Today, I decided to share with you some of the important life lessons that I’ve learnt so far. Not because I have it all together (I actually have lots of messes in my life) or that I consider myself a great success, but to show you that I am human and hopefully to spare you the pain of learning some things the hard way. As you may know, I like to inspire people, so if my life experience helps someone in some way then I feel useful.
I recently had the honour of being interviewed by the amazing Dr Abeyna Jones, the medical director and co-founder of Medic Footprints (click here to read my interview http://medicfootprints.org/inspired-creative-lifestyle-guru-gp-emaese-jegede/). For those of you who regularly visit this blog, you may recall that I was recently nominated for the ‘Diverse Medic of the Year’ award by Medic Footprints. I didn’t win the award, but being nominated represented a ‘win’ for anyone who has ever forged a career or lifestyle ‘off the beaten path’ Check out the interview here and keep reading about my life lessons below.
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Lesson 1: Accept yourself
I grew up not liking myself. I’m not sure when my dislike of myself began but I do recall my first day at a new school in Australia, and my 2 siblings and I were the only black children there. The other kids didn’t want to play with me and in my immaturity I thought that there was something wrong with me. I was different. I had a deep voice, I had the darkest skin in my family, I was more muscular than most of the boys, I had a big head, I wore glasses, I had a big bum. The list of my perceived imperfections was long and focusing on them only broke down what little self esteem I had. Despite doing well academically and at sport, I still wished that I looked like someone else. The word ‘butch’ was used by others to describe me several times, and I would often tear up pictures of myself because I just didn’t like what I saw.
To become the girl you see in the photos on this blog can only be described as a miracle. I’ve come a long way and whilst I no longer dislike myself, there are some days that I still have to remind myself that it’s OK to be me. I can’t tell you exactly when I decided to accept myself, it’s been a gradual journey that God has guided me on. Something that really helped me was getting a list of positive affirmations and declaring them over myself every day , for example, “I am beautiful, I am intelligent, I am capable, I am confident, etc.” As I’ve let these life giving words sink in, I began to accept myself and the incredible thing was that as I began to believe these words, other people began to say those same words back to me! My own self acceptance was what caused others to accept me. I wish I knew about Serena Williams when I was younger. By watching her being unapologetically herself – beautiful, strong, muscular, confident – I gained confidence in who I was. Because Serena is so comfortable in her own skin, it makes us more comfortable with who she is. So these days when I look in the mirror and I’m confronted with my big head, I say to myself, “Well since my head is so big, I must have a bigger brain which means that I can do more,” and when people tell me that my head is big, I laugh and say, “I know.” I now laugh because my imperfections don’t cause me the pain that they used to and that is a huge victory.
Lesson 2: Be yourself
During my medical training some people made fun of me for being too glamorous. I often experimented with different hairstyles and different outfits just because I loved the creativity of it. Being well dressed isn’t a typical characteristic of doctors here in the UK. There is a stereotype that exists where if someone looks good then they aren’t considered to be very intelligent or are thought to be superficial; this is the reason why to this very day that models are still looked upon as being stupid because they are more ‘glamorous’ than average. I don’t believe that looking good and being intelligent are mutually exclusive.
I remember trying to dress like other doctors in order to fit in and not draw too much attention to myself, but I was miserable! Deep down I prayed for a job that would allow me to be myself but I realised that since I couldn’t change people’s stereotypes, I would have to be the one to change. A few months before I started this blog, I was randomly surfing the net and saw a good looking guy modelling some ALDO shoes. For some reason I clicked on his picture and lo and behold, I discovered that he was a doctor (Chris Nicholas) living in Canada who was a photographer, blogger, DIY home renovator and he also loved to dress up. His work had caught the attention of ALDO, hence why he was the face of their new campaign. Chris said that whilst at work people often said to him, “Why are you so dressed up?”, and his response was, “Why are you so dressed down?” – I love this guy! Seeing him succeed at being himself made me more determined to be myself. So these days when I go to work, I have fun selecting my outfits and I walk in with my head held high; my mantra is: I am MSA, so hear me roar! I shall save the world one outfit at a time. But on a more serious note, I believe the world is waiting for everyone of us to embrace that which makes us unique.
