I was having a lazy Sunday; you know, one of those days where you decide not to put the usual effort into looking your best. For me, that meant putting my fuzzy mess of curls in a ponytail and donning my fabulous sequinned Kevin Allwood toque to venture out to face the day.
On that very Sunday morning, the CBC called to ask me to speak on camera about Blue Monday, the so called saddest day of the year, as well as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Of course I said yes.
I had 1.5 hours to get camera ready. On a day when I did my usual, I wouldn’t have given this a second thought. But on that particular Sunday, my hair would have still been wet had I tried to rehabilitate it the only way I know how. So the sequinned hat was going to make its debut, thankfully only on local television.
When the videographer arrived, I found myself explaining the toque and asking if it would be better for me to take it off. She encouraged me to wear it, so I did. When the camera started rolling, I proceeded to speak about how there was no evidence that ‘Blue Monday’ was the saddest day of the year, but at least it got us talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a real challenge for many.
I felt good about having the opportunity to debunk a myth and educate the public about interventions that can help. I got a chance to share that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (learning to address the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to mood problems) helps more than light therapy (the most common form of treatment) and can actually cure SAD. That’s right. The majority of people who do CBT for SAD, don’t meet the criteria for SAD the following year. Pretty impressive.
The piece aired that evening on the 11 pm news. The following day, the story was picked up and suddenly that picture of me in all of my sparkly regalia was popping up on MSN, Yahoo, and internet news feeds all over da place.
I received requests from 6 other news platforms that Blue Monday, and I was able to fulfill three of them giving me even more of a chance to have an impact.
It was indeed a great day. And yet, every time I saw an image of myself in my sequinned toque a part of me cringed. “You look so unprofessional” was the voice that accompanied that feeling. Yup, that image was awakening my ego, that wounded part of me that rises under the perceived threat of being diminished, of being rejected for showing my true self.
Maybe you know this voice too. It’s the one that keeps you from looking at pictures of yourself having fun because all you can see is the extra weight. Or maybe its the voice that prevents you from being in the picture at all because somehow you are not prepared to look your best. Or maybe it prevents you from even going to that event, and showing up in any way shape or form, because you fear you do not belong.
This is the ego. As a woman of colour, I have had too many experience of my voice not mattering. The voice that convinces me that I have to work extra hard to look “professional” in order to be taken seriously is the ego, which rises to protect me from being thrown out of the tribe. It’s the same voice that screamed at me when I stopped straightening my hair, a decision I made to free myself from the many ways in which this practice was toxic for my mind, body and spirit, and from the racism I had absorbed and internalized that kept me doing it for years.
Twenty years ago, when I chose not to listen to what the ego was telling me about my hair, I gave myself the opportunity to discover that it’s message was not real, at least not in my present reality, and with that decision, I reclaimed my authenticity; I reclaimed my power.
Now, as I cringe at the photo, I consciously take a deep breath, and recognize that I showed up as my true self that day and had an impact. I let myself absorb this fact and just like that, the ego weakens leaving more room for my true self to expand and unfold.
So the next time you find yourself becoming small as the world beckons you to share your voice, stop, breathe, and do it anyway. It’s the only way to truly discover just how powerful you truly are.