Life & Stuff · Mental Health

Race and Self-Worth: Why It’s Important to Find People Who Look Like You

Answer this question: How would you feel if you never saw anyone like you succeed? If you never saw anyone who looked like you doing what you want to do with your life?

Yeah, a lot of people face this daily.

They don’t see people who look like them doing impressive things…not nearly enough, anyway.

And this is important. This affects what we believe is possible for us…

Here are just some of the things I’ve thought about in my own life:

 

Actively seeking black or brown yogis and fit women as inspiration

Why does it matter if I’m inspired by Serena Williams, not Reece Witherspoon? Because I don’t look like Reece. Though I could follow her lifestyle, take inspiration, all of that.

At the end of the day, she doesn’t look like me and there will still be this idea – though it isn’t true, of course – that she has her success because she’s white. Or she’s fit but I can’t do it, too. Not because POC can’t be fit. Or that white people can’t inspire POC. But just because of the internalised racism. And because, well, what you see affects you.

As illogical as it is, it’s a powerful message to the brain that says, “This image doesn’t suit you personally. This is not you. This will never be you.”

Nathalie Emmanuel

POC celebs who are fit and living healthy lifestyles:

  • Nathalie Emmanuel
  • Serena Williams
  • Michelle Obama
  • Kerry Washington
  • Halle Berry
  • Alicia Keys
  • Zoe Saldana
  • Angela Bassett
  • Gabrielle Union
  • Jada Smith
  • Keke Palmer
  • Tyra Banks

But seeing a woman (or other) who looks like you in some way living the healthy lifestyle you’re seeking is truly the epitome of motivation.

Your brain finally says, “Oh okay, yeah, I think this is us. This could be us. Let’s do it!”

 

Black travellers

If you’re black (or generally not white, I assume, but I can’t speak for people or things I don’t know), you will have likely said or thought at some point, “Nah, that’s for white people.” 

This is said in jest a lot of the time, but there are some things that some people truly believe are just for “white people” or privileged people.

Travel is one of those things.

Sadly, there are parts of the world that are less safe for POC. Where you may be subject to violent racism and abuse. Yes, white people may feel out of place in majority-black or Asian countries, but they won’t feel necessarily unsafe in general. They may be robbed in poorer countries, but that’s the same for any tourist – just being white comes with the assumption of wealth, so naturally white people may more easily be considered foreign people with wealth to take.

Anyway, it helped me a lot to find black travel bloggers and vloggers. POC travelling the world and telling their fellow POC where is safe and accepting of them. Plus, paving the way for us and showing that travel is not just for the wealthy, privileged, white people anymore! That time passed a long time ago.

Black travel accounts on Insta and YouTube:

And of course, celebs travel often so if you follow celebs of colour, you should see some inspo, too.

 

Friends who are POC

This one may seem controversial, but hear me out! I’ve felt more confidence and belonging when finally having black friends (generally any non-white friends).

For a while in teenhood, all I had were white friends. I felt less-than them. I felt unseen. I straightened my hair and only started to do that less when I was about 16, at the earliest.

That’s sad.

It’s not their fault, of course, it’s about kind of mirroring those around you and fitting in. It’s about conditioning and what you internalise.

But when I found more black friends, I felt that permission to be myself. To let my “black side” out to play! They understand microaggressions and racism. They understand that you don’t touch each other’s hair. They understand feeling less beautiful. They understand that not everything is as easy for us.

But you don’t only bond over the oppression! You also bond over braids and hair maintenance. Over being a grinding, bad-ass boss lady going at life despite it being harder. Over Caribbean and African food. Over certain ideals that some other cultures don’t have. Over our upbringing and the list goes on. Over being a black woman; a person of colour; a person.

 

Writers and authors who are POC

Why gain inspo from Tomi Adeyemi or Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou or Angie Thomas, not JK Rowling or George R. R. Martin? Again, think about it. What you see is what you believe is possible. If only men were shown as successful writers, you would – like many women did – believe that writing was for men; that women couldn’t do it as well.

The same goes for race.

Seeing someone who looks like you be successful proves to your mind that it’s possible for you, too.

Now, add in the fact that there is literal systemic and institutional racism, meaning it has been fundamentally more difficult for POC to succeed in these industries. Once again, you need to be reminded that it may be tougher for us, but it is possible for us now.

 

These are just some of the considerations I’ve had to make as someone of colour. What you see in the world, on TV, on your social feeds, matters. It can give or take from your confidence, self-worth, aspirations and general beliefs about life and what is possible for you.

Many people of colour don’t know that they can succeed. That they can have popular YouTube channels, vlogs, podcasts, books, shows, travel goals, houses, whatever whatever.

I hope, and do believe, we are moving closer and closer to closing that gap. Where it isn’t a case of going to look for this inspiration to know that it’s possible for you, but to freely and easily see it all around us.

 

Sincerely,

S. xx

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