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Be Yourself – GSWNY Influencer Series 01 – Dr. Ramona Reynolds

What was your journey to being your authentic self

Growing up in the 1970s, our nation was fully immersed in the Black Power movement which promoted pride and self-love. Unfortunately, colorism was also deeply rooted in the black community. I vividly recall being the recipient of remarks such as: “To be dark-skinned, you’re pretty.” “You’re a smart black girl.” These words were meant to be compliments. There was also the ritualistic “ribbing” among peers who occasionally used my complexion, hair length, and lip size as targets. Though I didn’t recognize it, thinking back I now see how those experiences created a modicum of shame and self-loathe that attributed to my desire, as a child, for a lighter skin hue, thinner lips, and longer hair. I am forever grateful for my loving parents who precipitated my journey to self-love and authenticity. Everyday my mother told me that I was beautiful! My strong-willed father has always vehemently rejected the notion of modifying one’s beliefs, behaviors, looks, or style just to be accepted. He believes in remaining true to self, in all ways, even if it places you in a counter normative space. These were the sentiments shared with my brother and me. 

While I can’t identify a defining moment, over time these teachings took hold. Today, I confidently and unapologetically lean in and fully embrace my authentic self.  

What are some ways to be yourself? 

Some ways of being yourself include knowing yourself. Who are you? What are your beliefs? Once you are grounded in who you are, don’t compare yourself to others. Be open to change. Forgive yourself when you’ve made mistakes and feel comfortable expressing yourself.    

What are some challenges someone may face by being their authentic self? 

One of the biggest challenges that some may face in being their authentic self is possible rejection from those who share different thoughts, values, beliefs, style, etc. While openness and compromise are healthy and important, resist changing the core of who you are just to please others.  

How were you able to be yourself in the face of adversity? 

In the face of adversity, I have been able to be myself by simply remembering who and whom I am. These two mental reminders quickly center me. 

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