Warring Dichotomy Between Who We Are And How Others Want Us To Be

There is…a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead…this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.

James Baldwin – Nobody Knows My Name

I’d like to amend one aspect to this quotation. If we try to remain what others would like us to be – which most likely diminishes our full potential – it won’t satisfy them but it will destroy us. It’s one thing to find a minimum  comfort level in life. Some people are better suited as employees instead of entrepreneurs. Everyone isn’t trying to aim for the sun.

Some people have an inkling they are inherently different in aptitude, outlook, identity and perspective but may not be in a position to explore those options safely. Or they may think if they ignore it, they can live without specific conflicts. 

If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors will open for you that wouldn’t have opened for anyone else.

 – Joseph Campbell

There’s a higher long-term cost to denying who we are or people-pleasing dysfunction. When we adopt and apply new mentalities it takes us on a different path than many may be willing or able to choose for themselves, but the rewards far outweigh the initial challenges. I was reading Sister Can’t Fly On One Wing which says so much.

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13 Replies to “Warring Dichotomy Between Who We Are And How Others Want Us To Be”

  1. A note on drug addiction:

    Wow. I've got lots of "notes" today. (lol)
    Reading that other blog post you referenced, in which the man discussed being addicted to crack, made me think of a radio show I listened to during the 90s. It was a very interesting show. They were discussing drug addiction from a neurological perspective, I believe. (It's hard for me to remember all of the details). Anyway, they were saying that it may not be practical to expect people who are addicted to MAN-MADE drugs (ie crack) to completely overcome their addiction, because man-made drugs often change the physiological and (I think) the anatomical structure/functioning of the brain/body. So, with those changes, the body begins to actually NEED the drug, which makes it difficult for people not to seek it out. They were discussing how other drugs can be given to people to help cope with their addiction and function effectively in life, even though they may never be completely "drug free". Non-man-made drugs (ie cocaine, I think) didn't produce the same changes in the body and therefore didn't produce the same type of addiction. As I stated, I heard the show YEARS ago, and I can't remember all of the details. But, it caused me to changed my outlook on drug addiction and drug addicts. I've never been interested in drug use. But, I will tell you, I am AFRAID to try drugs--EVEN ONCE. I don't want to risk falling into an abyss from which I will never return or only return after (nearly) losing everything.


  2. A note on Whitney Houston. (Pt 5)
    Well, what is the value of a BW's life relative to a BM's? Whitney's life has GREAT value for Bobby. She brings him attention, posterity, and (the hope for) money. He's continuing his concerts and, according to rumor, planning to sell a tell-all book he'd wanted to publish in the past. Now, that Whitney is dead, he may actually get it published, and Whitney can continue to pay his bills.
    All of this is just too much. For me, Whitney sparkled, and she gave me hope that I too could be beautiful, talented, successful, elegant AND black. She will always hold a special place in my heart. I am sad to learn that she suffered from insecurity and unfair social challenges from the BC which may have (likely) influenced her to make unhealthy decisions. I only hope and pray that she is at peace and that BW and girls learn from her life story to "follow their bliss" and choose what is best and MOST HEALTHY for their own selves.

  3. A note on Whitney Houston. (Pt 4)

    (Sigh) So, here, we have Bobby Brown, engaged, with a new baby. And, beautiful Whitney is dead.

    I had to let that thought stand alone, because it pretty much sums up and illustrates the BS in the black American community. After listening to a couple of her interviews, I do think she had more a "typical" black perspective on male-female relationships. In one interview she related how her father and brothers really told her the real deal. One of her brothers told her about how he had some girl, a friend of his had that girl, and another friend of his was going to have that girl. Her brother then asked her, Now what kind of girl do you think that is? Whitney said, A girl who likes guys alot? Her brother then told her, She's a whore. The interviewer didn't say anything. In another interview, the interviewer asked her something about Bobby Brown's life/history. Whitney answered, boys will be boys and when they meet a nice girl, they marry her. So, UNFORTUNATELY, Whitney seems to have already been primed to fall for "the okey-doke" Evia mentions on her blog. I HATE this outcome. She was still so VERY beautiful. She had much to offer the world, her family, and, most importantly, herself.

