Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie dropped some major 'likeability' wisdom for women everywhere
Last week, Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was honored at the third annual Girls Write Now Awards in New York City. For those who are less familiar, Adichie is the author of bestselling novel Americanah and the woman behind the TED Talk We Should All Be Feminists, which has been watched over two million times on YouTube and has even been adapted into a book. That said, the Nigerian writer is probably best known for being sampled in Beyoncé’s ***Flawless.
In her incredible acceptance speech, Adichie discussed how important it is that as women, we remember that our voices matter, and that our self-worth isn’t dependent upon our likability. She goes on to discuss how, as women, we’re often conditioned to put others’ needs first, and to do whatever is in our power not to offend people. But in doing this, we are shrinking ourselves and our voices — and we need to challenge the impulse.
“I think it’s important to tell your story truthfully, and I think that’s a difficult thing to do — to be truly truthful,” Adichie said. “Because it’s only natural to be concerned about offending people or possible consequences.”
Adichie suggests that worrying about whether others will approve of what we have to say will only get in the way of how we tell our stories. Her overall message was all kinds of empowering, and had us feeling like we could (and should) take on the world.
“If you start off thinking about being likable you’re not going to tell your story honestly because you’re going to be so concerned with not offending and that’s going to ruin your story. Forget about likability,” she said.
“I think that what our society teaches young girls — and I think it’s also something that’s quite difficult for even older women, self-confessed feminists to shrug off — is that idea that likability is an essential part of the space that you occupy in the world,” she continued. “That you’re supposed to twist yourself into shapes and make yourself likable, that you’re supposed to kind of hold back sometimes, pull back, don’t quite say, don’t be too pushy, because you have to be likable. And I say that is bulls–t.”
Adichie’s speech is 100. While we’re in complete support of practicing kindness and empathy always, it’s important to remember that applies just as much to ourselves as it does to others. Our voices and our stories matter, and we deserve to tell them truthfully. We shouldn’t let the fear of likability get in the way of speaking our truth. Part of why Adichie’s own work resonates with so many is because of its honesty, and sometimes, that means disagreement — and that’s totally OK.
“[The Girls Write Now Awards] was a night honoring women who paved the way for our girls to break through boundaries, both in life and in writing, to realize their promise and the possibilities of change,” the organization’s website reads — and we can think of few women as deserving as Adichie. Watch the speech in its entirety for yourself below. It’s an inspiration. So is she.