I had the pleasure of meeting this gorgeous, dynamic woman last year when I met her at a Toastmasters meeting and went on to do a Personal Branding shoot for her. For someone so young, Sisi makes a beautifully positive impact on everyone she meets and we’ve since gone on to forge a friendship steeped in our common mission to help other’s with their confidence. Sisi is a professional speaker and, like me, is on a mission to elevate people’s confidence but specifically focussed on their speaking skills.
Sisi has class, style, intellect and beauty going for her, but most of all, she’s got a voice that she uses to inspire others. She inspires them by what she says but mostly by how she says it. With conviction and certainty. .
A true confidence crusader in every sense of the word. So I’m thrilled to have her share Her Story here with us…
What struggle have you overcome to be who you are today?
Living in a racist and sexist world as an unapologetically confident proud black woman.
I grew up in a home where I was (and still am) unconditionally loved, wholly accepted and completely belonged without having to prove my worth. I was taught to pursue my dreams singlemindedly. I was born in 1991, therefore I grew up in post-apartheid South Africa. During my school going years there was still a national concerted effort to eradicate the injustices of the past by actively and consciously empowering those who were most affected by apartheid – I grew up in the “Nelson Mandela generation”. Unfortunately this meant that I grew up in a bubble where I believed that everything was possible for anyone as long as you worked effectively to achieve your goals, and that prejudice as an obstacle to achieving your goals was a thing of the past.
I had always known that I am female, and that I am black, but I only developed an understanding of being a black female when I started working and saw and experienced just how real the race-gender intersectionality is and what that means for me as a black woman today. I quickly understood that my society is not equipped to appropriately appreciate a confident, intelligent, capable, driven, independent, strong and authoritative black woman. In reality, it only knows how to comprehend us when we are the underdog and not the “top dog”. This is not just by white people and men, its a societal phenomenon.
Therefore as a black woman you find yourself in a unique position of prejudice. When you stand in a crowd where we are “united as women”, you quickly realise that the white women are not quite in the same position as you because they still enjoy [and at times assert their] white privilege (whether they acknowledge it or not). Therefore when issues that defile your blackness come up, your so-called white sisters do not stand with you, in fact at times they are the source of the ridicule. When you stand in a crowd where we are “united as black people”, you quickly realise that the black men are not quite in the same position as you because they still enjoy and feel entitled to male privilege. Therefore when issues that affect your womanhood come up, your black so-called brothers do not stand with you, in fact at times they are the source of the oppression. Therefore as a black woman there are people claiming to be fighting the same battle as you, but you know that come victory time you will not get the same share of the spoils as them because of your intersectionality.
Therefore in order to accomplish my dreams, I had to develop a very strong sense of self and not rely on societal validation in order to believe in myself, and my potential. I had to learn to consciously validate and back myself and let that be enough for me. I had to learn to celebrate myself in ways that are true to me even if those around me do not understand the reason for my joy. I am ever thankful to God for placing me in the family that God did. Had I not been taught to be confident, secure and self-assured at home, I would not be the woman I am today.
I had to learn to understand the race-gender intersectionality in a manner that empowers ME and doesn’t disempower me (irrespective of anyone else’s opinion of my existence), but to still remain awake to its stinging realities. I had to develop a healthy sense of oblivion to societal limitations and not allow them to become self-limitations. I am ever grateful for the black women, women and black people who have pioneered before me. They give me hope that it is possible for me to, even if my road is not yet carved, I will blaze it for myself.
That is why I am inspired by pioneers. Because I know that if I want to achieve my goals my best option is to pioneer.
Where do you find your strength and resilience?
God. Myself. And the love, acceptance and belonging I receive from my family.
How are you inspiring positive change today, in yourself and in others?
By being myself and not compromising who I am in the service of my purpose. I think positive change starts from an authentic place. If its fake, it won’t last and it will bring about a sense of disillusionment.
What do you think has the biggest impact on women’s confidence? Please explain why you think that.
Believing that you have to be anything either than who you are now in order to be loved and accepted.
As women, we are taught to believe that beauty is the key to love and acceptance. The more beautiful you are, the more worthy you are of love and acceptance. Whether this is good or bad isn’t relevant to its reality. My dad hates make-up and anything fake. Therefore growing up he would often validate the fact that I do not need make-up or fake hair etc in order to be beautiful – I am beautiful as I am. My natural femininity is enough. I didn’t know it then, but that gave me a sense of knowing that love is not earned by being “more beautiful” – I am enough as I am.
I believe that Confidence is the ability to be yourself in public. Therefore the more you know that who you are IS enough, the more confident you can and will become.
Looking at South Africa today, what role should women play?
Leadership. We need strong capable leaders in all sects of society and I believe its time for us as women to take our place.
What would you like to say to young South African women?
Love yourself. Truly and deeply love who you are. You are worthy of your own love. Believe in yourself.
What would you like to say to South African men?
You are enough. You do not need anyone to be less in order for your to be more. Know who you are and be secure in who you are
What is your wildly improbable dream for yourself and for our country?
To live in a country where as a black woman I can thrive because racial and gender discrimination and social prejudice is a thing of the past.
To develop a healthy “national self-esteem” where we don’t measure our worth and progress in the light of so-called developed societies, but where we appreciate our “Africanness” and learn to thrive in it.
How do you think the cultural diversity in South Africa impacts the overall esteem of the average South African woman?
I think it depends on the value that your culture places on women and this differs from culture to culture.
I love diversity. I think there is so much beauty in appreciating different people for being different and not needing everyone to be the same. However, because of apartheid and globalisation there is an increasing pressure on women to live up to white/western norms at the expense of the beauty of their own culture. I don’t think this is healthy from a self-esteem perspective because the truth is you are worthy as you are and you can add value to any dialogue as yourself. If you live in a space where your validation comes from external sources then your self-esteem will always be crippled.
Therefore there is opportunity in South Africa to really encourage diversity and to appreciate women from different cultures and what we all have to bring together but differently.