(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 01 December 2010)
(I have been reading this essay at the domestic violence workshops over the past weekend as I talked on self-esteem. It seemed to be an inspiration to many women, so I am now sharing it with all women. I wrote this in July 2001 when I finally decided to give myself permission to be the real woman I am inside and it is my hope that this essay inspires other women to do the same.)
I have long tried to be the person society expected me to be. The problem with this notion is that I need to be more than what others expect of me. I have so much to offer and yet feel that I must somehow squeeze into a mould that doesn’t hold me.
Having succumbed to the social expectations of a stunted generation, I spent many years playing with ideas of true freedom in my head. I have longed to break that mould, yet feared the consequences should I make such a drastic move. I have settled for second or third or fourth best for myself, believing I was allotted no more in life than what I had been handed.
I felt to attempt anything more would prove my vanity and bring to light the arrogance inside me. However, this vanity and arrogance is no less honourable than the self-confidence of a man who is able to demonstrate his full potential without the walls of minimal societal expectation boxing him in.
I am more than a woman, more than a wife, more than a mother. I have an insatiable need to know and to learn and to do and to be; and those needs never seem to be quenched.
I know that I am more than I have been allowed to be. Why would I let someone else to dictate what I am or am not allowed to be in life? I know that I am more than I have allowed myself to be. Why would I hold myself back for the sake of conforming to archaic ideas?
I am more than my mother said that I am and more than my primary school teacher said that I am. I am more than an object to be admired or acquired. I am more than the passive women of my generation who silently accept their assigned lot in life and then attempt to perpetually entertain themselves in hopes of forgetting their plight.
I am more than those who blindly submit to notions passed down by a generation of weak women who sold their souls to shallow men for the sake of feeling accepted by strong arms, but only received bitterness as a payment for their precious goods.
There are so many women whose true potential will never be fully realised because of the low expectations placed on them. These low expectations are the standard by which many women live their lives. It is perfectly normal for them to fall in line and perform that role, which does not allow for much deviation.
Women are treated as if they have little or no intelligence and are expected to be happy with the ordinary and the mundane while the men take on the big bad world. But what about women who have the strength, intelligence and audacity to take on the world?
I have not been honest. I have not been honest with myself or with those who love me. I need more. I am more. No one else can answer the questions that plagued my mind because all of their expectations of me are still too low. No one else can fulfil my need to explore and learn.
I have so much energy and so many ideas that are going to waste in a land long forgotten because I have not had the courage to state them or the avenue by which to share them. I have been made to feel that a husband and family should be my life and that it is socially and morally wrong to want or need anything more. Yet I cannot see how it could be wrong to want more when I have an instinctive drive to desperately desire more.
Therefore, I will no longer succumb to the stereotypical role of a woman just to appease the ego of a few men who cannot see past their own selfish ambitions long enough to truly appreciate the potential of another human being. I will no longer slouch in my posture or act ignorant of an idea in order to stroke the insecurities of men or women who feel the need to still conform to the sexist views of generations past.
I will not act as though I am uninformed and have no opinion in matters that are important in life for the sake of complying with the notions of a few ignorant souls. I will never again open the doors of innocent naivety to allow myself to be victimised at the hands of someone who desires to use me for their own selfish motives. I will never again be ‘put in my place’ by the likes of a man who cannot handle a woman with a thinking brain.
Instead, I will allow myself to think and to be and to do. I will step beyond the door that has been shutting me in and break into the world that is waiting to be explored and understood. I will be bold and will allow my beautiful self-confidence to shine through.
I will walk with my head held high and with purpose in my step. I will take on tasks that are beyond me in order to push myself further than I thought I could go. I will no longer hide my intelligence, but instead put it on proud display for all to see. I will be all that I am. No, I am all that I am. I am.