The Power behind Beyoncé's song 'Flawless'
I’m sure we have all sung our fair share of “I woke up like this” because truthfully any day a woman is feeling Flawless, Beyonce has got to be playing in the background. The song itself is a female anthem promoting confidence and female empowerment.
While I love Beyonce’s flawless way of encouraging confidence in women, the best part about the song is the powerful excerpt spoken by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, ‘You can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man’....Because I am female I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support, but why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don't teach boys the same?...We raise girls to see each other as competitors; not for jobs or for accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are... Feminist: the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
I know this excerpt very well as it comes from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “We Should All Be Feminists.” I love every bit of her message and recommend everyone, not just women, take the time to listen to its 30-minute entirety via TedTalk. The part that really resonates with me from the particular excerpt previously mentioned, is when she says, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors; not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men.” When I first heard the song, I would rewind it just to listen to Chimamanda over and over again, not understanding what it was that kept me so drawn to those words. Throughout the year that followed the release of that song, I found myself making the most incredible connections with extraordinary women. The words suddenly began to trickle back into the forefront of my mind and it hit me like a ton of bricks, “women need each other to succeed.”
The idea that rather than viewing another woman as a threat and using that competitive nature in a healthy way to grow with one another, was an idea that blew my mind. In the past there have been times when I would feel threatened, insecure, or would even think less of myself if another woman was “more successful” than I was. Why was I doing that? Where were these thoughts coming from? I then listened to Chimamanda’s full TedTalk. I listened to the power of her words when it came to Feminism. While the word has many negative connotations to those who don’t understand it fully, it truly is a positive and powerful ideal full of empowerment. I realized another woman’s success wasn’t a measure for my own. I realized that healthy competition meant that their success was a way to encourage mine, not demean it. Those thoughts began to subside and I started to truly value and appreciate my friends and colleagues’ accomplishments. I was again, drawn to the same phrase, “We raise girls to see each other as competitors; not for jobs or accomplishments, which I think can be a good thing but for the attention of men.” When Chimamanda said that, it was to shed light on the fact that our society has programmed women to compete for all the wrong reasons which prevents us from reaching our full potential. The most important part about competition is understanding why you need it and in what areas you need it in.
Think about all the times you’ve competed for something in your life. The first thing you did was work as hard as you could to prepare or practice to be the best you could be. If you failed and it was something you really wanted, you learned the art of trying again until you accomplished it. Lastly, when you accomplished what you set out to do, you realized that you had the ability to do something you set your mind to. The process pushes limits and breaks barriers; you learn how to set a goal and how to achieve it; it’s beautiful. How many Fighting over the attention of men is not beneficial for personal or professional growth.
The late Wangari Maathai said, “The higher you go, the fewer women there are.” It’s sad but true. As much as our culture has evolved, we are still in a male-dominated world. It’s rare to find many women at the top so why not help each other to get there rather than tearing each other down. My closest friends are my biggest inspiration. We aren’t in a race against one another to get to the top because that isn’t healthy competition when dealing in terms of your life’s purpose, journey, or path. We are in a healthy competition where we are running together and your wins encourage my wins as my wins encourage yours. If a girlfriend of mine says to me, “I booked a new gig!” I am genuinely going to to be happy and proud of her but in that same moment, I might also finally call the photographer to book that headshot I’ve been procrastinating on. See, her accomplishment didn’t mean that I failed at mine. Her accomplishment encouraged me to make a new move that would only help my success. This is how you begin to retrain your mind. You look at someone’s accomplishment and you encourage them because truly an accomplishment of any kind is admirable. If you start to feel a strange envious sensation dig deep within yourself to determine why that might be and then make a change in your life to shape your success. If you are envious or jealous of someone else’s accomplishment there is an underlying issue within yourself that you need to decipher. Maybe it is something you aren’t doing for yourself that you know you should be. Rather than feeling discomfort with your friend or colleague, praise and encourage them and set to work toward a goal you need to accomplish for yourself.
We all know what it feels like to get gifts for our birthdays or holidays but the feeling of giving a gift is extremely special and more valuable than receiving one. That beautiful feeling you get within yourself when you’ve brightened someone’s day is incredible and it is the same feeling when we encourage and empower one another. We brighten their day; we spread love and light. Women who empower women is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and felt. To have a network of encouraging women makes my goals seem attainable and makes life seem like it is no match for me. We have to continue to be aware of the negative thinking we often tend to have and immediately think something positive when dealing with people in general, but especially with our female peers. We are stronger together than we are apart and I wholeheartedly believe that when we empower and encourage one another we become unstoppable in our own lives. Spread love today and always, you female hustlers are absolutely fabulous!