Our society and social environment is rich in lessons and counsels all around, only if we probe to learn. I however, shall be drawing lessons from a rather unusual place. One may wonder what virtue there is to learn from Dame Patience Jonathan; what admirable character to emulate in her given what we know of her?
Personally, I don’t endorse most of her public conduct in that exalted position, yet I see something we all must learn from her. I hold no brief for Her Excellency, I can write a long piece on the “How Not to be a First Lady”, that’s easy. Rather, I’d like to state for the record that I do strongly believe that if Destiny exalts you to a high position it is absolutely your responsibility to do everything you can to live up to a considerable amount of expectation of that position; you owe Destiny that much.
Dame Patience is the wife of Dr Goodluck Jonathan former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A woman from a not so privileged background, who with a not so solid an education rose to become by far the most famous First Lady we have ever had in our history…though for reasons not completely charitable. Not one to miss an opportunity to speak, most of her speech is laden of prime time comedy while the rest may be at best shooting for some “analogue” solutions to “digital” problems. Yet she possesses the most admirable and crudest form of confidence I have seen in years.
‘Confidence’ by my definition, in this context is that unflinching belief in one’s ability to succeed; not being held back by flaws, inadequacies or past mistakes; not succumbing to failure. The personality of Dame Patience is one that keeps going; completely blanking out the mockery of her errors and forging ahead from one appearance to the next.
No First Lady has been mocked more than she has in our history but she is out the next minute as though nothing ever happened moments ago. No other First Lady has been more grammatically challenged (most have been less vocal which may be slightly difficult to say) yet she speaks on, completely oblivious of her ‘handicap’. Nothing stops her from expressing her opinion, definitely not the English language! Dame Patience is the vintage example of how to take mockery in your stride.
The reality in our world these days is that most lack it, particularly in girls. Many have a form of “confidence” built on a sandy foundation which quickly gets eroded by the slightest wind of criticism. Girls and women are particularly affected because society by design has streamlined the conduct, behaviour and expectations of the girl child.
As adults how many times have we stopped the pursuit of our dreams because people talked us down or laughed at us? How many times have self-doubt, mistakes and others’ opinions made us retreat from life, while we mourn our ‘failure’? Daily we fail to proceed on the journey of destiny, daily we live less than our best because we take the perception of others about us to heart, however justified or even unjustified.
Daily we seek validation from people, we require motivational talks and constant assurances from peers, pastors, parents and friends. Sometimes we even lack the confidence to take genuine compliments; we downplay it or explain them away. We second guess ourselves so much and too often we let opportunities pass us by.
Truth is, we get less than the battering Dame Patience gets yet we stay away, shut down and require counselling for days, weeks and months on end to face life again. A little ridicule of our style, posture, grammar, diction and even the content of what we say, and we crash out of existence not to be seen nor heard of while life moves on leaving us behind. We afterwards mourn our dwindling confidence; wallowing in self-pity.
If most women had a good level of confidence we would have had more women in top positions of government, business and society. We would have had more women daily breaking the glass ceilings and setting defined trails for others, but we allow our self-doubt to make us accept mediocre attainments than we are truly capable of and that right there is a tragedy of Destiny.
We fail to ask and demand for what we think is due us, we come up with a billion excuses why we should not ask in spite of our competence because we are unsure. By the way, Confidence is right on the same level as Competence. Your skills are important; very true, but think — everybody has skills. How many are successful and outstanding? Confidence exalts your Competence.
The lack of it affects our ability to imagine and dream beautiful dreams. The mind lacking in Confidence shuts the imagination process down by springing up the doubts we have accepted over time. The first part of success is imagination. Confidence translates imagination to action and action become results. But even when we do dream, we lack the confidence to take the plunge. Our inaction births broken dreams and broken dreams birth depression. How then can you think it is too much to acquire confidence?
Stop apologising for how great you are or can be. Stop down playing you! Stop it!! It is not humility, it is timidity done in complete ignorance of the vision of your Maker. No one feels sorry for a high-speed sports car for going at such high speed, that’s what it is meant for!
In the midst of our well-deserved success we keep feeling guilty like we are fraudsters, as though someone could “find out” that we are impostors and ridicule us. We feel undeserving. We, by such thoughts pull the brakes on our momentum. Self-doubt is the greatest hindrance to fulfilling worthy goals.
We generally feel confident when we have met the pass mark, when we are “perfect”, but are very unforgiving of ourselves when we miss the mark. Be less harsh in the appraisal and judgement of yourself. Attaining perfection is unrealistic and failure to achieve this results in more self-doubt, which births a dangerous lack of confidence. Strive for excellence, this is realistic and attainable. It’s okay to make mistakes, but get up, correct them and move on. It is completely okay to fail. Quite frankly I have failed too many times, yet it is not an endorsement to take exclusive ownership of failure.
People who judge you by your failures rather than by your character have themselves established failure in their actions. More so, who amongst us have the legitimacy to judge? Basing actions/inactions on the illegitimate judgement of others (and ourselves) is folly. This though, is not carte blanche to flaunt your flaws or to not heed to edifying corrections. By all means improve on yourself and keep improving. But first, believe the best about you. Motivate yourself. Talk to yourself. Engaging in self pep talk is not an hint of insanity, this I can assure you. The gospel is that confidence can be acquired and improved on. This will be covered in my next piece.
With the coverage of the life of Dame Patience it is obvious Nigerians can praise and mock you with the same frequency. This trait is not exclusive to us but to humans everywhere. This is the reason therefore why you must consciously work and maintain a healthy dose of self-confidence. Love her or hate her, this one true trait we should all learn from Dame Patience — Crude Confidence. So when next you have self-doubt, or are feeling sorry for yourself and are completely let down, remember Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan.
Remember that your “failures” and gaffes are yet to be used as memes, display pictures, videos, music, campaign and dance jingles, t-shirts, as lines for opening mischievous conversations, exclamations, etc. Remember, that your “failure” is yet to trend on Twitter and other social media platforms. Yet to trend in the international and local media.
Yet to be the highlight of comedy shows. Your “failures” are largely unknown and insignificant as compared. She’s had it worse than you yet she braved it every single time.
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