Insight 2023

Got balls to push the ball? Some Reflections on Courage


I have had to reconsider my approach recently to life and consciously made certain specific decisions on personal growth and lifestyle enhancement, one of which includes being more intentional about chucking myself out of the “closet” for socializing. I have always enjoyed some sort of solitary life and my status as an international student in the US without families within reach made that effortlessly possible.

This new decision prodded my positive response to an invitation to one of the school’s game events by a colleague. Being a participant or even a spectator at sporting event has never been anything I found interesting. The activities in the sporting arena, people socializing and even being in the spotlight of any kind was always unnerving to me. I noticed gradually dissipating the little courage I garnered to exit my confine to make it there as I made my way to the crowded space and at the same time contemplating departure. However, a colleague noticed my hesitation and somehow with few words of encouragement spurred me into reconsidering staying and even participating....more


First, I attempted the snooker game subduing the highly pessimistic and courage-depleting thoughts that I couldn’t even hold the cue sticks. To me, snooker while growing up was one of the games I consider an uphill activity which I watched only the big “egbons” meaning elders in Yoruba language (mostly male) playing in my neighborhood. Having no prior knowledge of anything about this game made me dependent on my colleagues at the table who taught me some rules of the game and some technicalities to using the equipment. Interestingly, I found myself completely engulfed by the excitement of the game just about ten minutes into the game. I hit the billiard balls and threw few of those into the pool table pockets and left with all sense of excitement and victory for having mastered beginner’s level art of the game.

 

My experience from the snooker game motivated my quest for another unfamiliar terrain: bowling! Feeling caught between my excitement for new exploration and my fear of being embarrassed as a novice under the watching gaze of many spectators at this event, I initially hesitated but later repressed my fear to try the game out.

 

In my first few attempts, I threw in few balls, and they all slid down the track with none reaching the targeted spots. Luckily, I mastered the throwing art after multiple frustrating attempts and scored many goals thereafter. I left the sport center with feelings of great excitement for the success my little courage made possible for me.

 

Great minds have commonly attested to games as important and valuable life lesson teacher. The inferences drawn from my response and participation at this event offer some crucial lessons I consider important to share on courage. 

 

Courage and Repressed fear

It is important for human to understand and acknowledge that courageousness does not eliminate the possibility for presence of fear which is often constantly recurring. Rather, it is the repression of fear manifested via worries, anxieties and apprehensions that propels courage. The assertion of Martin Luther King Jr. apt in this regard that “Courage is the power of the mind to overcome fear”. This implies the conscious awareness of the synchronous presence of the two forces in the human mind in which the repression of either force galvanizes the effect of the other.

 

Courage as Success Gatekeeper

Courage remains a vital force for unlocking potentialities that human mind sometimes find unfathomable. Fear constitutes a restraint predisposed to stifle progress by rendering inert human willpower. Thus, unfolding the potentials needed for attaining successes through exploration of new knowledge, skills, and other goals etc. is predetermined by one’s level of courage. 

 

Courage Inducer

 The power of motivations and encouragement cannot be underestimated as human attempts to scale various levels of new heights. The soft nudge, kind words and gestures from family, acquaintances and friends can make tremendous impacts in other’s lives. Hence, it is expedient for one to position oneself in the right space and with right people to receive such motivations. Concurrently, one should also be mindful of the impact one is making in other people’s lives by consciously choosing to build and not tear others down!



Facilitator, Diamond Heart Initiative

Have You Truly Trodden in My Path? Dark Side to Your Demonstration of Empathy



The nature of empathic feeling has been widely contested within intellectual circles and divergent views exist on the validity or otherwise of its affective reaction. The goal in this reflection is not to explore extensively various sides to this debate but to acknowledge and espouse the place of empathic feelings in human relations and also to draw reader’s attention to salient issues culminating to twisted intentions and negative outcomes in empathic reactions especially among women of African descent. 

