For my final Amani Impact project, I decided to take a deep look at myself, my faults, flaws, achievements and all the joys that make me whom I am.
Growing up in the 90’s, I was born into a middle class family here in Nairobi. The 3rd of 4 daughters and a lone son. Being brought up, I was the definition of a textbook middle child. Often feeling ignored and neglected, I became very adventuresome and more destructive, always leaving my parents and siblings perplexed by my never ending shenanigans. By the time I was 9 years old, my father was blessed with the opportunity to go work for the Government of Botswana. Wanting his family with him, my father moved us all down to Botswana where a new way of life begun.
Arriving in Botswana, it didn’t take long to understand that my entire family was different. We spoke different, dressed different and even cooked different. What’s worse, the residents and my peers alike never shied away from letting us know that we were different, often being tagged “mokwerekwere’’ a derogatory term for a person that speaks a language not native to their land. Being in a foreign country, growing and learning to discover oneself wasn’t always easy and for so long, I lived without external friends. My main companions included my siblings and our strong bouts of sibling rivalry never went unnoticed. We spent so much time together locked up indoors to please our overprotective father that we got on each other’s nerves without even trying.
When adolescence came knocking, my social skills hadn’t improved that much. My friends remained my siblings and a couple of students from school but we didn’t spend much time together outside school. I also noticed that my body developed slower and much later than those of my peers and this dropped my self-esteem even further, plundering me deep into the world of depression and self-loathing. Having no one around to confide in meant that I kept these feelings all bottled in and harbored, hoping to forget them. I battled with bouts of feeling up one day and suddenly down the next on and off continuously. My peers didn’t help much either (adolescent beings can be the meanest at times), always calling me names in reference to my Boy like figure and appearance, I was tall, lanky, pimply and had all the misery go with it. Never did I ever feel beautiful or let alone have someone reaffirm my stance by calling me beautiful. With time, I died a little more inside.
Any relationship I attempted thereafter was doomed from the start without even me realizing it. I loathed myself so bad, I didn’t leave any room for anyone to love me or even make an attempt. As was always the case, I packaged all my feelings and locked them up deep within me, and when I succeeded in making myself feel numb, I proceeded with life.
I went on to completing my undergraduate degree, still in Botswana and came out of it very reserved and a loner, often disguising myself as a true born introvert, but truly what I had been suffering from was depression and a serious lack of belief in self. This had me shying away from any opportunity to network with people. I moved back to Kenya at the age of 23, and the struggle to fit in begun all over again. My tolerance of crowds went really down and my anxiety surges whenever I walk into a crowded room and cannot identify a single person I know. More often than not, I walk in and find a nice and solitude corner to plant myself in until someone I know walks in, or wait for someone already in the room to approach me and begin conversation. It can never be the other way around, with me approaching someone first; the conversation never flows. I clam up and forget what to say or even where to start.
It was only after the Amani SIM program that I could finally dig up all that hidden emotion and challenge myself to face them. I notice daily how some of the students I work with at R.O.C.K suffer from a lack of self-esteem and although common, this is something that is very avoidable and unnecessary to put oneself through. As humans, we tend to be our biggest critics and nine times out of ten, it is unwarranted criticism. Just us being hard on ourselves. I speak of this now because if my vulnerability has the ability to open up room for dialogue as well as help create a healing pattern for a few individuals, no matter how small the number, then it is beneficial to us all. Mental health is a real challenge, we face different forms of it on a daily basis, but not all of us are brave enough to face our challenges head on and dare them to brake us down further.
You are bigger than your thoughts, DO NOT let them control you, but rather build you into a person of substance. Learn to tame the mind, and the body will comply. No one is perfect! Looking back at my childhood now, I am grateful that I wasn’t acknowledged for my physical beauty as it made me subconsciously work hard at cultivating a purpose within myself that is far greater than beauty that is skin deep.
Even Mother Theresa battled with doubt in her lifetime. I mean, she was, after all one of the most admired women in the world, she gave her life to serve the poor and dying in one of the biggest slums in the biosphere…but she had doubts of her own! Mother Theresa’s doubts about her religion helped me and I believe her doubt can serve as a remedy for us suffering doubters, because the problem for many of us is this – we doubt alone! This loneliness makes us feel that if we do not have certainty about something, then we are on the verge of losing that thing altogether, making you a second class citizen. But doubt is normal, doubt keeps our faith honest and our prayers real. Doubt gives us some epistemological humility; in other words, we must accept the truth that no one, I mean NO ONE can have absolute certainty in life.
Yes, Mother Theresa, in all her glory, doubted. She is just one of a long line of doubters. This should give us courage to admit our own doubts to ourselves, to others and especially to God. Because the moment you put faith in the unknown, you receive a brand new core identity. Your shame story becomes nullified and that wonderful transformation holds, even in the midst of your darkness. Let us converge and tackle this issue. Our minds should liberate us, not make us victims of mental slavery. I am glad I was born in the middle because it taught me the valuable lesson that is sharing, patience and always being there for my loved ones. Yes, I am a beautiful girl, but that alone does not define me.
I therefore challenge you all with this question… WHAT IF OUR SHAME WAS A BRIDGE, NOT A BARRIER? How would you live life different?
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