I had an epiphany a few years ago about the power of loving yourself. It happened while I was employed in a position where I had steadily climbed the ranks of social services being guided by a confident mentor who although was jaded somewhat after working 20+ years in the field, was happy to cultivate and guide young leaders with her experience. It came to a point where my talent was recognized in other areas that weren’t under her leadership and I was promoted to a position under the CEO. Where before, most of my responsibilities were in direct service, education and program management, now I was working in a position where I got to use some of the expertise I had as a professional writing major who was able to manage a side hustle contributing and editing a website for several years.
A few months into the position, I recognized that my experience with this supervisor was significantly different. I quickly realized I was being micro-managed by someone who was quick to critique my ideas and performance when they didn’t work to her advantage the way she had anticipated, but had zero to no guidance on how to support my efforts because she wasn’t confident at all in her own. She also had no concept of the state of social media, writing and advertising as it stands today but refused to humble herself because she possessed the unshakeable mindset that age equals wisdom and she had nothing to learn from someone younger with less formal education. As much as she admired my accomplishments as a writer she also could be fairly condescending in moments where she felt inept. Before long, the side remarks and patronizing comments came about my side hustle as a writer in the form of, “Not all of us can be a famous blogger.” You would think I was high-fiving Issa Rae every weekend walking into a writer’s room with a six-figure salary in an offshore account somewhere. It was in that moment I realized: Even though someone who supposed to be my superior was older, with a lifetime of experience in her field and a salary that easily made my paycheck look like a cable channel, she was jealous. Jealous of my happiness, my hustle and my confidence. It was then it occurred to me that people can look better than you, make more money than you and/or drive a better car than you. Still, miserable people will find a way to hate on your happiness alone.
I was reminded of this “Come To Jesus” moment when I came across a comment by TV writer/actress Mindy Kaling. A Yahoo article posted highlights of the Wrinkle In Time star’s appearance at 2018 Glamour Woman of The Year Summit. This year’s theme was “Women Rise” and Kaling was joined by Today Show journalists Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. Kaling shared her thoughts on women being socialized to hate themselves so much that when a woman is happy and confident, it’s almost frowned upon:
“It’s not that I’m into myself.”
“It’s that I don’t hate myself. In my career, a lot of people have a problem with being around women who don’t hate themselves. Never hate yourself.”
The 39-year-old mother and best-selling author also shared that when you’ve done the work you have a right to be confident and there is literally no reason to dim your shine:
“I always just did the leg work, and it meant I never came to anything unprepared.”
“The only reason I was able to be confident was because I literally couldn’t not be confident with the amount of research and preparation I did.”
It was a sobering reminder to the numerous occasions I’ve witnessed, particularly on social media, when people search for the negativity in your situation. I always say that no matter what I write I can expect the most discussion and supportive comments when I’m sharing how frustrated or unhappy in a situation. Unfortunately essays about being in a happy marriage, truly enjoying motherhood (Like posts from new mom Gabrielle Union recently posted on social media) or feeling like you’re killing it on the career ladder don’t resonate nearly as much with audiences as rants about being ghosted or cheated on or being laid off. It can almost make it feel like you have to dim your light and define yourself by your struggle. It’s true: Misery loves company and being happy and confident can sometimes be hella lonely. And more and more it appears that people don’t know how to bond or connect with people outside of sadness or struggle.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it. Much of the reason I write is because I want to share experiences in my life that have left me feeling awkward, embarrassed and depressed all with the hopes that I can help someone avoid the same fate but mostly because I want people to know that life is hard on any given day for all of us, and we aren’t alone. But I can’t be that person who shows up to every happy hour for ranting session over cheating men every single week. I refuse to be that person who shows up to work every day to vomit all of my burdens on my colleagues and comparing notes on who was dealt the sh**tier hand in life.
My sister’s advice: Be careful who you share your happiness with. Admittedly she has a point. You’ll be out here pouring your heart out to people about your life’s highs and lows and they’ll be plotting the whole time on how to make you as miserable as they are. The worst part is the resentment can be built up over things that are insignificant to you: the security guard who always flirts with you, getting a new sectional for your living room, the fact that your mom takes you to brunch once a month and you’ll be staying in your lane, minding your business and unhappy will people take you sharing your life as a signal that somehow they are failing…and somehow it’s all your fault.
If I’ve learned anything it’s that mental health is real and people can’t clap for you when they’re too busy booing their own lives. On the flip side there are people who are truly celebrating your wins with you and not taking them as a personal slight to their own performance. No one should have to spend their lives biting their tongues and swallowing their pride because other people have problems. So go ahead and scroll through those brunch with Mommy pictures with your colleagues. Tell that security guard, “Good morning,” while walking your fine ass to the elevator. And Gabby Union, post ten thousand more pictures of you loving on that new baby in a headscarf. Because honestly, the people that have a problem with those things have had problems with themselves long before you arrived and lit up the room, and trying to blow out your candle is only going to leave them out of breath and still unhappy, and hating in their own shade.
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.