I Rejected Everything and Created My Own Thing

by Michelle Smith

Never enough
Never black enough
Never emotional enough
Never strong enough
Never deep enough
Never liberal enough
Never woman enough

Learned that from an early age
My light bright, almost white, high yellow, anything but black skin tone
I had to learn to live with it
But my eyes and my hair and my heritage even
Learned to deny every part of me until there was nothing left to embrace

“But your hair…”
Never straight enough
Never kinky enough
Never curly enough
Never good enough
Never brown… red… dark… light enough
Never natural enough

“See you can go natural ‘cause you have ‘good hair’…”
Never sympathetic enough
Never hard enough
Never pretty enough
Never plain enough
Never enough

Because my eyes were too damn bright
Too damn hazel
Too damn innocent
Even when I wasn’t trying
My eyes made me too open. 
I saw everything.
Carried secrets hidden behind those “Um, she think she cute” hazel brown eyes.
Tried to deny them, "It’s my dad’s genes"
Attempted to deny me
Because my hair was too long… 
My eyes too bright… 
My skin too damn light

And I couldn’t love Assata, Ruby Dee, Malcolm, Huey, Angela and Ida B
Because they weren’t me… 
I wasn’t black enough
And then I became too black
And Angela looked like me, but I couldn’t love her and country music
I couldn’t love her and Oprah
I couldn’t read about Gandhi and Assata

Tried to find my blackness bottled in hatred for myself 
And any person that wasn’t darker than me…
There is no acceptance in hatred
No peaceful hiding place… 
No "look at myself in the mirror and see I’m pretty" space

Never enough
Never woman enough
Never thin enough
Never sexual enough
Never celibate enough

It was too damn much!

So I did what I knew to do… 
What I always did
Even when I didn’t know I was doing it


Never enough
Never victim enough
Never survivor enough 
Never cry enough
Never laugh enough
Never scared enough
Never strong enough
Never enough

Even as I navigated victimhood
Sat in the midst of it
Consumed it for dinner
Carried it in my womb with the future children 
I was too afraid to admit I one day wanted to have…
Because I wouldn’t be able to protect them 
Carried the shame of victimhood to dinner at his table,
My 10… 13… 16 year old self
And the pain of knowing the secret behind my innocent eyes…
I couldn’t have possibly been abused I smile to damn much!

And the secret of knowing I would always be who I would never be
Was never enough
Never suicidal enough
Never depressed enough
Not even by my own standards

And I would cry, 
But my tears weren’t wet enough
My screams weren’t loud enough
My body wasn’t mine enough
I wasn’t forgiving enough,
So I couldn’t be Christian enough

And the reality of being real enough would cut through me 
But not deep enough
Never deep enough…
So I didn’t bleed enough
And that 4… 10… 15 year old girl could have said "no"
So it wasn’t really bad enough

And my addiction to whatever got me through
Was never enough


Learned to navigate this thing
Walk the line between two, three, six extremes
Learned to enlighten the darkness with strength
Black women are strong and strength is always enough
Enough to carry the burden of a life of people, of needs, of ideas, and things… 
And not drop it
Carry it on our heads, our shoulders, in our bellies, our hearts…
While it destroys our soul

But we are never strong enough to admit it
Never serious enough
Never cheerful enough
Never perfect enough
Too damn perfect
I was never enough
Not even for myself…
Until I saw myself


Saw my face was enough
My eyes were enough
My hair was enough
My skin tone was enough
My “sometimes I don’t like it, but mostly I do” body was enough
Recognized my own pain and found peace
Rejected the notion that I had to be strong and found strength
And in the midst of it I discovered that…

Who I AM is always enough.

Photo: Shutterstock

Michelle Smith is a philanthropist, social entrepreneur, and dreamer. She is the organizer of volunteer group, Washington's Biggest Givers, and considers both North Carolina and the Washington, D.C. area to be home.