(LONG POST ALERT)
Merriam Webster defines self validation as “the feeling of having recognized, confirmed, or established one’s own worthiness or legitimacy”. The first time I saw this definition, I smiled because my life is tied around these two words, SELF & VALIDATION. Let me tell you a story about my long walk to self validation. Read and Learn.
I grew up feeling insignificant. I went through primary school feeling like an outcast because, my class mates would always tease me about being a “black skinned calabar” girl. You might wonder how much of a big deal that is now but back then, it was a crime for one to be from Akwa Ibom or Cross River state because of the misconception that “calabar” people as we are generally referred to, only eat dog and fufu so, as a 90s baby, it was a huge crime amongst us kids. They always made jest of me and my teachers didn’t help matters. They made the igbo girls in my class the leaders of everything because, they were “yellow” and beautiful and igbo. So I knew I stood no chance of winning when it came to contesting for “Miss Leo Model” against my school’s end of the year party, “Queen of Green House” during the inter house sports activity including the leader of the cultural dance group since I wasn’t really liked because I was “black skinned”. Ogechi and Edurance always won everything without even showing any talents for it. I easily lost without even trying to compete. Oh! did I mention that my parents didn’t believe in plaiting I and my sisters’ hair for school until we were ready for university so I was on low cut all through. Thus because of my lack of “long hair”, my teachers categorized me amongst the boys of the class hence, my feeling of omission grew deeper.
Oh! before I forget to add, I was also beaten several times on the way home from school by my class mates because I withheld the pleasure of them pulling my nose. Yes, I’ve got an upturned or celestial shaped nose and most times, my nose calls for attention way faster than any of my features so, they called me “long nose” and tortured me for it severely. I dared not report to my teachers or anyone else, the beating would increase. So on days when I would get home looking really dirty with sand in my mouth, my hair, and my uniform partially torn, my Mom would think I played rough and make me wash myself till I glowed like a light bulb. Of course, the cleaning would also come with an intense lecture of why I should always be clean as a girl who would one day become a woman and I would listen obediently to these lectures absentmindedly whilst thinking about whose toes I’d step on the following day in school.
So yes, I was bullied.
These “lapses” in my young life made me feel worthless and inferior to my peers. I had no friends because I felt like an error that needed to be corrected. I felt like the equation of my life wasn’t balanced as I needed to be either beautiful, light skinned, taller, igbo with a longer hair and skinnier to be accepted as one of the pretty ones of my school. Sad news; it never happened. I turned a recluse till I finished primary school.
When I got into Alakoto High School for my Secondary education, I wasn’t better but by this time, I had come to accept that I was dark skinned and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. I still felt ugly too but also, there was nothing I could do about it either. In fact, I stopped looking at mirrors because I felt like I’ll only be staring back at a bland face with a boy’s body. So I partially embraced my extremely shy self and buried myself in novels. I read more of romance novels that sold the ideology that every woman is a damsel in distress and needs a knight in shiny armour to rescue her from external forces. Most of the big words were lost on me but I enjoyed reading the part where the characters had their first kiss. I especially loved such stories where the girl/woman is hot headed and always played hard to get while the man chased and chased until he had proved himself to her. Then she’d melt like jelly to his every wish. Thus I built this fantastic world in my head where I lived and found peace. I found it safer to change into any of the heroines of Nora Robert’s novels. I found it exhilarating to see myself dressing up, brushing my long hair, looking beautiful and feeling like a queen in my head but in reality, I was the uncool kid in school.
Everyone had a boyfriend, everyone could gel their hair, spray perfumes, hang out at one another’s houses after school, attend lesson, receive Valentine’s day presents, buy new clothes, go for birthday parties and also eat the most expensive snacks in school but I couldn’t do any of those. I couldn’t because, asides the fact that I was from a strict home with high moral standards, we couldn’t really afford to be too extravagant. So I had to cut my coat according to my cloth and my cloth at that was time was the lowest of quality.
It was worse when in SS 1, I would have to carry a huge rubber of fufu on my head while on my way to school so that I could supply two of our customers before proceeding to school. This made my hands and uniform to always smell of fufu (which smelt bad sha but delicious to eat. lol). And then, Ijeoma and Veronica would taunt me about being a stinky “Calabar girl” till I feel like disappearing. I could never fight them because they were actually really mean, and they were sort of like the leader of the Art class big girls. They smelt better, their uniforms were always ironed, their cropped hair always had gel, their socks were always white and sparkly, the head boy and his assistant dated each till we graduated. I stood no chance against all that poshness so I didn’t even try.
