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NOT AN AFRICAN WOMAN? SAYS WHO?

All my life I’ve been labelled “the skinny girl” and because of this I suffered from a very low self-esteem. Growing up people would make fun of my weight and height sharing their unkind and unwelcomed comments about how skinny and tall I am. Some people would ask ignorant questions such as “do you even eat?” In my mind I will be rolling my eyes and thinking, “yes genius! I mean how on earth would I be standing here alive and talking to you if I did not eat”. And then there was the torture I endured at school. When I was in primary school I was teased and called all sorts of terrible names such as “toothpick”, “ostrich”, “sticks” and the list was endless. In High school the torture continued as found myself wearing layers of clothing under and on top of my school uniform even when it was 30 degrees outside, just to give the illusion that I wasn’t as  skinny as people thought I was.

I recall a particular incident in grade 9, where some kids drew a very nasty comic strip about me, and the contents of the comic strip were disheartening. They drew an image, apparently that image was me, and they said I was HIV positive and ascribed that to be the reason for me being skinny. I have never cried that much in my entire life, the pain was unbearable.

I remember at some point I wanted to end my life because I couldn’t take the constant taunting and ridicule from the other learners. What was even more sad was the fact that I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through. I thought no one would understand my dilemma and honestly, I’m also the kind of person who doesn’t easily share deep personal feelings and personal information.

I am in university now, and although I do feel like I’m accepting my body a bit better than I did when I was younger, it’s still tough when almost everyone around me epitomises a certain kind of beauty. Sometimes I try to ignore their comments but it is really difficult to do so when everyone is constantly on your case about your weight and pointing out that you are not “woman enough”, because you don’t have curves. People can be so insensitive as they do not realise how much their words pierce through and affect the way I view myself as a woman and particularly as an African woman.

Just because I am thin doesn’t mean that I’m sick. I was born this way and there is nothing I can do about it. We live in a time where society and social media celebrate a particular image of the ‘perfect woman’. This ‘perfect woman’ is someone with a curvy body, a big butt and big breasts, “bigger is better” they say. What message are they sending out to young African girls that are still coming into their womanhood? Are they saying they are not good enough? That they need to change how they look to fit into the standard of beauty that has been idolised by many? Don’t even get me started on the number of young girls that have had plastic surgery to enhance their body parts, just so they could feel “good enough”. Whenever I log onto my Instagram account, in the explorer page I am always bombarded with hundreds of photos and feeds celebrating this one type of beauty with hashtags such as #Bigisbeautiful #curvygirlsonly #thickthighssaveslives etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there is problem with celebrating a curvy body. But all I am trying to say is, let us not view a certain body type as a standard of what a woman should look like but rather we should recognise that all women come in different shapes and sizes. Whether they’ve got a big booty or not, our society should celebrate all body types and no one should feel left out.

I am not only writing this to speak up for myself but also for other young women who have struggled with their body image throughout their lives. I want to encourage you to come out of your shell, embrace who you are and recognise that you are also a  beautiful African woman.

Image courtesy: https://www.pond5.com/stock-footage/78046999/body-shape-animated-word-cloud-text-design-animation-kinetic.html

 

About the writer: 

Lindelwa Mhlongo loves God, loves family, experiencing new things and is make-up and beauty connoisseur. She is a hard worker and lives each day full of gratitude. She is currently a student at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), and she wants to change people’s lives whilst also pursuing her passions.

 

A better caretaker…

I opened my eyes this morning, facing the ceiling, I laid in my bed for a couple of minutes and just appreciated the sound of the chirping birds. We all know birds chirp every morning, but we hardly ever truly pause to appreciate this gift of nature. But today was different for me. Today, I felt like the birds were composing a joyful melody just for me. It felt like the Creator of the universe had wanted me to lay there silent appreciating this sweet soothing melody.

As I lay in bed, I was overwhelmed by a great sense of calmness and peace. My mind took me on gratitude lane and I just thought of all the things I had wanted, from the time I was a young kid to now being this blazing hot woman! Hahaha vele! lol 🙂 . Anyway, in gratitude lane I was reflecting on the things that I have been blessed with and also thinking about things I so badly wanted but ended up not getting. I am grateful for the things I didn’t get because what I received was far better and in line with my purpose 🙂 . I laugh about some of the things I thought I would ‘die’ if they were not placed in my path.

I think the chirping birds was the Master’s way of saying to me, ‘girl I got you!’ Even in the things I ask for now and circumstances I am confused about, I know that my Heavenly Father is a far better caretaker of my life than I am. I always think I know stuff, but my young life has taught me that the He always knows best.

This piece is a nudge to any one panicking about their life, I want to say, darling, relax! because God’s Got you. He is a far better caretaker of our lives than we are and the greatest gift we can give ourselves is, to learn the undying truth that we are God’s best masterpiece and into His hands we can commit our lives because it is the only safe place.

