Hi, my name is Phenomenal Akudo and I sometimes I write about my life at shesgottawriteit.com. From 9-to-5 I work as a media planner based in Chicago. My goal in life right now is to be Rihanna.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty! Describe your self-esteem level. Are you a Beyonce Flawless 10? Are you struggling with your worth? Or are you a little in-between?
Most days I am on Beyonce’s *** Flawless level. In her video series [linked here] she kind of describes *** Flawless as a state in which you’ve done everything you can do and you’re the best you can be at that moment and yet, you’re still not #1 and most days that’s how I feel. I’m doing the best I can and living my life the way I think I should, knowing that if someone were to judge me based on whatever social markers (degrees/friendships/relationships/money/etc), they’d give me low scores. It’s a realistic way of thinking for me that grounds me and gives me the energy to continue being the best me I can and not aspiring to be a person I will never be. All of that isn’t to say that I don’t think highly of myself. I do wake up flawless and some days I do wake up feeling less than flawless, but I definitely do whatever I have to do in that moment for MYSELF, whether it’s a red lip , eyeliner, and mascara, or a burger with onion rings and fries (I know that’s so bad), but I ground myself knowing that my flawlessness can not and will never be strengthened by anyone else but me.
In your own words, what does it mean to love yourself?
To love myself means I am accepting of the person I am without conditions. I love myself now with my nappy ass hair, my maybe 20lbs overweight body, and not so flat stomach. I won’t stop trying to get a flat stomach but that doesn’t mean I don’t still love myself with it. And that’s not something that comes easy. We, the people, learn and will continue to learn everyday how to love various aspects of ourselves. The first thing I learned to love uncondiationally about myself was my hair. I decided at a very young age to stop relaxing and to do my own thang regardless of what my mother, father, siblings, or peers thought about my appearance. I took a strong, “fuck you” stance that I cared more about my feelings than I did about others’ feelings about me. And that’s kind of what I feel loving yourself boils down to, saying “fuck you” to everything and everybody that doesn’t affirm your existence.
Why did you decide to open up a blog?
My most recent foray into blogging (around ’09) was a result of me being jobless, in college, and wanting to write about my experiences (which in hindsight were not much to write home about). But it was also a way for me to promote my writing. I had an English degree with no writing samples and blogging was more new then than it is now. Since then my site has evolved. It’s significantly more personal now than it was then and it reflects my growth and changes over the last 6 years. I initially started blogging when I was 14/15 years old and that blog was created with the intention to show off my fancy web designing skills and color scrollbars. The first site I ever owned was called bonitafide.com.
As a blogger, you expose a little bit of your soul with each blog post you share. Do you ever face moments where it becomes uncomfortable for you to do so? Do you find it hard to remain true to yourself when blogging? Do you hold back, avoid certain topics? If so, how do you power through it?
More recently I decided to be more open in my blog. I feel like blogging has gone through stages. There was the online journal phase and that evolved into the think piece phase and everyone with an opinion had a blog, and I feel like now we’re moving back towards more personal and thoughtful pieces. Because there are so many different blogs out now, it’s more important now more than ever to have a voice that’s strong and to be able to share something that resonates with people (or not).
I’ve have a few moments when I posted something and felt that if someone were to find my blog in the midst of all the online shrubbery, they’d read it and misunderstand so I pulled the post. And that’s one of the things that can cause me to omit stories from posts: misunderstanding. I cannot make people understand what I’m communicating in the way that I intend to communicate something. I’d like to think that’s a hallmark of wonderful storytelling but the truth is that you don’t have control over how someone receives your work regardless of how masterful you are. So what I learned to do was refine those stories to the best of my ability so that I was clear about everything and so far it has been effective.
What are some topics you will never delve into?
To date I have not been able to artfully discuss sex but I’d like to. I think black women in particular are not given the freedom to be sexually adventurous in thought or practice and over the years I’ve seen some other black women writers kind of breaking down that barrier. It needs to happen.
Have you ever received a blow to your self-esteem or self-worth from a blogging experience?
Outside of the fact that I can’t be consistent enough on my blog to gain a readership although people think I’m funny and can string together nice sentences, no.
Who’s to blame for a woman’s low self-esteem: Society, her surroundings, or herself?
I don’t think there is anyone in particular to blame for a woman’s low self-esteem. There are always a variety of contributing factors and it varies from person to person. But I do think at a certain age, it becomes a personal responsibility of that person, that woman to manage their self-esteem. I can’t put an age on it, but at maturity you can no longer just defer to your past experiences, you have to take ownership of the ways in which you have been complicit and participated in behaviors that don’t align with your values, whether it’s dating that one guy longer than you should or not checking that one friend who never comes through when you need their support. At some point we have to take responsibility and move from there.
What words of advice would you share with your 16-year-old self about self-esteem, self-worth, and of course, the art of blogging?
Keep living! OMG every time you think you’ve seen and heard it all, you learn something else. Loving yourself is a journey and for a lot of people it takes time to get to a point of satisfaction. But it requires work, so take care of yourself, eat good, travel, nurture relationships and end some too, date a lot, and immerse yourself in activities that make you feel good. Do all of this even if just the thought of it brings up self doubt or makes you uncomfortable because it’s by going through all of it that you not only learn more about yourself, but learn to love yourself in the process. Do all the crazy things you want to do, even if your right mind tells you not to, because you’ll have great stories.