It was a regular psychological warfare to get me to accept the sad truth at that point that I wasn’t good enough but my only source of consolation was in the fact that the school Principal, Mrs. Okusi knew me and always used me as an example during the morning and closing hour assembly. You see, my skirt was the best size for all the girls to emulate because it was big and free. She ensured that she tore the skirt of any girl which didn’t look like mine especially the SS 3 girls who loved sewing tight skirts; so I was given the name “good student” but I didn’t mind. Another point of solace for me was the fact that I was made the “Class Captain” from SS 1 till we graduated. My strong points were English, Literature, Government and Biology. So my teachers loved my brilliance. Funny enough, I didn’t know I was that good until I started hearing from my teachers, “go and meet Glory to explain to you”. That always gave me a giddy feeling of excitement and I would sigh with contentment that ‘finally, I’m better at something”. Then I started writing. My diary became my confidante. I kept so many diaries, each filled with my thoughts, dreams, aspirations, fears, and insecurities. This made me not to miss confiding in real humans not even my sisters.
Fast forward to when I got into University of Uyo, my confidence level had increased significantly. How and why you would ask? Well, I guess it was because, during my post UTME for Direct Entry students, I scored the highest both for regular JAMB students and Diploma students like me. It was a thrill for me. People were looking for me, most thought I was a genius but I stayed anonymous not revealing my name to anyone. But the first time I stepped into my department, I made a vow that all my lecturers must know me for good. I studied hard, I became a discourse partner with my HOD, I became a motivation for my colleagues to study harder because my grades were a force to reckon with, I became a standard for my lecturer’s grading system. If you didn’t answer a question the way I did, your answer wasn’t valid. My notes became a hand out for study and my carriage became a problem. I became the enemy for 99% of my colleagues because for them, I didn’t start year 1 with them so how come I’m ahead?
I was called a ‘book worm”, “Prof. IT” etc. I was also called a snub because I was always on my own, in my shell and when I wanted to speak, it was only during lectures when questions and theories needed answers. I rarely smiled because I didn’t want to be too conspicuous, and I always felt like hiding. Such was my life. Those who couldn’t hate me more than they did became frienemies while those who already liked me became jealous. It was another difficult period of my life. I was doing great in studies but as a 22/23 year old, I had no boyfriend still. I was yet to taste the phallus which most girls bragged about. I was curious but I wasn’t ready and I felt again, inadequate to be liked in that way. So I shut my emotions, bottled them up and channeled all what was left to my studies as well as my radio presenting career which I had started building in my second year. It made me popular. I was the voice behind the Uniuyo fm 2 pm news and people loved my voice. That again made me feel good about myself but in spite of my little victories, I still felt incomplete, inadequate and flawed.
I felt too short, too black, too bland and unattractive so I started shopping for clothes whenever and wherever I found something I liked. Shopping became therapeutic to helping me feel good about my body and scribbling in my diaries helped keep my mind sane.
After graduation from University, I started longing to be liked in a way that’d spark up a relationship but it wasn’t forth coming. I never went on social events as a student thus it became difficult to even try now. But then, I met my first in 2014. The first words he uttered that swept me over was, “I love your skin. You look like an Anubian princess. Please don’t ever bleach. Here’s my card, call me”. I couldn’t sleep that night. This was a man in flesh and blood, a powerful young man in government complimenting my skin, telling me I have a golden tone and a glow none other had. I fell helplessly with his idea of me and we hit it off but it didn’t last. He had no time for me.
I met another in 2015. He said the same thing and more. He loved my body, my curves, my smallness, my smile most of all and my mind. “This one’s deep” I had thought to myself that fateful day and I became hooked on the idea he had of me. I got stuck, I couldn’t and wouldn’t let go even when he wanted out. I was deeply involved and felt that if he left me, I would never be useful to myself again. You see, he had this way of looking at me like I was the most perfect creature ever created by the maker himself and though I never saw that in myself, the fact that he made me feel that way made me believe it. So when he finally left, I was damaged emotionally and mentally. I never fully healed even after a whole year and when I saw him again in February 2017, I felt whole again but my wholeness and healing didn’t last; he left again and I went back to being shattered. Nothing satisfied me, not even my writings, I was unemployed at the time so it made me feel more worthless.
Then I got a job, I got two promotions in the first three months and that became my base for blowing off steam. The company shut down and I was back to square one again and once again, I hated myself. I needed someone to love me to make me feel whole. I needed someone to look at me as the best thing that ever happened to him. I needed intimacy but I got none. I felt that if I belonged to someone perhaps, I would be a better person.
