogging, I not only need to utilize my writing talent , but also acquire new skillsets towards advertising my brand. You have no idea how difficult of a mindset this is for me to adjust to. Just the ambition to make money in the long run pokes past wounds of conditioning. It is unholy, selfish, bad. The pursuit of it, evil. This is the loudest lesson resonating in my brain when it comes to money, that it's the root of all that's evil.
Since debunking the myths and finding out that it's the bottomless can of materialistic desires and how one deals with financial success that IS the root of most evil, I am relentlessly training myself to become an entrepreneur. Striving for a louder voice, and therefore a bigger impact through my blog while achieving financial stability. I am realizing that brag-less branding is yet another myth I've created to not show pride of any sort in myself, which had been a longtime 'enemy' of mine. I am educating myself through books and seeking mentors on my journey to success. I will gladly share my hits and misses on future posts.
If you are out there nodding your head, I want to encourage you to find your balance. To never be too coy to flaunt that which you know you are good at. Or have. To nominate yourself, to show up ready.The world needs your skills and no one will come to your corner to discover you, to cushion compliment you all the way to where you feel allowed to shine. If you don't already, make the time and take the solitude to believe in your unique worth. When you're done doing that, go out there and speak of it, and what YOU offer to the world. Not all will buy but the right ones at the right time will.