The Seduction of Inadequacy
I am not one to follow Hollywood gossip. I am terrible at keeping all the names of the latest who’s who straight. I don’t go to the movies much and I skip every award show. That being said I was recently blown away by Lupita Nyong’o.
I admit it. I had no idea who she is, nor had I heard of the movie, 12 Years a Slave, for which she just won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (I just had to google that as I wanted to say she had won an Academy award! See what I mean? 🙂 )
The week after the award show though I came across a link on Facebook that changed that.
It took me to a video of Ms. Nyong’o speaking at the Black Women of Hollywood Luncheon hosted by Essence. She was being honored for Best Breakthrough Performance, and she spoke about beauty.
Her eloquent speech gave me chills as she told the people gathered there about feeling unbeautiful and wanting pale skin. She begged God to wake up white. She spoke of her self-hate which grew through her teenage years.
When Alek Wek became an international modeling sensation, Ms. Nyong’o was confused. All her life she had thought her deep black complexion was far removed from beautiful, and yet, here was a woman being praised for her beauty that looked very similar.
It was at this point in her speech, that she said something that really struck me at the heart.
She said, “It was perplexing and I wanted to reject it because I had begun to enjoy the seduction of inadequacy.”
Seduction of inadequacy…
That phrase just rang in my ears. I have been there for a long time. Not about beauty – because let’s face it, I am NOT a model and never will be. But about everything – me, my talents, my opinions, my writing, my dreams, my everything – and yes, ok, my appearance too.
When I look back on my childhood and early teens, I recall being very outgoing. I had such confidence and loved to be right smack in the center of everything. I loved being on stage with the drama club and had my heart set on being a voice major and, of course, becoming a star! 😉 I went through the typical “look at me” stage that I think most kids go through at some point. But as my memories race through my high school days and into my late teens and early 20s, things changed.
I remember having to really push myself to be that outgoing while I was away at college. I suddenly dreaded performing. I forced myself to go out on the weekend when I really just wanted to stay in my room.
After graduation, it got worse. I lived alone for a year in Buffalo and can count the number of times I went out socializing on one hand. I didn’t realize then that I was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Though I have since received help for this and have come far in healing, I never quite regained my voice. I don’t like to be the center of attention. Situations involving small talk make me cringe. I hate speaking in public and I become tongue-tied when asked my opinion.
And it is in this way that I have fallen for the seduction of inadequacy.
It is so much easier to let yourself feel inadequate and let yourself think that you are inadequate than to believe you are powerful. Just accept that you are not measuring up and let your self wallow around in that inadequacy. If you don’t think you will ever succeed, you don’t have to even try. You don’t have to put in any work. It is easier to allow the gatekeepers set the bar for whatever you want – be it beauty, publishing, a cute boyfriend, a promotion at work. There are gate keepers everywhere and I am coming to realize that their power is not something inherent in them, but something that we hand over to them willingly.
Who is to say what is beauty? Who is to say what we can and cannot accomplish? Who is to say what dream is worth pursuing?
Ms. Nyong’o’s turn of phrase has shined a little light on yet another excuse that I have been wielding. It’s a huge one that has kept me from pursuing my dreams. I will no longer allow myself to fall into the seduction of inadequacy. I will find my inner power and raise it like a flag!
I want to thank Ms. Nyong’o for her speech. Not only for naming that feeling I had been fighting for years, but to discuss what real beauty means. I did not know her before, but I am certainly a fan now.