Last week, we talked about advisors, mentors and sponsors. And there is one category that I left out and that is “Champion.”
So growing up in Nigeria, we have a term: “Local Champion.” Anyone who could win fights or who had succeeded spectacularly would be described as a local champion meaning, “We get that the world does not care and this person may not be on TV, but in my heart, I regard and love him/her and I aspire to be like him/her.” It is a term of endearment and respect. People say things like, “I am championing you.” Or “You are my champion.” All it means is that “I am praising you and I acknowledge and respect you.”
You see, I come from a culture that is not stingy with praise.
Every family in Yorubaland has an “Oriki” which is a song of praise for that lineage. It is poetic and can be likened to a family mantra. It is designed to help you understand that you are special, you belong, and you were designed to have a great destiny. It links the past with the present and helps you imagine a wonderful future. So, yeah, we believe in praise.
Some cultures do not believe in praising others as it may make you arrogant or it may be considered too individualistic. However, I really love this idea of praise. I think it is critically important to tell people that you believe in them and you see the good in them.
Every single one of us live in a world where we are constantly criticized. We are often told how we are failing. Our brains interpret neutral messages as messages of failure sometimes. The billboards yell at us that we are failing and should try harder. The advertisements on TV yell similar messages.
But who can you turn to that reminds you of your innate worth, your greatness despite your mishaps, and your preciousness regardless what is swirling around you?
Do you have that person?
Is it Mom?
Your best friend?
If you do not have one, honey, you are lonely and you do not know it. Not only do you need one but who do you champion?
Your neighbors kids?
Let me tell you how this showed up in my life just yesterday.
I went to an African rites of passage event for girls. There were 8 girls from 10 to 12 and I was invited to this day long event as an “auntie” in the community.
I do not have children so this was special for me. The presenters talked about Internet and social media safety, drugs and alcohol and our bodies. We taught the girls about their periods and hormones.
They got giggly but we, the adults, did a good job of getting them to engage.
I finally spoke up and told them that I wanted them to be proud of their bodies and understand the natural rhythms of hormones. I went into some depth about not basing their worth and value on the “sexiness” of their bodies but on their gifts to the planet.
When I left, I was in tears. For many reasons.
I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to talk to a “daughter” about her period. This wonderful event gave me that honor.
I never imagined that I could help shape a girl’s sense of self-esteem about her body and her place in the world. I was able to do that yesterday.
I never imagined that I would champion young girls to powerfully own their gifts and look beyond their gender as they explore their lives. I did that yesterday.
I am still tender hearted that I was part of this delicate yet empowering moment.
You see, I had an opportunity to champion these girls and celebrate them. I am so humbled by that.
I will be their biggest supporter and I pray I have many more opportunities to remind them of their value and greatness.
This is a natural thing for me. It is not hard to deeply see others and celebrate their greatness. I tend to see possibilities all the time and I try to communicate that to others. That is my way of championing others.
But here is what I want to leave you with today. In my humble opinion, there is not enough championing going on in the world. Not enough people are seeing the value and beauty of the other. Instead, we see how we can benefit from another’s talent. We sexualize others. We make others a commodity. We want to extract value from others and make it our own.
No. No. No.
Here is what the truth is. When you find value in others and celebrate it, your value increases. When you see the good in other and you just admire it for the beautiful art that it is, you increase your capacity. Just like when you stop and smell a beautiful flower, you are refreshed and rejuvenated, when you champion others by valuing them and celebrating them, you increase your own capacity and value.
So this week, look for who you can champion. And reflect on who champions you. And seek them out.
Let me know how it goes.
By the way, all the pictures above were for the girls. Look at the books! At this age, we get to tell girls to be feminists. I love it!!!! One of the ladies made special goblets for the ladies and they got gifts and dresses to wear that signified their rite of passage.
Grateful for these eight girls who give me hope for a brighter future for the planet!