“Should we pass judgement on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? Don’t judge us yet; God’s not finished. Go” – Kirk Franklin
Growing up, I was constantly taunted for being thin. I was called “tiringbeku” and “ego” and every name you could think off. I also remember being called an “ugly bag of bones” once. My mum also didn’t help matters- We were forced to sleep for a certain number of hours every day so we could gain some weight and look healthy. Later on, by some stroke of misfortune, my mum watched TV and learned that severely malnourished children could be nursed to a healthy weight with a soya beans diet. That marked the beginning of the darkest years of my childhood.
My mum would put soya bean powder in Stew. When there was no visible improvement in our weight, she extended soya beans into every dish- Eba, Egusi soup, Ewedu, and even Beans. After a while, my elder sister and I devised a means to save ourselves from the misery of mealtimes. We would stick morsels of Eba on the walls and ceilings and flush the soup in the toilet. For Beans and stew though, we always had to swallow the whole meal like we were taking pills. After a while, my mum gave up because she saw there was no improvement. Ironically, my mum was just as skinny as a child.
As a teen, I grew a thicker skin. If anyone said anything about my weight, I would retort that people paid to lose weight and rarely to gain it. In any case, there was strangely no full mirror in our house at the time, so I only saw a full view of myself in car glasses, which gave me just the view I wanted. Even when I passed by sliding doors, I chose to believe my car glass image. Heck, I had gotten what I wanted and no one was going to take it from me.
A few years ago, my mum’s dreams would come true. After years of trying (with B.co, Super Apet and Complan Milk), I gained 12kg within one year without consciously trying. Then the comments started pouring in. “You are too hip-py”, “You look fat”, “I know a good gym, you should start exercising”, “Your cheeks are too big” and so on. I was in shock! The same people who were praying I would gain weight suddenly didn’t like that I had gained weight. But it didn’t matter. I loved my body. I knew how to calculate my BMI, I found clothes that would fit my frame. Life was Beautiful. I was enough.
As humans, we are constantly under pressure for acceptance, sometimes unconsciously. We feel the need to fit into people’s expectations of how to live- the things we should wear, how to behave in public, what to say in Public and even how to worship. At the end of the day, we realize that no matter how hard we try to conform to other people’s expectations, we are never good enough. You cannot succeed at being anyone else.
I remember in the not too distant past eagerly trying to fit certain expectations and stereotypes – “don’t speak too much Yoruba”, “why are you always smiling”, “that Church isn’t quite the Church” and so on. At the end of the day, nothing I did was good enough. Eventually, the same person would turn around and complain that I was attending the church she recommended and that I always wore a long face. While I did realize that it was human nature to suddenly not want something again, I was disappointed in myself for trying too hard to fit their perception.
We are all flawed, but we often forget that our imperfections make us who we are. Each of us is different, struggling to be judged acceptable in the court of public opinion. I have come to realize that I have no power over people’s perception of me, and so however you judge me now is your business. I know who I am and so I have cut myself some slack.
I am still a work in progress.
Today I am off my knees. I have stopped praying to be flawless. I realize that to NOT love myself is disrespectful to a Creator who made me in His image. And He’s still painting, He hasn’t finished. So when you say my face is too round, I will tell You that God only draws perfect circles. I will watch my weight, when I feel the need to. I will break into a dance suddenly; it’s okay if you cannot hear the music. I will have conversations with myself every night. Tomorrow at work, Marilyn will ask me a question and I will reply in Yoruba, and then translate into English. She will laugh, she loves learning. I will throw my head back and laugh out loud; I love the sound of my own laughter. You will love me as I am, or you will go.
I am ME. I am happy. I am ENOUGH.