 

 I consider empathy as intricately connected to the state of the human mind which holds the capacity to demonstrate and extend feelings of care and love towards others. The unique dimension to emphatic reaction lies in its ability to predispose the human mind to become deeply immersed in the experiences of others to provide help, supports, motivation, and even evaluate moral stance of issues etc.





However, I have observed at countless times how people who take pride in demonstrating empathy towards their friends and family unknowingly slide into some fallacious sense of empathic demonstration of care leading to twisted intentions. Personally, I didn’t realize I was committing the same blunder in some of my approaches to issues in the past. A vivid instance of this happened a few years ago. A close friend of mine gave me the privilege of being privy to some of her challenges, to which she expected some sort of words of motivation. Though my words of encouragement to her were from a good heart but my approach complicated what the right intention was.

 

In my wrong attempt at demonstrating my empathy, I narrated to this friend my own concerns and challenges as well hinting at how my struggles were greater than some of the issues she brought to table. Over time, I have realized how erroneous comparing situations to one another could be in the bid to show our cares to others. The consciousness of this knowledge made it easy for me to recognize how prevalent this issue is within the communities of African women.

 

This erroneous response amounts to minimizing and invalidating peculiarities to individual experience and challenges which nullify the good intentions of emphatic reactions to issues. While taking others’ perspectives into account in empathy reaction is pertinent. However, being insensitive while evaluating other’s perspective in light of our own circumstances and experiences amounts to an abuse. Hence, there must be recognition and acknowledgement of these details in empathic demonstrations.

 

It is common to hear people in their emphatic identifications to issues give comments like “I would do things differently If I were in your position…”, “This situation is not so great to cause a depression for you”, “I would not have acted the way you did if I were you…”, “I can’t be as soft as you in this situation”. The crucial point to stress here is that there is a thin line of difference between taking other’s perspective into account for arriving at solution to issues and minimizing or invalidating peculiar circumstances of others. It is noteworthy to accentuate that consolations and encouragement can be truly done in our emphatic response to others without invalidating other’s circumstances. There must also be an acknowledgement of the peculiarities of people’s circumstances and our limitations in our attempts to demonstrate empathy.


Facilitator, Diamond Heart Initiative


Masking Struggles: Nodus of Toxic Positivity



The reality of various dimensions of twists to man’s experience in life is well attested across time and space, just as there exist various approaches to managing life’s hurdles. While growing up in  African communities, it is often common to hear certain solicited and unsolicited piece of advice such as common among women on home management. Instances abound of messages from “relationship advisers” mostly to couples to manage their marital challenges within the confines of their homes. Some of these relationship “experts” sometimes fail to carefully delineate certain exceptional gobs of stifling circumstances. In fact, sharing concerns on domestic issue is considered a weakness, an inability to put a bridle in one’s mouth. “aini ikora eni ni ijanu” in Yoruba phraseology... more




The amplification of this delicate perspective that heart should not be worn on the sleeve has been wrongly taken by many women in their marriages to certain outrageous level stirring up a hornet’s nest. While this reflection piece does not invalidate the importance of positive attitude of amicable conflict resolution in cases of marital dispute, it espouses a revisit to this approach especially in contemporary African communities considering that the pervasive gender- based injustice and discriminations rooted in religious and socio- cultural expectations have promoted the continued negative treatments of women.


In recent time, netizens woke up to the devastating news of the tragic death of a Nigerian gospel artist Osinachi Nwachukwu. Investigation gathered unearth a fate of some sort of “suffering and smiling” approach employed by the deceased in managing her toxic domestic abuse and avertable death.[1] This event spurred netizens on different social media platforms into discussion of various reasons for African women’s silence at abuse, one which highlighted some socio- cultural and religious factors as earlier mentioned. 