Lesson 3: Work hard but give yourself time to relax
During my university years I recall a period of time when I worked so hard that I burnt myself out. I felt immense pressure to succeed and also felt overwhelmed by my studies. I remember having to write a 10,000 word essay about the skeleton of an arthropod!!! Why, why, why did I ever study invertebrate biology? Doing that assignment felt as though I was slowly being strangled by a dark force. I admire anyone who studies zoology, but I quickly learnt that it’s just not for me. During that period I worked hard every day but accomplished so little. I lost my joy, became apathetic and was just miserable.
Thankfully, I had an uncle who spotted what was wrong and advised me to take at least one day off a week from my studies. I followed his advice and since then I realised that I actually accomplish more in 6 days than what I would have if I worked 7 days a week. But you don’t have to strictly take one day off a week, just be flexible and listen to your body. I have had moments, even after a day off, when I’ve stared at the same computer screen for an hour and achieved nothing. At those times I will take a break and do something fun, like watch a movie, create something or chat to a friend. It’s such a paradox that sometimes to go faster you have to go a bit slower.
Lesson 4: Create what you can’t find
I used to get upset when I would search for something I wanted but couldn’t find it. But now I view not finding what I want as a clue to something that I need to create. Let me give you some examples:
- As a student I couldn’t find artwork to hang on my walls that fit within my small budget, so I began to paint and display my creations (see painting below).
- My hairdresser couldn’t create a wig that I wanted, so I decided to create the the current wig that I’m wearing. I went onto YouTube, watched videos on how to make a wig, and then I made it.
- I wanted a chair to match the decor of my bedroom, but since I couldn’t find a chair in the right colour I reupholstered an old one by myself with the fabric I wanted.
- I couldn’t find a ready made career that let me pursue medicine and also my creative side, so I created it – I am a doctor, I am a makeup artist and I run this blog.
So the next time you get frustrated about not being able to find something, realise that you may have discovered an opportunity to create something new.
Lesson 5: Be positive
They say that people either have positive or negative tendencies. I have a pessimistic streak which kept me living in mediocrity, pain and defeat for many years. I believed the worst and often got the worst. I believed that people wouldn’t like me and so they didn’t. I would believe that a situation was going to be very hard and so it was. I believed that I never won anything and so I never did. My life followed my expectations.
Thankfully, I learned through reading various books (especially books by Joel Osteen) that I could channel that same negative energy into being positive and I would get positive results. I have to say that being positive works!!!!!! Now I declare out loud several positive declarations almost daily and over the last 4 years my life has changed A LOT!! One of my favourite declarations is, “It’s going to be a great day today,” and even if I have nothing to look forward to that day it usually ends up being better than expected. I also started declaring, “Something good is happening to me today,” and in the space of a few months I won 4 holidays to Spain….remember when I said I never used to win anything?
Lesson 6: Be continually inspired
Without being inspired we run the risk of living boring, mediocre, and predictable lives. Seeing someone else achieve or do something we thought was impossible inspires us to break the limitations in our lives. My mother was a doctor and if I hadn’t watched her succeed as a doctor, the head of her department, and a wife with 5 children, I never would have believed that I could do it too. By watching other successful women such as Oprah Winfrey, Adele, Emeli Sandé, Marie Forleo, Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, and Theresa May, I now believe that I can become a better version of myself. Also, observing the progress of other bloggers, makeup artists and photographers helps me to believe that I can also achieve my creative dreams. I am convinced that inspiration is vital to my success so I try to look for it everyday. I encourage you to find people that you can look up to because it will inspire you to achieve greatness.
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So there you have it, some of the great lessons that I’ve learned along the way and I probably will keep on revising these lessons until the day I die. I love this quote:
“In my life, I’ve lived, I’ve loved, I’ve lost, I’ve missed, I’ve hurt, I’ve trusted, I’ve made mistakes, but most of all, I’VE LEARNED.”
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