PhD Chronicles: Part IV

Growing up, I had this mindset that I didn’t have to toot my own horn for anyone to appreciate and understand my worth. It is either you see it or you don’t – your loss anyway. I was conditioned to believe that it is bragging and no one likes a braggart hence I talked less and did more.

However as I grow older, I have come to understand that I need to unlearn that. Self-aggrandisement is really key and crucial to your future achievements. You may be very special but you have to sell yourself to be recognised.

Sales is something we do everyday – be it a product, person, service or even an idea. We are always trying to sell ourselves to others to accept us. And this ability to sell and persuade others is linked to our innate understanding and definition of ourselves.

Selling yourself short is one of the reasons why your special attributes are not recognised by your potential employers and/or clients. Have you noticed that people who can talk or sell themselves very well whether they bullshit their way through a conversation or interview often land the best deals? He or she may be less talented or smarter than you but she understands something about social intelligence, which is selling yourself the right way.

This is where most intelligent people fall short. They often lack the courage and boldness that less intelligent people do. They often focus so much on themselves and forget that you have to be able to get the attention of your audience or prospective employers by selling yourself the right way.

You have to sell yourself the right way to open and get in the door first before anyone can be able to recognise and appreciate your worth. When you say ‘no’ to new opportunities or ideas that seem daunting, play down your own accomplishments, steer the conversation away from yourself or refuse to put yourself out there for whatever reason, you are inadvertently selling yourself short.

What this translates to whomever is listening to you is that you lack confidence, undervalue yourself and overvalue others, put up with things you shouldn’t and don’t demand respect. As a result, you’d end up in toxic relationships and have minimal experiences because experience is what separates the chaff from the wheat.

No one likes that person that goes on a monologue about their achievements. However, you’ve worked extremely hard to be where you are today so own your story and tell it with zest. Find a balance and design your life the way you really want it to be. Be self aware to identify your weaknesses but focus on challenging and mastering yourself so that you can project yourself to a whole new level.

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Self Made: An Illusion

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Growing up, I was a huge rap fan. I still am but not like I used to. I got to a point where personal glorification and self-aggrandisement of rappers almost left me gasping for air. As American rapper Jadakiss rhetorically asked in his 2004 hit-track Why, “why do rappers lie in 85% of their rhymes?”

To be fair to these artistes, their sounds and images are often being pressed on them by their record labels. Thence, creating a certain persona – an individual who grew up in the ghetto and had to delve into/overcome a life of crime, women and drugs to get away from poverty – a sensational story that gets the attention of the public. The music industry is all about business after all and money has to be made.

As a result, rap artistes end up projecting an image of a self-made successful individual who started from humble beginnings to get to where s/he is today. The self-made man is the ideal of the American success story; the core of American ethos.

This explains why Jeb Bush, a former two-term Governor of Florida State, son and brother to former Presidents of the United States and grandson of a (long-term) United States senator, played the self-made success card when he unsuccessfully campaigned for the Republic Party Presidential candidate nomination early this year. I found it ridiculous and funny; a classic case of delusions of grandeur.

This is someone whose first job after University graduation was with Texas Commerce Bank, partly owned by his father’s friend, James Baker. He may fail to acknowledge it but his background played a huge part in his success.

Last year, Alex Leary, the Washington bureau chief for the Tampa Bay Times, wrote in his column, “…but family pedigree played a clear role, allowing Bush to immediately land a lucrative job with an ambitious real-estate developer. It also gave Bush an advantage in local politics, irritating more established figures.”

It got me thinking about the world’s fixation on producing self-made men and women. The world is awash with stories of self-made millionaires. But is it really possible for one to get ahead in life without external help from others? I sincerely don’t think so because we live in a world that is inter-connected and inter-dependent. Rather, I think the theory of self-made man is an ego-fuelled illusion coated with falsehood.

Certain factors, outlined by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success, play both positive and negative roles in one’s success journey. These factors include environment (when and where you were born and raised), parental upbringing (what your parents did for a living and circumstances surrounding your upbringing) as well as culture (inherited traditions and attitudes).

Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men and the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, echoes this view: “I personally think that society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I’ve earned. If you stick me down in the middle of Bangladesh or Peru or someplace, you’ll find out how much this talent is going to produce in the wrong kind of soil. I will be struggling 30 years later.”

I am not trying to playdown the essence of hardwork, effort, talent, determination, or mental strength in our success pursuit. These are all core ingredients of success but the aforementioned factors afford us an opportunity which only the prepared ones like Buffet (who possess the core success ingredients) take.

