Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Forget About Likeability

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I always find that the conversations I have with some of my very close friends are interesting. Their views and opinions on life always leave me with something to think about, regardless of whether I agree with their perspectives or not. One thing that many of my friends struggle with (which admittedly) I struggle with too; is this idea of being likeable or liked by people.

Everyone wants to be liked to some degree. Though you may never admit this part of you exists, I think we all have it in us. Oprah Winfrey addressed this issue as she stated that over the years of doing ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’, the one question that every person she ever interviewed would ask is, ‘was I good enough?’ It didn’t matter how powerful the person she was interviewing was, they all wanted to feel like they had done a great job on the show and provided some meaningful content that would be received well by the public.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has an elegant sneaky way of tackling some of these topics and finding the words to describe what we battle with daily. She is also responsible for the whole “feminist movement” on Beyonce’s song; “flawless” where excerpts from Adichie’s Ted Talk were used in the song. In the Ted Talk Adichie spoke candidly about how women, particularly African women, tend to be treated in society. It was a well balanced argument that also made reference to how women can be catty towards each other and how this behavior does not help.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

In the video below, she talks about something that isn’t particularly new. However, I think it is important, more so for creative professionals, as their careers often involve creating content that is made public and critiqued to assess its ‘likeability.’ She made reference to how hard it can be for some women to be honest when telling their stories because of the fear of offending people.

“I think that what our society teaches young girls, and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women and self-professed feminists to shrug off, is that idea that likeability is an essential part of you, of the space you occupy in the world, that you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes to make yourself likeable, that you’re supposed to hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy, because you have to be likeable,” she said as she accepted an award at the 2015 Girls Write Now awards ceremony.

“So what I want to say to young girls is forget about likability. If you start off thinking about being likable you are not going to tell your story honestly, because you are going to be so concerned with not offending… And that’s going to ruin your story, so forget about likability. And also the world is such a wonderful, diverse, and multifaceted place that there’s somebody who’s going to like you; you don’t need to twist yourself into shapes,” said Adichie.

Despite that her talk is addressing young girls; I think young men can also relate to this issue. I believe it is a universal problem regardless of gender. Males deal with it but are often afraid to raise their hand and admit where they are struggling and instead mask it with arrogance and pride. 

I hope you enjoy the video below as much as I did and look forward to some discussions relating to this topic.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Really enjoyed this post, Nyarai. I think it’s something that needs to be talked about more; how we hold ourselves back for fear of being judged. My only critique is that I wish your post was longer! Keep up the good content

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