This tragic incidence led to some sort of reawakening in the social media communities as tons of netizens unearth various cases of victims suffering from domestic toxicity and hiding their pains and challenges based on false positivity. The reality that many African women continue to silently hide pain continues to exist. avoidable pains by African women continue to exist. According to a 2022 report, one out of three women are victims of domestic abuse in Africa. [2]


Continuous endurance of silent abuse without speaking up in expectation of sudden change amounts to toxic positivity which is enabled when there is invalidation of problems, or one attempts to minimize the pains of the real emotional experiences and discomfort. While this piece mostly addresses the common concerns among women in marriage, the situation is applicable to various other circumstances in which masking struggles only make worse rather than ameliorate situations. Life’s struggles and challenges are real, but help must be sought when one is faced with situations that portends danger of silent death.


Key take-aways especially for African women this piece is mostly directed are highlighted. First, everyone must acknowledge the reality of existence of life’s challenges which vary in measure and degree for everyone at different points of life. Second, it is imperative for people who find themselves in overwhelming marital challenges to seek for the right channels for supports. An emphasis on “right channels” for supports is essential on this note. Professional relationship counsellors, psychologists etc. are great resources. 


Furthermore, talking to trusted people, acquaintances, friends, and family can also be really therapeutic. However, relying on confidentiality of information to unprofessional channels is prone to various levels of information mismanagement. I have had experiences in which I have personally mistakenly mismanaged confidential information to which I have utter regrets. Beyond this regret, I have also witnessed various cases in which cases of information mismanagement degenerated into big tussles among family and friends. Hence, caution has to be taken by both parties involved.

 

Embracing the great support that the communal African settings afford its residents is invaluable and African women must learn to harness this wisely for better living. Finally, this piece reiterates that a positive approach to handling struggles does not include dying in silence! Be inspired!

Facilitator, Diamond Heart Initiative


[1] https://www.premiumtimesng.com/entertainment/music/594086-remembering-gospel-music-star-osinachi-one-year-after.html

[2]https://allafrica.com/stories/202212310016.html#:~:text=Revealing%20that%20there%20is%20a,victims%20being%20female%20partners%20and


Being Vulnerable is Being Human, Not a Weakness!

The emphasis on productivity, growth and self- reliance in a capitalistic driven world has continued to significantly erode some core values and sense of humanity, as people endlessly strive to accomplish directly and indirectly imposed expectations. The distressing rate of stressors impacting the human psyche is evident in the levels of depression, frustrations, suicidal thoughts etc. which is now a commonplace even among young adult.

 

More so, more people in their bids to attain various levels of accomplishments are sadly prioritizing meeting these endless goals while paying less attention to their optimum functioning capacity level.  While on the contrary, failure to acknowledge some of the inherent limitations continue to plague and wreak further havoc...more

 

It is disheartening to notice that the society is increasingly embracing these mindsets to a detrimental level to quell people’s sense of vulnerability which poses more harms rather than good. It is common to hear admonitions such as “You are a strong African woman…you can’t be…” to dispel what is considered a contrast evinced in emotional vulnerability. Men are expressly taught to “man” their feelings as their “soft side” should not be expressed, in which a great percentage of men unfortunately continue to remain in a “dark space” losing sense of purpose and even their lives in the disquieting process.


In various negative perceptions about acknowledging vulnerability, the predisposition to hurts is usually stressed. While some of the rationales behind such motivations is often connected to motivation for resilience. However, portraying being vulnerable as sign of weakness is a gross disparagement of approaches to handling various issues life throws at humans as vulnerability remains a fundamental aspect of human experience. (McCoy, viii link )


What is considered emotional vulnerability for many African women in which speaking up about is usually discouraged revolves around their life struggles, shame, insecurities, fear, anger, failures, traumas, mistakes, receptivity to change, or even cries for help at the points of need. Vulnerability in these variously depicted instances and many others not only forms a core part of self- understanding and knowledge which creates a self-awareness of change and constantly evolving experience and transformation that human witness.