Take for example, parents, family members, communities, guardians, Government, Scholarship boards and philanthropists pay the school fees of many students but the onus still lies on the students to put in the hardwork and effort to graduate. Those who pay the school fees create the opportunity for good education whilst the prepared student takes it with both hands, studies and graduates.

Another classic example (for football lovers) is the story of Marcus Rashford. The then 18-year-old was given an opportunity by erstwhile Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, to make a name for himself in a crucial Europa League encounter. The prepared youngster took the opportunity with both hands, scoring a brace in the match as his team ran out 5-1 winners against Midtjylland on the night.

It is evident that we all need someone to give us that big break, which we all yearn for. This may come from friends, family, teachers, mentors, coaches, antagonists, well-wishers, acquaintances, students…the list goes on and on. It is only pride, arrogance, ignorance, delusion or insecurity that can impede one from recognising the invaluable contributions and investments of others. As Fredrick Douglas aptly said, “opportunity is important but exertion is indispensable.”

What are your thoughts about the idea of being self-made?

Sexism: Men are Victims Too

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Feminism is a delicate topic in Nigeria. The movement has been bastardized but one is yet to fully grasp the agenda of Nigerian feminists.

There appears to be a conflict of interest in defining the essence of their feminist movement. It could be that many of them are either confused or ignorant of the core values of the feminism ideology. As my friend Moji once said, ignorance is a silent, parasitic affliction that twists and bends the lenses of one’s eyes to produce a distorted view of reality.

Today, they are pushing for gender equality; for men and women to be recognized as equal. Tomorrow, they are advocating for gender favouritism; fighting for causes that favour only women – a battle of sexes per se.

For instance, there’s always a special prize for the last woman standing at TV shows like the Gulder Ultimate Search and I have never seen any feminist stand up in its disaproval. This makes me wonder if we inadvertently propagate gender inequality and sexism.

To be fair, sexism is not anyone’s fault. It has become imbibed in our society. As a result, both men and women, directly or indirectly, make sexist comments on a daily basis.

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Nice guys are often ridiculed by both men and women for their niceness and lack of masculine energy to take the bull by the horn. ‘He is not man enough’ is often the derogatory comment used to describe these guys. And that is also sexism.

Recently, I read an article about an emotional man who often sheds tears for women whenever he is heart-broken. As expected, the comment section was rife with sexist remarks. Both men and women were quick to judge the man and say things like:

“How can a man be heartbroken?”

“Do you listen to RnB songs? Gangstas don’t play that shit. They listen to rap.”

“Real men aren’t emotional.”

“Only weak men cry over a lady.”

I had to ask, why can’t a man be emotional and cry over a woman? Is there any law out there that forbids anyone with the male genitalia from crying? I mean, if it is therapeutic for him, he should go ahead and do the needful – there’s no shame in that.

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According to Wikipedia, sexism can affect any gender but it is particularly documented as affecting only women and girls. And this is evident in the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to rescue the 219 Chibok girls that were abducted by Boko Haram. There’s no mention of the young boys that are also victims of such abduction or sex trafficking.

Women, not only men, also perpetrate domestic and intimate partner violence, falsely accuse men of rape and other devious acts, molest/sexually harass young boys and commit paternity fraud. Even cancers affecting women get more attention than those affecting men.

Despite all these risks men face, support services for men are almost non existent compared to services for women. There are also ministries for women affairs, but none for men, in the UN and virtually all Nigerian Governments both at Federal and State Level.

Like I aforementioned, our society upholds sexist attitude, directly or indirectly, through the media, culture and/or education. Despite the patriarchal nature of our society, every child, whether male or female, is instilled with a woman’s point of view. The boys are taught to protect and give the ladies special treatment as the head of the family whilst the girls, in total submission to men, are taught to expect preferential treatment from men.

If there’s any justice in the world, no individual will be judged based on appearance and/or masculinity/femininity. Unfortunately, there is none.

Are Men Intimidated By Smart Women?

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Human sexuality has always been an interesting part of our existence. A person’s sexual orientation, which is heavily influenced by social norms and status quo, has an ample effect on their sexual interest/attraction for another person.

In recent times, it has become a norm to hear young Nigerian men and women declare their sexuality as sapiosexual – being attracted to or sexually aroused by intelligence and its use. However, when critically analysed, are we really sapiosexual?

