Self-confidence, self-discovery, certainty, and worthiness: growing up, these were concepts that I could not internalize. Being a middle child, I dealt with the pressure of being compared to the standards and accomplishments of my siblings. Both were always sure of themselves, excelling in everything they attempted from academia to extra-curricular activities. I was different: I was an average student, not nearly as involved and rarely venturing from my comfort zones. I admired my siblings because they were leaders; I instead was content with being average. It took me a while to want to break free from that mindset. Stepping into my own light took a lot of time and growth. It was not until my junior and senior years of high school that I began to notice a shift. I recognized that I did in fact want to be different. I wanted to be confident, try new things, and feel both capable and worthwhile. Reflecting on my journey toward becoming an improved version of myself, I recognized some themes:
Being yourself is ok.
Being authentic and unapologetically yourself is key. The things we view as imperfections are all a part of His plan and are qualities that define us as individuals. The personality you have should not shift for anyone. Your interests and your likes should not be hidden to appease others, or to fit in. I came to this realization when someone shared with me a quote by Lauryn Hill: “Whenever we submit our will to someone else’s opinion, a part of us dies.”
Despite what the opinions of others may lead you to believe, God does not make mistakes.
This quote reminded me it is imperative I remain true to the essence of who I am, so that is the advice I choose to carry and share. Be content with yourself and stay true to your values and beliefs. Remember this simple practice shapes your identity. It keeps you true to your own path and moving toward your purpose.
Live with your purpose in mind.
A crucial aspect of self-discovery involves finding your “why.” I realized that my “why” stems from my desire to lay a strong foundation for young women of color. This was imperative in exploring my reasoning for my actions, emotions, and decisions. Your purpose should reflect what you have to offer the world. It involves doing the work to uncover your talents, passions and skills. Ask yourself the following: What are you naturally good at? What makes you feel passionate? It is possible that these tie into your purpose. After you learn your “why,” your next step should consist of setting a mission to fulfill it. Focus on your dreams and decide how you want to give back to the world, unleash your strengths, and continue to push forward.
Fall in love with yourself.
This form of love is genuine. It consists of being kind to yourself, encouraging yourself, and pushing yourself to grow. It is reminding yourself that you are capable of achieving greatness, especially when you put in the effort. Falling in love with yourself helps you gain appreciation for your personality, your imperfections, and strengths. It can be accomplished by taking care of your mental health through mediation, thinking positively, working out, and embracing growth. Reading affirmations each week played a huge role in boosting my confidence.
Create your own standards and be proud of who you are.
These takeaways strengthened my appreciation for my self-discovery journey. It challenged me to accept who I am as a young, Black woman. While I continually grow and learn about myself, I am proud of who I am. In deciding that I wanted to live outside of my siblings’ shadows, I created room for the woman I wanted to be. Today, I am a young woman who understands the impact she wants to have on the world and others. One who is still dreaming and aiming to reach new heights.
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Kentona Tinsley earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 2018. At North Carolina A&T State University, Kentona served as Junior Class Secretary, Senior Class Queen, and an Aggie Success Leader. She is a Spring 2016 initiate into the Alpha Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She recently earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Kennesaw State University and works as a Senior Business Immigration Analyst at a Law Firm in Atlanta, GA.