  4. A note on Whitney Houston. (Pt 3)
    There was one scene that I found QUITE HILARIOUS, however. Bobby Brown was standing at a hotel bar, getting ready to pay his check, I think. There were two white males sitting at the bar. They looked to be around the 45-50 age range. Anyway, for some reason, Bobby told one of the men he was Todd Bridges. The man just looked at him. Then Bobby said [note: I'm paraphrasing this exchange] no, really, I'm Bobby Brown man. The white man just continued to sit there and look at him. Bobby said, I know you don't believe me/can't believe it. I'm for real. I'm really Bobby Brown. The white man just sits and looks at him, then says, I don't know who that is. (Lol!) Then Bobby tells him how he is a singer and how he wrote songs "My Prerogative", "Humpin' Around" (what a claim to fame), etc. Then he turns around and holds his baseball cap at his lower back, the way he's posed several times in the past. Then the white man tells him he doesn't follow music much. THEN, Bobby tells him, I'm married to Whitney Houston. The white man's face then lights up, he smiles, says hey, and gives Bobby a strong handshake. HE KNEW WHO WHITNEY WAS. HA! Bobby Brown is a big NOBODY, without her!

  5. A note on Whitney Houston. (Pt 2)
    Anyway, I remember later hearing about her decision to marry Bobby Brown. And, I couldn't understand…WHY?! It made no sense. Sure, I knew about Bobby Brown through New Edition and his album with "My Prerogative". But, I couldn't understand why Whitney with all of her grace and elegance would want to be associated with someone who gave the impression of being a HS dropout and the "class clown". I've always been surrounded by black American popular "culture", but I've never been a part of it. And, I boycotted BET at an early age, when I saw how black women were being marginalized. Even at my young age, I could see that things were not right. So, while I kept up with the music industry, primarily via radio, I never really kept up with the gossip and lifestyle images that were being projected.
    Years later, when I heard about her making a reality tv show with Bobby Brown, I again wondered…WHY?! I knew the only reason anyone would be interested in "his" show would be so that they could actually see into the personal life of Whitney Houston. What other interest could he himself hold? I also had a sense that Whitney wasn't in her "best place" at that time. So, knowing that she would be on the show and feeling that she would be exploited, I was very angry. I made it a point not to tune in to that show (even though by that time, I could have followed it, had I so desired). I proudly say, I never watched it. However, after her passing, I've read several comments about her and that show. I've since watched a few older interviews on YouTube, and I decided to watch a couple of episodes of that reality show. It was hurtful to see. I was so shocked, but not. It was obvious that Whitney was on some other plain thanks to chemicals. It was very tarnishing to her image and reputation. I was and am so upset that black males are willing to tarnish the images of black women who love them just to try to elevate their own status in some way or another.

  6. A note on Whitney Houston. (Pt 1)

    I had to divide my response into two parts, because there is so much content in blog post. Even your short posts are abound with substance! Anyway, I'd first like to say,
    I loved Whitney.
    My heart is so broken over her passing. I feel a sense of genuine loss. I read the article you linked to, and I've also read others' perspectives on her art, life, and decline. Honestly, I was a little girl when Whitney came out with "The Greatest Love of All". That is my earliest memory of her. Some of the opinions on her works I've read seem to come from a more mature analytical perspective. Some of the things I've read were very surprising to me. I never realized she was criticized for not being "black enough". I thought such ideas of "blackness" were the result of the (more) recent hip hop influence. For Whitney to have come under such criticism early in her career, those ideas must have been around for some time. My parents were never ones to engage in gossip or "black think" conversations, so I never heard such things. All of this is surprising to me, because the images of icons like Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks were always refined and dignified. I personally always thought that was the standard for black American womanhood.
    I can't understand why blacks would criticize her. She was always so elegant, well-poised, and dignified--not to speak of her AMAZING talent. I primarily experienced Whitney via radio, with an occasional viewing of her music videos at the homes of relatives. I must say I did take notice of her image on her "I'm Your Baby Tonight" album cover. (I LOVE that album, btw.) My cousin had her album, which is the only reason I ever saw it. I don't know if this is the time period in which she was making stronger efforts to prove her "blackness", but I must say the image I saw of her did not match my impression of her via her music and early videos. [To provide context for my perspective, I'll share that I grew up in a predominantly black urban area but attended predominantly white suburban schools. So, I know what it's like to be between two different worlds. And, I understand the pressures from the black community to prove that one is "black enough".]