 

Contrary to the negative perception about vulnerability, the recognition that all humans have potentialities to experience moments of strength and weakness, pains and pleasure, shame and honor, and various controllable and uncontrollable vicissitudes of life naturally places being vulnerable as crucial to human experience. Thus, seeking for or being opened to receiving comfort, love and needs from others should not disparage an emotional vulnerable mind or make them subjects qualified to be looked down upon.

 

Furthermore, being vulnerable is being authentic and sincere to admit the presence of life stressors which comes for different people in different measures at different points. Vulnerability implies being truthful enough to understand these low and challenging moments to give or receive needed assistance, supports and love. Working with this consciousness puts one at an advantage of staying on top of such situation rather than ignoring or denying such which may degenerates into more complex situations capable of snuffing life out of one. When people are more truthful in acknowledging their vulnerability and finding both personal and social supports in their vulnerable states, sense of humanity are better promoted for more meaningful individual living and social co- existence.



Facilitator, Diamond Heart Initiative


Sisterhood’s Backstabbing and the #MeToo Movement’s Lessons


Following the various allegations of sexual assault against the film producer Harvey Weinstein in the United States in October 2017, a sporadic and collaborative effort at curtailing sexual harassment was intensified by Alyssa Milano, an American actress. Alyssa through a twitter post encouraged victims of sexual assault to speak up about their experiences using the hashtag #MeToo. This was a phrase earlier used by a sexual assault survivor and activist, Tarana Burke in 2006 to spur people on for the same cause. The wider media coverage in 2017 through various media platforms raised the awareness to various regions of the world and had a large-scale impact as many victims who are mostly women found their voices to demand for justice and received the needed solidarity. link


The important lessons which the MeToo movement offers to especially community of women regardless of location is the importance of collaborations and solidarity in resisting various ills plaguing especially women in a male dominated world where women are mostly victims of various pervasive oppressions. However, the sad reality is that most communities of women yet constitute the major stifling opposing voices suppressing the growth of others.


Several cases abound of women orchestrating the fall of fellow women because of jealousy, fear, envy, resentment, lack of self-esteem and confidence, and projection of their negativities to other women (link). Numerous instances in Africa are reported in the media of older women abducting young ones as human traffickers, mothers subjecting their daughters to be preyed upon by male predators in their family and circles of friends, family tussles caused by mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law for many wives leading to divorce, maltreatment of widows fueled by women in cultures which require extensive burial rites, women’s masterminding animosities delving devastating blows on families’ progress etc. Similarly, there are plenitude of cases in workplaces where female workers instigated the downfall of fellow colleagues or leaders.


The harsh reality in these relational experiences makes it unsurprising to understand why gender-based violence continue to plague the society and women remain subjected to various cycle of abuse and oppressions. An adage in Yoruba validates the cause of this menace, “bi ogiiri o lanu, alangba o le wo ibe” literally, “a wall with no crack suffers no lizard’s invasion”. This suggests that the various issues which African women especially suffer from have a strong link to those caused by themselves.


As mentioned earlier, the #Metoo movement is a clear demonstration of what effect the resilience and collaboration of women can achieve when they jointly fight the oppressive system to bring sanity back into their world. This collaborative effort for achieving better survival for women evinced in the #MeToo movement is not so much of a modern phenomenon as we think of earlier activities of Aba women’s riot in the twentieth century, the wisdom in Aristophane’s Lysistrata from the 6th century, etc. 


That collective actions of women in the present world can effect great changes never be underestimated. In fact, women’s masterminding the downfall of other women and stifling other’s growth is against the principle of sisterhood and motherhood which symbolize care, nurturance and support that groom rather than suffocate existence out of others.

 

Facilitator, Diamond Heart Initiative

 


Quit Attaching Conventional Timeline to Success

I was scrolling through Quora app posts sometimes within the week and randomly stumbled on a user’s post and follow-up comments of other users. The crux of this user’s post was to seek solutions to his failures and depressive circumstances. My attention was mostly drawn to follow-up comments of other users who in response to this post either lamented about similar fates or offered piece of advice to the post writer.

