There has been a lot of talk about resting, turning inward, and recharging during this pandemic. As this winter season of hibernating starts coming to a close it’s a perfect time to decide on (or officially plant) seeds you’ve been dwelling on. We are transitioning out of the slumbering and ready to awaken with a new sense of self.
Over the course of this past year I really had to dive into what makes me tick, what makes me happy, and what is in alignment with the person I want to be in this world. It has been a very difficult journey at some times and with very uncomfortable answers. I’ve read a few different books this past year in an effort to see deeper into life; some of those have caused me to alternate between feeling at peace with who I am and what I want and some have left me feeling uncomfortable. One of those books was More than Enough by Elaine Welteroth. I will be honest, I knew nothing about this book or Elaine Welteroth before I started the book but as I read it I knew that the messages in it were very important for me as a woman walking through the world simultaneously wearing the privilege of being a white upper middle class woman but also experiencing womanhood in this world.
Welteroth’s book was in a reading list that was given to me from a year long program of self discovery and investigation. The month’s theme was “authenticity” and More then Enough was one of the three books suggested for the month. I searched the library database for the books and Welteroth’s book was the only one available so I borrowed it, again not knowing anything about the book or the author.
As I read the book I was so enthralled by her writing style (although I know nothing of fashion so her descriptions of outfits and designers were totally lost on me) and her story. She is only a few years younger than I am so many of the references regarding pop culture growing up I was able to relate to. I saw similarities in our story as children in the late 80s and 90s but then I also saw myself as the antagonist of some of the stories she talked about in regards to racism when she discussed experiences she’s had over the years. I could see myself in the other person’s shoes doing something ignorant and hurtful; not necessarily from a place of malice but from a place of not understanding and thus almost as bad. I had to confront some of the things I said or did even up to a few years ago because I was a “nice white girl” who “doesn’t see color” and through Welteroth’s story I saw how painful my operating from a place of ignorance really was for someone on the other side of the conversation. While I may have never intended harm, I certainly caused it and will most likely cause it again unintentionally as I continue to grow and learn; being willing to open my eyes to the missteps of the past will hopefully help me avoid them in the future.
As I read Welteroth’s story I was amazed at how she continued to push and rise through it all both as a woman and a Black woman walking the biracial line because she struggled with belonging. Welteroth’s search for belonging and feeling “enough” seems to mirror the existence of many women of all different colors and background when we constantly have to face the “are you good enough?” crowd and questions. The comparison trap that fuels social media is constantly playing on our “good enough” fears and I think it is important, as we enter this last quiet time before Spring officially arrives here in the northern hemisphere, we spend some time reflecting on what it means to us to belong and what does it mean to create spaces where others feel that they belong.
It struck me as I read her book and I recognized the vast majority of her “not good enough” experiences are similar to mine and other women I know. This points to the fact the “us versus them” mentality that has been perpetuated is a trap of humanity’s making; I am constantly judging myself for certain things and that means I am subconsciously judging others for perceived short comings. The us versus them fight is a way to create a bad guy when there might not be a bad guy because life is just hard. Instead of recognizing that life is hard and we all deserve to have people lift us up and help us we focus on the ones who are taking our piece of the pie. There were parts of her writing that I feel like I could have written myself showing the universality of women struggling to be enough and never realizing that we’re enough just as we are no matter what.
I am not trying to co-opt Welteroth’s story and in years past I might have pulled the “can’t we all just get along” schtick. While I think it’s important to see our similarities and how we’re more alike than we are different I’m also recognizing the importance of acknowledging, respecting and celebrating our differences. Through Welteroth’s story I saw the ways in which not recognizing and lifting up differences in a supportive and constructive way can lead to damaging outcomes. It’s not necessary for us to be identical in our pursuit of the good life but we can work together to make the good life all that much better for everyone. What I find valuable in my life is not the same as what someone else will; we need to recognize that and make space for everyone at the table. By sharing my true self and not judging myself as wanting it’s easier to hold space for others. When I am driven by a desire to fit in or play keep up with the Jones’ that is when I start putting unrealistic expectations of productivity on myself and others whereas when I am confident in myself I can do and be the things I want to be while still holding the space for someone else to do and be all they want to be.
We are an amazing tapestry of humanity with a variety of different colored threads that weave together. If we let ourselves weave those colors together it comes out beautiful and perfect. If I try to force others into my pattern, however, it often looks wrong and feels uncomfortable. Welteroth’s words in regards to becoming “woke”: “it is a process of learning, listening, stripping away the blinders that privilege puts on, and exposing yourself to suffering that doesn’t always affect you in order to act from a place of understanding and empathy.” Through Welteroth’s story, and others I have met on this journey, I have seen sides that I didn’t know I needed to see. I have read things I didn’t know I needed to read but at the end of the experience I have confronted some uncomfortable truths and become a better person because of it. As we prepare for spring to start officially I am going to continue to focus on what I want to cultivate this upcoming season and how I want to show up in this world so I can act from a place of understanding and empathy.