Chimamanda Adichie recently gave a speech at a Girls Write Now Event that has left young women everywhere echoing the words; “Forget about likeability” just as we did when Lupita said “Your dreams are valid”. To add some context she was referring to young female writers who may feel the need to reshape their stories in a bid to be better received instead of just telling their stories honestly and truthfully as they are and she referenced the writing classes she teaches every year in Nigeria. Lord knows how desperate I am to attend one of those some day.
But many are applying her advice to life in general rather than this particular context and so we should. In our Social Media driven world where everything is about what we “Like” and who we “Follow” because presumably we like them and what they have to say, many are struggling with their identity and are still afraid of just being themselves. Too many of us are striving to fit into moulds of who we think society would like us to be, juggling several different personalities, trying so hard to fake it till we make it, giving people the inauthentic versions of ourselves.
So whenever we hear words like these, we breathe a sigh of relief. Someone understands the struggle. We latch on because they resonate and remind us to be beyoutiful always, just as we are. We must not be scared to offend. We must also not be so afraid of consequences that we forget who we are while desperately trying to project who we would rather be. Having said that for me the most important part of this speech was not necessarily “Forget about likeability” even though it is a much better soundbite. It is where she emphasises authenticity by saying; “Tell your story truthfully,” that is what I am holding on to putting the horse before the cart, exactly where it should be. When you are authentic and true to yourself, being liked is never an issue. You love yourself too much to care. You are just too busy living, believing in you and pursuing whatever it is that you have been called to do.
See full speech below:
Forget about likability. I think that what our society teaches young girls — and I think that it’s something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists, to shrug off — is that idea that likeability is an essential part of the space you occupy in the world. That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likeable. That you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back. Don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy … because you have to be likeable. And I say that is bullshit.