I’ve been on a roll of acting on my projects, ideas and dreams lately. Having a lot of those, I’m slowly starting to find the balance of making progress on several projects in parallel, and letting myself be emotionally productive.
The more I’ve embraced this push & let go rhythm, the more ideas I’ve executed on. From writing a letter to the Président de la République after being appalled at France’s arrests of little kids, to trying to get that letter published in several French newspapers (still pushing through here), to picking up a camera and starting to sell prints online a couple of weeks later to support anti-racist organizations with an incredible Instagramer, I’ve been delighting myself with this bias to action.
And the more I pressed – the more journalists I reached out to, connecting on LinkedIn with the directors of a renowned journal, following up again and again as I’m getting no responses, iterating on my letter – I imagined they might ask themselves, “Who does she think she is?”
Mind you they never asked me that, so this was my own voice questioning my legitimacy to do any of this.
So, let’s dissect this question, shall we?
Who do you think you are?
Who do you think you are implies that we’re doing things beyond our reach, beyond our place. It implies that we’re daring too much, and that we’re pretending we have arrived (whatever that means).
Who do you think you are implies we see ourselves as better than we actually are. Full of hubris, potentially entitled, and lacking respect for others whom we’ve collectively decided to see as people who Are Someone.
Who do you think You are, Laila, for feeling legitimate to claim all of this for yourself, for not censuring yourself, for reaching out to these folks who most of us would put on an unreachable pedestal?
I realized this was a turning point for me.
Turn left, and acknowledge I’m thinking too highly of myself, and I should stay put. Be small, follow the crowd. Take dreams for what they are – dreams, that would never become reality.
Or turn right, and say: I’m just me, but that’s no less than anyone else.
Take any successful person by any standard – Any President, Prime Minister, CEO, artist, actor, photographer, world-renowned fill-in-the-blanks. Were they born with a special portion of DNA that made them be something that all of us aren’t and would never be?
What would they have answered to the question Who do you think you are when they were still working their way “up”?
A portion of them was probably told from a young age that they were in fact bigger and better and more special than the rest of us.
And then, there’s this whole other part, who started from the ground up (mind you, with their respective privileges, or lack thereof). Those who worked hard, failed, pushed through, doubted themselves, found support in others, crashed and burned, rebuild themselves, and arrived at where they are today.
And how easy it is for all of us to dismiss every dream we have that seems bigger than us when we only choose to see the final product, the final successes of those who’ve made it before us. How hard it is for us to remember that behind it all, there’s tears and years of hard work and putting in the effort.
Making a choice
So here I am. Taking a sharp turn to the right.
I sent a letter to my President because I had strong opinions to voice, and he’s my elected representative.
I claim to be artistic because I love so many forms of art and I won’t wait for external validations of the title.
I’m striving to claim what I want for my life without being the first obstacle that shuts me down.
Who do I think I am? I am me, no more, no less than anyone else.
This article was first published here on Laila’s website.
Adopted by New York, Laila Zouaki made a few life stops in California, Australia, France, and Morocco. Laila identifies as a multipotentialite storyteller, which explains her interests in writing, photography, scuba diving, yoga, and psychology. When she’s not reflecting on life, Laila spends her time working for a wonderful company as a product manager and dreaming of the next trip to get on the books. Follow her on Instagram @mrs.ladybloom for her latest photography work, or on her website for her latest articles.
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