 

Image courtesy:https://www.cafepress.com.au/+best-caretaker+greeting-cards

I hate how lukewarmness feels on me…

Lukewarmness can have various meanings depending on the context. But the word doesn’t usually have positive connotations. For example, most people don’t enjoy a lukewarm shower because the water temperature has to be just right or cold if it’s a hot summer’s day. People don’t enjoy lukewarm food, it either has to be hot or cold depending on the type of food. The worst kind of lukewarmness occurs in behavioral form. Usually we tend to dislike people who are lukewarm because they present unpalatable qualities. Example of these qualities are, people who are indecisive, uncertain, indifferent, uncommitted, unresponsive and wishy-washy.

Another kind of lukewarmness is one that happens inside of you, where you feel like you have lost enthusiasm and zeal for life. I am by default a very optimist person but of recent, I have been having an internal emotional battle with this.

I have been feeling so overwhelmed and I have been sharing with my friend about how tired I am. In a quest to regain my strength, I read through old notes as reminders that every situation eventually passes. Yesterday, I bumped into a note I had written, shared by a speaker at a conference I was attending. The note read, “people are not tired, they just uninspired”. As I read this I just thought to myself, ‘wow, what a timely word for me’. According to the vocabulary dictionary the word inspire comes from the Latin word that means to “inflame or to blow in to”. “When you inspire something, it is as if you are blowing air over a low flame to make it grow”. As I battle this feeling of lukewarmness, I realised that at the root of my feeling lukewarm is an existential crisis. I am at the brink of entering my thirties and I have placed pressure on myself to have certain things sorted.

I want my fire back because lukewarmness doesn’t feel like home and shouldn’t be home.  I guess part of the reason for writing this piece is my initial step towards finding healing and a resolute. I hate how lukewarmness feels on me because it undermines the beauty of the gift of life. I hate how lukewarmness feels on me because it makes me forget that I am divinity inside and I have a significant contribution to make in the world.

I am writing a love letter to myself, reminding me that it’s okay to take time out to breathe, to take it easy and to not give up on pursuing those things that set my soul on fire…

 

Article image courtesy:https://alukewarmmess.com

Big ups to people who are approachable!

I woke up this morning and added the words “be approachable” to my life development chart in my bedroom.  I was inspired to add these words based on a story I was listening to.

Someone was sharing a personal story about a pain point they experienced when they entered the corporate world. This person had landed their dream job at their dream company. One of the main reasons that attracted them to this organisation was because of the CEO. As a young person, they admired the CEO because on the various public platforms, he appeared to be a charismatic character, eloquent of speech, cutting edge business leader and extremely intelligent. After a couple of months of working there, they were assigned to a project in the CEO’s office. The project required that he meet the CEO to gather information. The day before the meeting he was so excited, finally he will meet this formidable leader, or so he thought. The morning came, he went to the executive floor, greeted the PA and was asked to wait a few minutes outside the office.

Finally the door opened, the PA looked over to him and signed with her hand that he may enter. The first thing he noticed when he entered was that the CEO had his head down and was busy writing, so he quietly sat down and waited for him to finish. When he finished, the young lad greeted cheerfully, the CEO responded in a nonchalant manner. During the course of the meeting the CEO was so rude, and kept shutting down the young man’s ideas. Post that meeting the CEO would not attend some meetings set up by the chap and if he did accept a meeting invite, the young man would lie awake the night before anxious about what the following day would bring.

This guy eventually resigned after a few months and went on to get other jobs. Years later he started his own enterprise and it became a success. What touched me most about the story, was the key principal he has built his business on, and that  is approachability. He learnt from the early years of his career that ideas are inhibited if we don’t have a culture of being approachable.

The Collins English dictionary defines the word approachable as:

“friendly and easy to talk”

I started reflecting about how I have faced my fair share of people in leadership positions who are just not approachable. As people, we generally have a desire to achieve and a desire to connect. It is the connection that sets alight ideas and brings life. I want to be an approachable person and I have penned the following questions as kick starters to help me:

  • How approachable am I?
  • Am I doing something or not doing something to be approachable?

Some ideas to answer the kick starters are:

  1. Being a listener…it truly starts here. I saw the below quote the other day and it really blessed my heart!

“Are you really listening…or are you just waiting for your turn to talk?” Robert Montgomery

  1. Being humble… Someone once said,“humility is not thinking less of yourself, its thinking of yourself  less…” We are not our titles, wealth and accomplishments.
  2. Being kind…I promise you one of the best ways to influence people is through kindness. When you live out your kindness, people will do absolutely anything for you joyfully.

Let me know your thoughts on how you think you rank on being approachable? 🙂

 

Image courtesy: https://www.superinterns.com/2015/09/approachable-boss/

 

 
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