We all say that we want people to like us for who we are. But we are hardly ourselves. Let me tell you this short story. It’s an add-on to this post on knowing yourself.
Sometime last year, a colleague asked offhandedly and without malice, if I knew how to cook. If I was surprised at the question, I was amazed and amused at the genuine look on her face. Cooking for me wasn’t a question or a thing to wonder about knowing. I am the first daughter in my house, in a Nigerian home, grew up without a house help, bla, bla, bla…
But she didn’t know that. And I was starting to learn that there are actually women my age that can’t (not don’t or won’t) cook. I just laughed it off and said I could. And that would have passed like that if more and more people weren’t making the insinuation or asking directly. One time, a guest in my aunt’s house saw me turning ‘Amala’ with the pot lodged between my feet and the respect he hardly ever showed got pumped with halogen and almost hit the roof.
(nervous surprised laughter) Ahan. Anti… you’re making amala?
Then the big one happened. I was in the kitchen with a guy I totally liked – swoon over to the moon and back, completely knots and nuts over the man – cooking. Nope. No face palm. I totally loved doing it. Anyway, I think it was some soup and then, a quick pasta meal or something. And we just chatted about cooking and he asked if I was really good at it.
And until a few months back, I still held my head in agony over the words that came out of my mouth that day. I played down my abilities and said the weirdest things that I have consciously decided to be selective in my memory about. But basically, I was accepting that I wasn’t a very good cook. No. I think I sounded like it wasn’t even my thing.
What!! I enjoy this thing. I do find quicker ways to get things done and be out of the hot room but I enjoyed mixing ingredients and turning out nice dishes.
I understand that there is my time-consuming job and I was hardly doing anything else but being businessy. I’m also the ‘ahan, we didn’t even know you were at home’ kind of person on the days I’m home and I guess that has its own perception attached.
Initially, I was only wondering why people would have that perception of me being adept at house work or not being cut out for kitchen activities. Maybe it was the way I behaved, something I did. Maybe it was the confidence I carried myself with (which by the way I thought was a facade everyone could see through – let’s tell that story another time). Maybe how lazy I wanted to be on the days I wasn’t at work. Maybe it was the strong wave of feminism blowing and the confusing definition many gave to it – a one feature makes you the whole product attitude.
And I tried to change. But with only 24 hours and ‘body nor be fayawood’, there was only so much I could do. But with that ‘denial of self’ in that kitchen, the change I needed became crystal clear. There was a need to properly define myself. Who are you for yourself and why can’t you stay true to that?
Now perception is something you can control only to a certain extent. You as a person are made up of several parts, playing several roles in this one life you have been given to live. It is understandable that people’s perception of you will be varied depending on the role you play in your relationship with them. But when you start internalizing their perception (consciously or unconsciously) and making it a mold that you fit into, there is a problem.
The need to know who you are and be proud of that person is so important to your fulfillment, success and joy in every facet of your life. Be it at work or in relationships, know yourself and know the reason why you do what you do. Let it be so etched into your consciousness that you don’t compromise who you are to be accepted or for whatever reason.
And honestly, there are people that actually want to like you – the real you; the crazy you; the nice you; the yet to discover you; the in-the-process you. If you keep acting like a phony or in line with a skewed perception of you, how will those people recognize you. (P.S – The man in that kitchen loves good food. See how you could botch good things?) And for those who prefer a version of you – why care so much what they think?
There is nothing wrong with knowing how to cook or knowing how to cook well. To me it is essential for survival – be you a man or a woman. But there is also nothing wrong with the person who hasn’t learned to or doesn’t want to. But there is something wrong when you deny what you can do or claim to be who you are not. And when you recognize that and start living as who you are, you are on the right path.
Moreover, you cannot keep up with who you are not. Identity crises is a recipe for a life not well lived.
Live consciously. Life’s current is too strong to just go with the waves.