Then I met another late 2017. I fell again for no reason in particular but I was neck deep again and my greatest fear was, if he left, no one would ever want me again. It was a sham. lol. He left, I went and begged for him to come back, he did, then he became distant and I had to let him go this time, by myself, reluctantly but willingly.
I left home December 2017. I got a job afterwards and thanks to my boss, I learnt a new skill; one which most Nigerians would term a masculine niche but I thrived. I started writing again, I took all of that pain and emptiness and turned them into series on my blog. I created fictional characters from each experience I had and turned it into a fantastic scene in every episode I wrote and as I wrote, I found a new me. I found a lost me. I saw my life flow from my keyboard and I asked myself, “where have you been? why have you been settling? why have you always needed people to tell you about you? why haven’t you ever loved yourself more than those who claim to love you? why haven’t you ever believed in yourself?
I cried the day I asked myself these questions because I knew the answers. I cried till there wasn’t anymore tears left to shed then I took one of my diaries and started listing out my skills. I wrote over ten and I pinched myself really hard because, I realized that I was a complete talented female who has so much passion and love to give too. I reread all my stories and realized how powerful I was with words. I realized how strong my thoughts are and how magical it felt to put them down on my blog and watch people get in their feelings over my creativity. That day, I feared me. That day, I loved me more than ever. That day, I looked into the mirror fully and called myself a force to reckon with. My chest was swollen with pride and I glowed with pride because I was finally able to confirm and accept who I was. It was like a revelation as I suddenly realized that just like the ugly duckling, I had evolved into this beautiful swan who didn’t really need any man to love her to feel loved. I realized that I needed to recognize and accept who I was first before anyone could fully see me clearly and appreciate me too. I wiped my tears and laughed like a crazy person because I was baffled at how myopic I had been towards me all these years and ever since, nothing, I mean nothing has ever made me feel less.
That day, for the first time in 28 years, I really did look at my body thoroughly and I saw what my second had saw. Indeed, I am attractive. I saw my sex appeal in another light and I got attracted to myself. It was like a mind deflowering for me that day. I checked my boobs and saw the beauty in them, I checked my lips and felt the softness they carried, I looked deep into my eyes through the mirror and realized that I have deep dark mysterious eyes with a sparkle that was never easily dimmed, I touched my skin and realized how soft and supple it felt and my nose, I realized it is the most beautiful feature on my face. Indeed, God took his time to create me in his own beauty. That day, I ignited a love relationship with my body, my soul, my mind and God.
How I got to this point in my life is still unbelievable to me but I am glad that my self validation is complete in itself. I am me and I do not wish to be any other. I know my strengths, my weaknesses and my flaws but I have learnt to accept them, embrace them, work on them to be a better version of me and be grateful for being so special. I’m still dark skinned, I’m still petite (haven’t added an inch), I’m still a size 8, my nose is still upturned and pointed, my hair is longer now (it actually grew fuller, richer and longer on it’s own so I trim it once in a while), I still love wearing my 6 inches heels, I’m still a quiet woman with my mind and my thoughts really loud, I’m still a neat freak and I’m still single (but I’m not scared anymore and I’m not really bothered like before) and most of all, I’m grateful for finding this girl called Glory Elijah.
I’ve learnt to be more present and to stop living in my fantasies (except of course when I’m writing my series. lol). I’ve built an identity which when I look at my self from afar, I would love to associate with me. I’ve become much more calmer and steady unlike the previous restless and precariously clumsy me, I’ve learnt to be more expressive and accurate in my thoughts unlike the Glory that was always tongue tied but fighting mental battles. I’ve learnt to become my very own support system with God’s help too (yes, I prayed about this too) and I’m happy with the woman I am and still becoming that’s why when Toke Makinwa wrote her book “On Becoming”, I totally understood her insecurities because I could relate. Oh how good it feels to know, love and appreciate me! I feel like screaming for joy (currently dancing in my head as I type this though).
Finally, to everyone reading this, I had to ask myself a hundred times if I really wanted to write about this part of my life but here it is. Never ever look for people to complete you. Your self validation will help you maintain a healthy relationship with yourself and the outside world. You are enough for you. You are beautiful/handsome, you are smart and gifted, you are made specifically for you/ someone out there, so never look forward to social media or friends, drugs, relationships or material things to make you feel good about yourself. Help your self validation to be complete in itself. Learn yourself, know your flaws, accept them and if they’ll harm you or anyone else, work on them to be better. Strive to become the best version of you and always know that you deserve the best.
Love and light to you all