Having The Audacity to Know Your Place
There is a quote from the 1985 movie, The Color Purple, that says: “Folks don’t like anybody being too proud or too free.”
Celie comes to this conclusion after she overhears Mister and his father discussing Shug Avery. The father is clearly unhappy about this free-spirited woman doing as she pleases.
At the time I was just thirteen-years-old, but I understood the message of the film – to always be strong and push through no matter what. I'd soon learn that this trope would be a constant reminder that I'm valued more for what I do than who I am. So many Black women, including myself, have fallen into that valley and realize it’s damn near impossible to get out.
As a Black woman, the value of my existence is always questioned in society. As we’ve witnessed recently with athletes Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, you can be celebrated in one breath and just as quickly be vilified for having the audacity to speak up for yourself. And even Allyson Felix had to fight when they expected her to just fade away.
Allyson Felix accused Nike, her longtime sponsor of penalizing her and other pregnant athletes in contract negotiations. She risked losing her only source of income and could have been blacklisted from major track meets. After leaving Nike and signing with Athleta - a woman-focused brand - it sparked Simone Biles to come on board as well.
In June, Allyson began her own footwear and apparel brand, Saysh. Not bad for the now most decorated American athlete in Track and Field history. And she won gold in her own shoes - literally.
There is a blessing in taking agency of your own life and career. Your "place" is not where other people tell you stand or where to be. That's a hard pill to swallow, believe it or not. We've been so conditioned to other people creating our narratives - what we can do, how far we can go, and establishing limits based on what they think we're capable of. We are stretched to every possible limit, and it's customary to be told that you have to push through or be ignored.
When Celie finally gained the courage to stand up for herself against Mister, it was a decision that only she could make. That decision set her free. And once she was free, it was only then that she truly started to live. It wasn’t about what anyone wanted for her life. It was all about what she wanted for herself.
It’s true that some people want you to do well but not better than them. You will have people in your life that appreciate you and love you – might even be happy for your success. Of course, as long as your success doesn’t surpass their own. As long as you stay in your place.
Everyone has their own definition of what success looks like. It can be attached to money, fame, or achieving certain goals. It can also look like having the ability to do what you want and when you want.
What if success looked like nothing? Hustle culture teaches us that we need to use grit and overwork ourselves to get results. But it’s not practical. Simone Biles said that she didn’t know that she was worthy beyond gymnastics. Child prodigy Jacob Barnett says in his Ted Talk, Forget What You Know, “genius is when you come at things from your own angle.” He says that you need time to think not just learn.
You will find that worry turns into wisdom. A bad turn of events turns into a beautiful thing. A moment of rest leads to mountains moved. And not having to do anything at all becomes your key to real success.