 

A recurring issue in the various comments by those who bemoaned their situations was the concurrent reference to age while expressing their frustrations, inadequacies, and failures with comments like “I’m so so and so age… I feel like a failure…many of my friends… etc.” These phrases linking age to reciprocal success does not appear new but presents more challenges to people in this present competitive, capitalistic, and technological- driven societies where both young and old appear to strive endlessly and needlessly to prove superiority to others.


In fact, the technological – driven age which grants access to sneak-peek of others’ lives tends to more than before set people up for anxieties due to compulsiveness to match up to what they consider to be “right” success corresponding to their age- group in conventional time clock.

 

A vivid instance which resonates more with most young African women is the excessive pressure mounted on them to achieve what society calls success; getting married, having kids, attaining certain set goals fixed within conventional time clock. Sometimes parents, well-wishers and friends unconsciously contribute to pressuring their loved ones based on set expectations, overgeneralizing what their success should look like at specified time without realizing the havoc their supposed “goodwill” wreak on the already tensed young women.  

 



This disposition towards people who are considered “backward” unfortunately renders normative the definition of success at specific time with no attention on the peculiarity and uniqueness of individual’s journey. The coercion of these individuals based on this ill thought sometimes sadly leads to frustrations, unfulfillment, bitterness, depressions, and more disasters.


As a young African woman, you owe it to yourself never to run with societal expectations by being more in control of your life and taking note of the following;

 


The Tough and Soothing Ride of Companionship


As I reminisce about the journey of friendship, I can't help but acknowledge the beautiful and sometimes challenging experiences of friendship that have shaped me into who I am today. Friendship, like any relationship, is a delicate spiral of emotions, trust, and growth. It's a kaleidoscope of interactions that have left an imprint in my heart.

The beautiful experience of friendship lies in the support, motivations, and insights that we receive from those who truly understand us. The late-night conversations that extend to early morning when we unashamedly express our fears and challenges to receive comforting words, the solace we find in each other’s shoulder and words, the laughter that echoes through our memories creating an unbreakable bond that time can never erase.

Friends offer comfort to our souls during our troubling and darkest moments, reminding us that we are never alone. It's the unwavering belief in our dreams, even when we doubt ourselves. It's the shared adventures, spontaneous road trips, and unforgettable experiences that make life worth living.

However, the pleasant and beautiful ride of friendship can also delve unexpected devastating blow. The ugly side of the coin, leaving us traumatized, hurt and betrayed. The truth is, friendships can be fragile, and sometimes they break. The realization of this even when friendship is pleasant can save one of a lot of regretful feelings. 

It can be perturbing to realize that someone we once held dear has changed, or perhaps we have changed ourselves. Disagreements and misunderstandings test the strength of our connection. Although, in those moments of disagreements, we evolve and grow. Through both the ugly and beautiful moments friendship offers, we learn to set boundaries, to recognize toxic relationships, and to prioritize our own well-being. We discover the importance of forgiveness, both for others and ourselves. We understand that not all friendships are meant to last forever, and that people play their roles per time in our lives.

Through the beautiful and ugly experiences of friendship, I have come to acknowledge that quality other than quantity matters as far as friendship is concerned. It is more about surrounding ourselves and being accepted by true souls who uplift us, challenge us, and inspire us to become the best version of ourselves. It's about finding the ones who recognize our weaknesses and still choose to love us regardless.

So, as I reflect on the tapestry of friendships that have graced my life, I appreciate both the beautiful and bad experiences that friendship twists have taught me. The lessons that have shaped my character and allowed me to understand what friendship truly means. May we continue to cherish the lovely experience of friendship and have courage and strength to weather the storm of the challenging ones.

-Florence Egbeyale

#DHI