Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nigerian Big-womanism, Fake Friends, And Finding Your Authentic Self - Ekene Onu

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By Ekene Onu

Yesterday, I saw Gina Prince Bythewood, writer/director at a private advance screening of her new film ‪#‎beyondthelights‬ and she has an incredible body of work including love and basketball and the secret life of bees. She answered questions so graciously and carried herself so beautifully, without pretension or arrogance. Even when a woman in the audience joked about auditoning for her, she laughed but offered the woman her casting directors information and treated her with respect.

So in contrast, and you guys can get mad with me if you like and you can tell me I'm mistaken that's okay, but I am speaking from my own experiences as a Nigerian woman who has straddled the lines btw middle class and upper middle class and working class.

The mere fact that our classes are so clearly defined is part of the reason we struggle. Big Manism is what holds us back. And this happens in every social context. Even in church, you have the special people, the big tithers, the inner caucus, when Jesus was not a respecter of persons. I'll never forget an experience I had a few years back in Lagos, when I was meeting a woman for the first time and other women where coming up to her and kowtowing in deference to her.

I thought perhaps she was their boss, but it turned out not to be the case. I had to call someone and ask, because I don't keep up with the social elite of Nigeria and I asked if there was something I missed, I knew she was accomplished (most of the women I deal with are) Was she part of a Lagos royal family or something? Is this traditional influence? I was told no. She was simply very rich.

I still was confused. "Again I asked, but is she giving away money or something? What does her wealth have to do with anything?"

And here's the thing. I felt sad for her. I wondered if she ever felt trapped on that pedestal. One false step and you come tumbling down.

I just gave a talk about authenticity, self awareness and resilience.

I asked the attendees to stand on the floor barefoot. Fancy ladies don't stand barefoot. But they do. They do.

I asked the crowd to be careful, and to not create a life that they can't actually live.

We have been bamboozled by this idea that money actually makes us better. Money is a resource. Period. Fancy degrees are a tool period. The fact that you have achieved anything at all is yes by your hard work but mostly by grace. Because many people have worked hard and died before they saw the fruits of their labor.

I asked the participants yesterday to "get over themselves!" And I'm asking us to do the same. I shudder to think of the compromises people have made because they are desperate to maintain a certain image and keep their sychophants around them.

The challenge is that sychophants are dangerous, even when they mean you no harm. Just go back and read the emperor has no clothes.

We feel too high. And I'm also talking to myself. I remind myself daily to choose the path of humility. I was with someone recently and she was so condescending, my pride started to rise up and I am very proud. I struggle with it. Pray about it. I am a work in progress. I was so irritated by her behavior that I started to respond. The words God gives grace to the humble rattled in my head and I closed my mouth.

I have met women who are very accomplished and have really done amazing things and they are simple, humble, down to earth people. I recently met the writer of one of my favorite books and she was a breath of fresh air. She had no airs, no pretensions.

I am not young. I am not old. I have lived a bit and to some, have done some things, to others, not done enough. My single purpose to to take the message I carry to where God wishes me to take it. To be part of the collective opening of our eyes. We all have value. From the poorest orange seller to the richest CEO. When you allow yourself to be inducted into this big man club, you put yourself at risk. You will become easy prey. You find yourself surrounded with people but really alone. You are never really able to tell the truth and you start to lose the ability to hear it.

We need truth tellers in our lives. I love that I came off stage yesterday to a rousing applause and I called home and my daughter could care less and I focused on helping her figure out her geometry homework because the story of greatness that I was telling myself was inconsequential to her very reall challenge of trapezoids and acute angles.

We need to be reminded of our humanity so we can really be the beautiful humans we were born to be. Too many of us are living in gilded cages of our own making.

So this note is for you. If you have ever had a "Do you know who I am" moment. Put your feet on the ground. The ground doesn't make exceptions. It doesn't care what kind of car you drive or what island you live on. It doesn't care whether you travel business class or coach.

It is simply the ground to everyone alike and that is real.

Get over yourself, so you can get into your life. Get away from the sychophants, so you can get real friends.

God gives grace to the humble. And grace is more beautiful and valuable than anything you can buy or any exclusive club membership.

Ekene Onu is a speaker, author and lifestyle strategist. She is the Author of "The Mrs Club", "Can I be real?" and the upcoming "Aristocrat wives". Connect with her at She also hosts conferences, workshops and lifestyle experiences around the US and in Nigeria. Follow her on facebook @Refreshwithekene and on twitter @ekeneonline for more details on the Refresh ideology.

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