According to a friend, most Nigerian men aren’t sapiosexual; they feel intimidated by smart women. This echoes the recent findings of researchers at the University of Buffalo, California Lutheran University, and the University of Texas at Austin which showed that men are sapiosexual in theory and usually lose interest in smart women after encountering them.

Interestingly, there is an iorta of truth in both opinions. I do like smart women, however, there’s much more going on than merely a meeting of the minds.

Naturally, intelligence often comes with a certain amount of arrogance, pride, autocracy and being opinionated. In this clime, some smart women exhibit sheer arrogance and a dire need to be an authority in the relationship. And this is what often scares Nigerian men away not the lady’s smartness.

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Masculinity often comes with a big ego as well as social and hierarchial dominance. As a consequence, anything that puts men in danger of having their ego bruised or losing their territory makes them scamper and run for the hills.

This doesn’t mean that the man is weak or intimidated by a smart woman – even though in most cases it appears so. In dating, we are being evaluated on far more than our most attractive traits. And as aforementioned, there seems to be a strong correlation between our attractive traits and some unattractive traits.

For example, it is still an enigma why women turn down nice guys. American singer, Mary J Blige said in her song, Mr Wrong Good guys ain’t no fun.” A female friend went further to succinctly explain it. She said good guys have a certain mentality – things should be easy for me because I’m good mentality. The same applies to smart women. Smart women have a similar type of mentality – I am a strong woman who is not scared of sharing my opinion. If you can’t handle this strong woman, you are weak.

Men do value intelligence as much as women value nice guys. Women want nice guys who exude masculine energy and scoof at the constant need for others’ approval whilst men do want an intelligent woman who gives them warmth, affection and peace of mind thus making their lives easier and more pleasant.

Human relationships require social and emotional intelligence, which are based on viewing people through the lens of their own social and emotional needs. Nevertheless, many people focus their attention inward instead of outward. As a result, they find it hard and painful to acknowledge that their strong traits are often accompanied by significant downsides. If you are smart, opinionated and domineering, don’t be surprised if some of your actions turn people off.

P.S. these things go both ways. Some ladies are too awed by a smart man’s intellect and demeanour that they lose interest. They want someone who completes them and sometimes a smart person lacks the qualities they seek in a partner.

My Youth and Other Unfortunate Things

                           by Moji Ogunkanmi

The Guardian recently did a Lagos week . For a whole week the spotlight was our struggle and chaotic existence. They highlighted something that has been bugging me for some time now. It seems to me that since my move back to Nigeria, my status in society has been devalued.

The bases for my sudden demotion are personal characteristics I never really noticed; but these have now become very familiar because for some reason, people feel the constant need to verbally remind of my new rank. The first charge brought by Nigerian society against me is that I am unmarried.

Although, I have never seen marriage as an achievement or essential for my existence, it turns out that the general consensus on the matter in Nigeria is quite the opposite. I am yet to acquire a spouse; therefore, I am not a full human being. Surely, as I am yet to tie myself up to another individual and embark on the last legal form slavery, I cannot be a responsible person.

Secondly, I am a woman. That is self-explanatory so I will spare you an exhaustive treatise on sexism in Nigeria.

The third and final abhorrent issue is my age. I am young, therefore, I cannot formulate coherent thought. I have no intellect of my own as only older people can think. I am young so only a fool would take what I say seriously. I am young so I might as well be invisible. I have moved from a society where my youth is admired and celebrated to one that sees it as nothing.

I refuse to be dismissed as a negligible citizen. My youth is my greatest asset to this country. Unlike the older generation, I don’t carry around in my pocket the tribal and political pains that have caused much terror in the past. I see Nigeria as a clean canvas for whatever we want to paint it to be.

Furthermore, it’s rather obvious that in Nigeria age has no bearing on wisdom. The older generation has had over fifty years to make their mark; yet they seem to have achieved nothing except one mess upon another, and they are still leading us in no clear direction. It’s about time those grandparents and great-grandparents take the overfed bellies home, sit down and chew kola nut.

Let a younger generation with greater strength, fresher minds, youthful optimism and clarity of vision take the wheel. Too many talents are wasted simply because older people refuse to let go. More room needs to be made for clean fresh air in this country.  Then again, I’m probably misguided. After all, I am young, unmarried and a woman.

Moji Ogunkanmi is a recent Natural Sciences graduate from University College London who recently took up writing as a healthy outlet for all the confusion and frustration that came with moving back to Nigeria from the UK. She writes on her own blog, RationalNigerian. This post is in line with today’s International Women’s Day celebration. To all the strong women out there trying to make it happen in an unbalanced world, Jisike!