This is a reflection on our wings and all the ways we have forgotten to fly.
The cover photo was taken a few weeks ago at Burning Man, under the Tree of Ténéré amidst tens of people. Burners as they are called, gathered to escape the heat of the Black Rock desert in Nevada. In this quiet gathering under a man-made tree, as close to an oasis as could be, I got up and danced.
I felt a hesitation with each step as I left the root base of the tree to stand in a slight clearing as I felt into my body and started to sway to the music of my flow. I felt self-conscious, I felt unsure, strong, excited, joy — I felt it all. I realized then, what it was to live the proverbial moment in life that takes your breath away.
The picture came to me via a friend who saw it on the Facebook wall of another friend. A passer by who had seen my dance as she rode by on her bicycle, stopped and took the shot. I didn’t share it because I felt insecure, unsure and anxious.
Will my side boob be judged as unprofessional, as un-Nigerian, unserious? At the same time, I Ioved it for it’s strength and beauty, yet judged her for her freedom and sex appeal. Once again, I felt it all.
In sharing even just this picture, I am freeing myself of all constraints I place on myself. In sharing my experiences of the last months, it is my hope, as always that you find your truth in all the ways l am unlearning to play it safe and instead tango in-tune with the music of my life.
It all started with honoring quiet spaces of consciousness. Doing this, I have increasingly become more attune to my intuition/instinct/sixth sense/spirit voice/truth/angels/God/self.
I have found this to be the most powerful guide imaginable. I have also found that in listening, there is a deep knowing of the power I have within myself to create the reality that serves my life purpose.
In listening, I knew I was guided. I knew to trust and not be afraid in accepting I had come to the end of a chapter and the best era was before me, prior to which a leap was needed. In other words, It was important that I unlearned to direct life’s music to my own limited vision.
In the two months since my leap that included leaving a comfortable professional role to curate a life of my own creation, I still have days of doubt.
On these days the questions can be summarized by ‘what am I doing?’ We can conclude that we all have these moments, but we also all have the choice to give in to the fear or face it head-on. You already know my choice.
In a recent face-off with my fears, I took a moment to remind myself what it is that I am doing, including all that I have birthed in this time since I chose to do it my way.
This exercise helps me put things in perspective, akin to drawing and writing out the rays on my sun that is all of life’s joys, another practice to put fear in its place at the backseat and instead celebrate all success, big and small.
On other days when this same question comes up, I re-phrase instead to ‘am I where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to be doing?’ I find that asking a different question, instead of those that don’t lead us anywhere, can make all the difference.
In feeling into the answer to my more constructive question, I feel peace at where life has taken me and therein let go of any judgement of where I think I should be, or could be and any judgement of shortcomings or failures.
I stand in myself and feel into my peace, including sometimes the truth that I indeed am not where I should be, and know that my dance is true.
I share this that we may unpack all the pressures we put on ourselves that invite us to play small from a place of fear effectively ensuring that the dreams we carry within us are never born, at least not of us.
Like the seeds of a tree, you have everything you need to grow into your limitless potential. Sunlight, water, nutrients and lots of fresh air are metaphors for the enabling environment that caters to the seed you carry within.
For the seed to bloom, you must direct its path. For me, this begins with being intentional about that which I am living for. Take for example. The word ‘success’. Everyone is seeking success, but few are defining what it means. I am not speaking in theory.
I have known and worked with some of the most successful people in the world hand-picked in the context for being just this, and have experienced first-hand that everyone is seeking validation. So the question I ask then is, does anyone feel like they have arrived? Or are we all victims of a big joke of competing to arrive in a non-defined destination that is ‘success’?
For myself, I define my success as freedom to live the life I want. Freedom here is as an ability not to live a life that is in reaction to all that is around me. A reactive state of being, but instead be in an active space of creation.
What is success for you? What is happiness for you? It is so important to define these things we seek because the world’s definition include more about fancy clothes, a car, a house and an air-conditioned office than all those things that might actually matter to us.
Beware of the rat-race to nowhere and do not assume the world, as misdirected as we are as a whole, has got the recipe of a happy life right.
Who are you trying to be? Who are you failing to be? I ask because there is an opportunity cost of trying, instead of being. My recommendation: define where it is you are going, not as defined by others, but following the guidance of your quiet — tune in, listen and be true.
So let’s break down what this looks like with a day-to-day experience of a world we might all be familiar with— Social Media. You have a few hundred/thousand followers.
Each post gets tens/hundreds and perhaps thousands of likes. You agonize over every post because you want to please everyone, all ten thousand of your faceless fans. So we post the least controversial, least offensive, most appealing part of the truth you believe will be appreciated by all. So much energy to be accepted.
Yet, ask yourself, do you remember anything you ‘liked’ just last week on any social media channel. Anything? One thing? Yet, we put so much energy in this space, the hype, the noise and the house of cards that it’s built upon.
The point I truly want to get across is that nothing is worth the sacrifice of your own peace of mind, your own being, your happiness, your truth, least of all things that with a little reflection you can conclude are without depth.
Social media and all the ways we cater to the fear of not being enough can be distracting from being fully present, and being fully present is important to manifesting our creativity and contribution to humanity.
Life wants to come through you for the benefit of the whole and all parts are needed. Only you can usher in your unique magic to heal this world of ours, you are needed and you are enough.
However, your full potential can’t happen if you are not willing to let it and if instead you play to the tune of fear, including that of the opinion of masses. That which is real is inside of you. Listen and know the truth and the wings of our dance.
Be true to yourself, tune in, listen to the music of life and dance to its tunes and not the noise because it will limit your dance — your full manifestation. Liberate your wings and fly.
I am where I am meant to be
Doing that which I am meant to be doing
Being kind with myself, not dancing faster or slower than the music of life.
Not looking to another for validation or with envy.
But within for truth.
Chidiogo Akunyili is the Founder of She ROARs – Reimagining Our Africa Rising — empowering women across Africa to unleash their full potential and that of the continent. She is a writer, storyteller, and movement builder who is impacting global narrative based on her belief in the power of people to change the world. Her philosophy is founded on the humanist African concept of Ubuntu upholding and celebrating our shared humanity.
Having lived and worked across 5 continents, Chidiogo speaks 7 of the world’s languages including Chinese, English, French, German, Igbo, Italian and Spanish — invaluable tools that bridge lives, people and their global realities.
She is a World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow and Associate Fellow of Nigerian Leadership Initiative. She was named ‘100 most influential Young Africans’, ‘100 most Influential Nigerians’, ‘Young Professional of the Year’ and ‘100 most inspiring women in Nigeria’.