Defining Deserving


At the top of this year, one of the things I chose to dedicate myself to is my healing; understanding my patterns, my triggers, challenging certain beliefs that I’ve held for years (consciously/unconsciously) and clearly articulating the life, career and future I want for myself.

Something I have struggled with for as long as I can remember (since I was in my tweens – maybe longer) is not feeling good enough. I think back to when I was about 11 years old in 1994. I went to a predominantly white school in a white suburb. I lived in the ‘burbs. I had friends who are Black, but they lived in different townships. I also had friends who were white… they lived in the ‘burbs. Obvs.

My Black friends and white friends didn’t “integrate” socially. They were in two very different worlds and faced different realities. I was in the middle of it all because as much as I loved being with my Black friends, I also needed to fit in a bit of time with my white friends because outside of school, I needed a social network, especially being an only child.

The conflict for me started when my Black friends decided I wasn’t Black enough because I socialised with white people. And of course, I was never going to be white enough for the white friends, so I didn’t feel accepted or understood by either groups. A painful experience for such a tender age.

As I grew older, my social skills improved, but I always proudly identified myself as a loner, emphasizing my need for space and alone time. Although that is partially true (I do need some alone time to regroup because I get “people’d out), the reality I had to confront was that I have been lonely. I have suppressed my desire for deep, meaningful, loving, lasting, empowering, comforting friendships. I was just stuck in a cycle of not allowing myself to acknowledge it because I still feared that I would not be truly accepted, embraced and loved in the ways I needed from my friends.

And of course, this type of belief doesn’t restrict itself to just one area of your life, right? It spills over into beliefs about your career and your romantic life and your parenting… the list goes on. In the workplace, it manifested itself as me always going above and beyond, no matter what. I constantly felt pressure (both externally nuanced and self-inflicted) to outperform my previous work and others. I had to do things perfectly, every time. Even if it meant I didn’t get sufficient sleep. Even if it meant I developed severe anxiety because of the high levels of stress. Even if it meant developing tension headaches. I just had to get it done because I had to be excellent. Especially because I was a Black woman in a historically white working world that was never intended for me in the first place (I’m not even going to get into how a lived through a different kind of hell when I reported to an abusive boss – if you want the deets, read my book:

And you know what? That sh*t is exhausting! It is joy-depleting. And with each day, you actually just feel worse.

So, I had to work on getting my heart and mind right because I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I was tired of feeling like I have to damn near kill myself in order for people to accept, value and/or love me.

And let me tell you, I am so deeply in love with me now. Finally. From meditations, to journaling, to mindful fitness programmes and consciously curating who and what I expose myself to, I have been able to find my way back to myself. My true north. And I feel so liberated!

I no longer question my worth. I don’t worry about people who are committed to misunderstanding me. And I wholly believe that I deserve beautiful, strong, embracing, compassionate relationships that don’t require me to sacrifice my peace or joy or wellbeing or break my back to sustain them.

I believe that I deserve every single good and beautiful thing that I desire, and my hope is that if you are having a similar struggle, you will find your way back to you, too. Your tribe will find its way to you.

Author avatar
Sihle Bolani

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