Monthly Archives: March 2013
Are we the products of our environment – or are we the products of expectations?
What do you think, ladies?
- What societal expectations of you as an Afro-European woman shape the way you perceive your possibilities in life/your career?
- What positive expectations (from family, your community or from within) empower you to combat any negative societal expectations you encounter?
*Click the link to listen to this week’s podcast
Are you familiar with the Kitchen Table Conversations? Initiated by Spectra – an award-winning Nigerian writer, women’s rights activist, storyteller, digital media consultant and philanthropist – these podcasts provide unexpected insight into the lives of activists, organizers and thought leaders.
To find out more about Kitchen Table Conversations, as well as learn more about an upcoming live podcast scheduled for March 13th focusing on Gender, Media and the African Diaspora, check out
In the beginning, I wondered how I would come up with a regular Word of the Week. One that was not only relevant enough for me to want to meditate on, but also relevant enough to want to share.
Once I put that question out to the universe, though, all I had to do was keep my mind and eyes open, and pay attention to the things I pay attention to…
A perfect example of the Biblical: „Ask and ye shall receive“.
I follow black American blogger and essayist Danielle Belton’s critically acclaimed blog, The Black Snob. A few days ago she announced that an essay she’s written – „The Problem with Marriage“ – is featured in an upcoming book called „Where Did Our Love Go“. Part of the chapter on divorce, Danielle’s essay focuses on a crucial weapon in the war being waged on what she calls „Forever-and-Ever-Amen“ marriage.
Instead of getting married at a fairly young age and figuring out how to best navigate the adult world together as a couple, people in Western society now go through a longer and longer phase where they are dependent mostly on themselves. A kind of “post-adolescence”, if you will.
Young people study longer, land their first jobs, set up a pension funds, travel, become property owners – all while they are still single. It’s expected that they spend time “discovering themselves” and taking life only on their own terms. They’re brought up the believe they should try to get their way in life, and feel perfectly within their rights to throw a tantrum if they don’t.
And – when you think about it – that’s what (esp. US) society rewards you for in the West: being (successfully) independent. Being “self-made”.
- Think of the Republican slogan from the last US presidential election: “We built that”.
- Think of the notion of the “creators” versus the “takers” who are only in it for “free stuff”
- Think of the the ridicule of “The 47%”
But: What’s the flip side of that coin?
The virtues of consensus, compromise and compassion – while still alright for Sunday School or high school civics class – have become the trademark of losers. For mid-30-somethings taking their 1st stab at it, marriage becomes a battlefield, because neither party feels they can afford not to be right. Not to dominate 100% of the time. Not to win.
What does this have to do with the concept of “asking”, you wonder?
Late Sunday evening I settled in to watch a TEDTalk I had bookmarked. It’s by musician Amanda Palmer and is called “The Art of Asking”. In her talk, Amanda examines a new relationship between artist and fan. A new relationship that is reflect in everything from payment for gigs or music to where she and her band sleep on tour.
This admittedly has nothing to do with marriage, but it does have a lot to do with (the quality of) relationships – and control. Fighting to hold on to it versus trusting the universe enough to let it go.
The Germans have a saying: “People who speak (up) can be helped”
For many of us, though, asking for anything is a sign of weakness and failure. It shows we’re not the bright and shiny super-heroes we were taught to believe we need to be in order to succeed. Many of us would rather bite off our tongue than ask for anything, and – if we are honest with ourselves – we look down (at least a little) on people who do.
I can remember my first job in marketing. I was working on an international naming project for a line of sports attire. Part of my job was to do a legal pre-check for conflicting brand names in the trademark directory. And every single name we generated either had a direct hit or one so close even I knew our recommendation wouldn’t be legally viable. A few times my boss asked how things were going. “Fine!”, I assured him with as much fake optimism as I could muster.
Finally, on the day before we began to prepare the actual presentation, my boss wanted to see the list of names that had cleared the pre-check. As you can well imagine, my response hit that conference room like a bomb.
No, my boss didn’t yell and I wasn’t fired. But it was made clear to me, that by not asking for help, I lost the chance to get support from the team and jeopardized his opportunity to come up with the best way to manage our clients’ expectations in a timely fashion.
I’d like to say that incident cured me, and that I now know how (and when) to ask for help. But that’s still only partially true.
How would your life or relationship change if you trusted enough to ask for what you need?
Check out Danielle’s blog and Amanda’s video. Tell me what you think of them.
Share how you feel about asking…for anything!