    1. AAs have always criticized those they felt were "out of pocket" when it came to being excellent. I'm not talking about those who were ego-centric, just those who wanted to forge their own path. You may be familiar with the term "siddity". And Diahann Carroll was criticized in the 60's. This has gone on for quite some time. Back to Whitney, the "I'm Your Baby Tonight" album sold only 1/4th the amount of copies as her debut. She had ignored Clive's advic4 to go for a more urban sound and she was with Bobby by this time. So her conforming to the "black police" wasn't even reciprocated! It hurt her career. I also heard how Bobby discouraged her from taking more acting roles and how he cut up on the set of 'The Preacher's Wife' out of jealousy over her working with Denzel. Working period since his career was pretty much over when they married. People forget he had been kicked out of New Edition and had maybe 3 solo hits, but he never had anything close to Whitney's success. Like many BM he seemed to view her as a competitor (with contempt) but didn't hesitate to use her resources for himself.

      1. (Oh) My god! I didn't know all of that about Bobby's behavior, although I can believe it. He even LOOKS like the type. Goodness! It angers me how "black think" causes BW to submit to sabotage of their own success and the clipping of their wings. What you've shared makes me hate him. I disliked him, but I didn't know he was that BLATANTLY oppressive and sidelining. Whitney really was top of the line. EVERYONE loved her. She had crossover appeal. With her beauty, she could have capitalized on that FOR DECADES! I don't even think stars today have the hope of such lasting success and starpower. All I can do is smh……..unbelievable.

        Yes, I've heard that word "siddity". IT GRATES ON MY NERVES. I first heard it when an AA female friend used it in reference to me for selecting a healthy meal option at a time we went out for dinner. I thought it was a newer word (you know how AAs love their "made up" words). I didn't realize it had been around since the 60s. AAs are strange. I thought the loved the likes of Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, and Diana Ross. I guess they only really "cherish" you once you're dead and ruined. When you're on top (and "living" as a free person rather than a "slave"), they despise you. Thanks for sharing this with me. I didn't realize this insipidness went back so many generations. I guess the intrinsic value in the bc and it's "culture" has been dying for some time now. What we see today is just the emerging picture of what has been our reality (kind of similar to the way in which they say the physical changes we see in stars and galaxies are actually images from the past because it took so many light years to reach us). wow. For me, this is just more heartache, sadness, and motivation to follow through with my commitment to create and give a different legacy, culture, and pathway to my children. (a silently weeping heart)

  7. Hi, Faith.

    I like your pairing of these two quotes with each other. Baldwin's quote reflects the thought process of AAs quite well (or rather the thought process imposed upon AA women in particular). I feel that quote captures the heartache of the Negro's experience in the US. However, as you pointed out, it is very limiting to the Negro and particularly, in the present circumstance, Negro women. Campbell's quote, on the other hand, provides us with the outlook we will need to overcome the challenges of the present age and society. Thanks to the struggles and victories of our ancestors, we have the opportunity to create successful lives and legacies of which our ancestors could only hope for and dream.

