Thoughts are not facts. I have to repeat this mantra to convince myself every day because if I let my thoughts or the thoughts of others define who I am, then I will never live up to my greatest potential. Many times, how other people feel about you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves, and we have to learn how to not take their thoughts personally, and that's no easy task. Social media gives people the opportunity to be all up in your Kool-Aid without knowing the flavor, leaving them to make uninformed decisions about a life that they've never lived.
For years in the past and even sometimes now, I've let how other people felt about me mold my own perception of self. This left a void in my heart because I knew that I could never live up to other people's expectations of who I was supposed to be. And in chasing that image of perfection, I lost myself.
Kelly Rowland recently opened up in an interview with Broadly about how the pressure to please everyone but herself led her to one of the darkest places in her career. She said that one of the hardest challenges in her career was gaining the courage to understand that an individual's thoughts about her were based on their own perception, not her reality. She said that before she could truly grow, she had to stop believing the things that other people said about her.
"If someone says something negative, nine times out of 10, it's usually a situation where it's something they secretly feel they are, and they project that onto you. You have to know not to own it. It's so funny, because I'll tell young girls that now, [though] I know that they don't understand in that moment. I pray that some of them do. You really have to remind yourself how much people project. You can't allow the rest of the world to tell you who you are. Otherwise, you'll internalize all of the insecurities of the world."
From childhood, we are taught that we are "good" if we do things that please the ones we love, and "bad" if we rebel against the majority. We are stuck in this mindset throughout our adulthood, now pressured to please our family, friends, and lovers, without realizing that people's opinions about you are based on how they feel in that moment.
You can never gauge your own worth based on how much someone else values you. When I do something that makes you happy, you will say: wow Taylor, you are so great. But if I do something that you don't like, you will say: Taylor, you're horrible. I can't believe you when you tell me I'm great, because by that logic, I would have to believe you when you tell me I suck, and as much as I love you, I can't use your feelings to define how I perceive myself.
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Whether you tell me that I'm great or not, I know that I am and that's the peace that will sustain me. Kelly Rowland also understands that that peace comes at a cost. People won't always agree with the person that you authentically are, but the former Destiny's Child member stressed the importance of being unapologetically you.
She had this advice for young black women that struggle with defining their own identities in our tumultuous political climate:
"Don't apologize for who you are. Don't apologize for anything. Don't apologize for the curls of your hair, don't apologize for the color of your skin, don't apologize for the sway and swagger and urbanized moments we have with our speech that end up becoming trends."
Under an administration that constantly scrutinizes our blackness, it's easy to look at the news or social media and believe who they say we are. The key, she says, is to remember your own power in moments of weakness, and continue to bask in your queendom without apology.
"The woman is the matriarch, and I think that in my community, black women have always been the center and the matriarch of their families. When it's time for you, and you're learning how to be that, don't apologize for having a voice and speaking up. This goes not just for Black women, but of course, other women as well. Just, all around, don't apologize."
To read the full interview, click here.
Featured image by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images