What Female Trailblazers like Cicely Tyson Teach Us About Confidence
Did you see the November 2017 cover of Elle magazine featuring the timeless beauty of Ms. Cicely Tyson? Cicely Tyson captured my heart as a pre-teen after viewing The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman for the first time. Lady Tyson was more than fashion fierce on that cover. She epitomized the regal finesse of a woman who had learned to own and love the fullness of her identity and all that made her beautiful. That confidence rooted in a holistic approach to beauty, self-awareness, and self-love had me jealous. I’ve seen that same graceful swagger in the leading ladies of my life, and I’ve decided to turn that jealousy into curiosity.
I don’t when it happened for Cicely, but something happens to the women in my tribe when they turn 60. On the advent of their 60th year around the sun, I have watched female elders I love embrace their golden season of life with a clarity of voice and identity that I find myself coveting now.
Sexagenarian women I know are done with kowtowing, mincing words, and tap dancing to someone else’s beat. These women offer no sugar-laced words to make the medicine of their truth more palatable to those who struggle to hear them. They are no longer tacit with their beliefs and convictions. They do not hold their tongues, or temper their words out of fear of rejection or being disliked. It is as if turning 60 is a rebirth of sorts, a rites of passage space in which truth is told straight with no chaser. At 60, these women have the boundaries of what they need, deserve, and want crystal clear and explicitly defined. For the women in my tribe, 60 is a pinnacle place of self-awareness and with awareness…acceptance, and with acceptance…love. In this space, they are living the lessons learned from the school of hard knots and readily share nuggets of truth gleaned from the baptismal pool of experiential learning. In this bold space of seasoned living, liberation, and love, female leaders I know talk less of the fires they have been through and say things like ‘Girl, I AM fire’.
I realize that for many of these women, this was not always so. Many women in my life had to live a self-edited existence. Most had limited spaces where they could unfurl the fullness of who they were without shame, ridicule, or worse. These women came of age under norms that socialized them to think that being direct was antithetical to being gracious and being clear the equivalent of being abrasive and rude. The progression of identity I get to see in their 60’s is often on the backside of significant trauma and pain.
I’ve been meditating on this phenomenon of personal freedom in my own 40th year around the sun. I believe witnessing the self-awareness and self-love of elders in my life is a gift. In their freedom, I am encouraged to nurture and embrace unadulterated self-love and awareness NOW. Please don’t mistake this celebration of self and voice a reason to operate with diarrhea of the mouth or ‘hoof in mouth’ disease. However, I believe for all of us, there is a freedom that comes from being direct and clear. There is a power in saying what we mean and meaning what we say…the first time. There is a wholeness that emerges from not having someone else speak for you, but owning your innate endowment to speak your own truth.
Today I am thankful for the Cicely’s, Marguerite’s, Marie’s, and others who have given me glimpses of their freedom and confidence to inspire my own.