Own Yourself! – Finding Confidence in Who You Are

What Makes Being Black at a Predominantly White Institution Feel Odd?
February 22, 2022

Written by

Alexis Howell

Over the years, I have been told I’m funny, smart, and have a calming presence. I have also been told that I am a “White girl trapped in a black girl’s body.” I remember the day I first heard this insult, in 5th grade during recess by the swings. A classmate, and someone I considered my “friend,” pointed out the way I walked and constantly talked and labeled it all as “White behavior.” Even some of the things I liked were not enough for her and many others to consider myself Black.

This topic is important to talk about but hard to address. I know I am not the only one who grew up facing these demeaning insults or struggled with their identity because of it. I know I’m not the only one who felt like they could not belong to any group of people because of consistent reminders. As I went to college and became more independent, I noticed my lack of confidence in various situations. I worried that those around me were constantly judging me and picking me apart, trying to determine if I really belonged here. I came up with three important reminders to help myself grow:

  1. You do not need to prove who you are to others.
  • Recalling another memory with the same girl in elementary school, she once quizzed my entire lunch table and I on how we pronounced the word “chicken.” If we did not say it correctly, we were not really Black. Now, I knew this was ridiculous then, and I know it is ridiculous now. You do not behave a certain way to display that you are Black; that is called stereotyping. Being Black is not limited. I know I have nothing to prove because I know where I come from and I am proud of Hold your head high, for we are Black queens and come from greatness.

2. No one can determine who you are. You define yourself.

  • You are you, and only you have the right to say who you are. As I have gotten older, I have become more aware of the damage of being called “White.” I have gained the consciousness to correct those who say this to me, sharing how uncomfortable that phrase makes me and emphasizing that I have been Black since the beginning. I am not only addressing the harm caused by correcting the person, but I also remind myself that only I have the control to determine who I am. 3. You are just the way you are supposed to
  • I find Psalms 139:13-14 as a source of encouragement for this. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” These verses and the whole chapter are a beautiful reminder of just how much God cares about us. He made each and every one of us intentionally, giving us unique interests, and He has included us in the beautiful works of art that fill the earth. Everyone says each snowflake is different, but just because they are different does not mean they are not a snowflake, right? They result from God’s beautiful and unique creation, just like us.

In high school, someone airdropped a few racist pictures to me. This situation made me feel even more alone and confused about where I belonged. I remember crying in bed, praying to God, and asking why he made me so different? I felt as if I had nowhere to turn but to God. That is what started my journey into being proud of who I was, every part of me. I still struggle with the trauma that developed over the years and still want to curl up in a ball in certain situations.

However, I love every part of myself and have more confidence than I ever did at the beginning of high school. In addition to the three reminders above, my best advice is the advice I needed to hear when I was younger: the world may THINK they know what you are, but only you KNOW who you are. And your creation is intentional.

 

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