    I, myself, have been coming to terms with the reality of the difficulties in trying to pursue one's dreams while also attempting to meet the expectations of others. While pursuing my education and goals, I have always tried to incorporate "compensation" for the lifestyles of choices and others into my plans. "How can I establish a career that will satisfy my aspirations, while also raising up (fill in the blank)?" That thought (and similar ones) have governed my choices for many years. And, frankly, it's difficult to plan for one's success while also trying to compensate for other people's poor choices and the attendant consequences. I've decided that I'm tired of the "drag", and I'm going to focus more wholeheartedly on what's going effectuate the actualization of my goals in whole rather than part, without feeling "selfish" or "guilty". It's hard to do. But, necessary.

    As I read about the current review of affirmative action in higher education, I realize that many AAs are sabotaging their opportunities and the future opportunities for their children. It's very unfortunate. But, if AAs don't drop this DBR "culture", they are going to lose the pathways to success that their ancestors bought for them. And, they won't be able to recover them, because they will lack sympathy from the other members of society. People are going to leave AAs to wither in their own self-destruction, without a care. It really is going to become a "survival of the fittest" society for AAs. Those of us who have the wherewithal and ability to compete and succeed need to focus on doing so and securing our interests. Trying to pull along those members who refuse to make better decisions will only drag us down into the abyss to never return. I now believe one of the best ways to assist is to set a good example and share knowledge/wisdom as you move along the way. Those who have the desire can follow your example, and, if you so desire, you can make more intensive investments into those individuals. But, wallowing around in misery, complacency, and digression, just for the sake of community affiliation or to prove that you "care" makes no sense and is a waste of one's own potential.

    1. What you've written encapsulates core BWE messaging that's been the encouraged course of action for several years now. I think this has been "hard" to adopt for most black women over the age of 30 because they're too invested in "trying" and waiting for the wake up call for the black community. They might attribute obstructionism to a smaller portion of so-called elites or maladjusted behavior to lower classes, or be hoping for the best amongst friends, family or peers, but based on percentages, the collective is dead. The head and body have atrophied but the feet don't realize it yet. So, it's in the black woman's interest esp AA women to take action immediately. Hopefully women in their 20's take heed sooner and teens can start as soon as they can to avoid getting caught or side-tracked. There's simply NO time to waste!

      1. I think you're right in your assessment of why it's so "hard" for 30+ BW to move on. For those of us influenced by parents and grandparents of older generations, it's difficult not to keep the "WE (bc) Shall Overcome" mentality of the Civil Rights Era. I know my parents support me doing what is best for myself and won't object to me marrying say a WM. However, I know there will still be a part of them that still believes in/hopes for the preservation of "black love". I am personally happy to hear that so many younger BW and girls are open to having relations outside of BC norms. I appreciate the BWE blogs because they provide a concentrated support network that just doesn't exist for BW in the larger BC. Personally, my mind has always been free, but it's been hard for me to let go of the sense of "obligation", because of love for "my people". Now, I'm focusing on my love for me (The Greatest Love of All--Thanks, Whitney!).

        1. Ok, but this begs the question -- if your mind has always been free, why is it still so hard for you to let go of that sense of "obligation"? Warring dichotomies…

          1. Honestly, Faith, when you have the ability to help and good people (ie your mother) ask you to assist in ways that you can, it's hard not to feel that way--particularly when it's a "good cause" and seemingly "doable". As I stated, my mind has always been free and open to alternative ways and perspectives (fostered by my alternative educational environment). But, cultural and religious expectations can grip people in ways that go beyond logic. I've come to accept that while my mind is free and I make choices to support that freedom, my emotions are not necessarily so. I don't know if I will ever NOT feel what other AAs are going through. When I see people in various unhealthy predicaments, I FEEL it, even though I don't live the experience or make the same choices. I really am in a place of making choices that I KNOW are best, while my emotions are pulling me in a different direction. This is another reason I want my children to have a father from a different background and perspective. I want my children to be free of this sense of obligation to "understand" or "bear with" that which should be left alone. I think the pressure to conform to "black think" would be too great, if I marry another AA (or similar minded/cultured individual). So, I've come to terms with the fact that my choices and emotions may always be divided. But, I am doing my best to spare my children and other young black females this angst.

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