In honor of “The Greatest” (Muhammad Ali) and to all of you, realize that you too can achieve your dreams and goals and as you travel on your journey in the pursuit of happiness, define yourself for yourself and be unapologetically you. Be original in all that you do! Take pride in the fact that you are unique and be your inspiration to keep rising to the top, knowing that one size does not fit all. Know and believe that you do not have to settle for mediocre because you deserve extraordinary!
What I admired most about Muhammad Ali was his love of life and all people, his unique style, belief in equality for all, how he stood firm in his convictions and his love of self. I admired the fact that he lived his life through his eyes and showed the world that when you have a strong sense of self, nothing and no one can stop you from reaching higher ground. Know that it is okay to be yourself, to be unique, to be different and do not be afraid of not being a part of the in crowd or clique. Muhammad Ali stood out from the crowd and did not allow anyone to force him to fit into a box. In an era where racism, colorism, inequality and injustices ran rampant, he stood firm in his convictions and his tenacity spoke volumes! In a society consumed with ignorance, hate, blindness, and exclusion, Muhammad Ali made the difference through a strong sense of self-worth and self-love.
We live in a society where many are consumed with embracing the culture of ignorance (Culbreth, 2015), the culture of hate (Culbreth, 2016), the culture of blindness (Culbreth, 2015), and the culture of exclusion (Culbreth, 2015) as opposed to embracing a culture of love, a culture of inclusion and a culture of respect. Know that regardless of who you are, where you come from, how you look, your socioeconomic status or education, etc., you may experience negativity from the haters, naysayers, envious and jealous people consumed with trying to pull the rug from under your feet. You may encounter others who are threatened by your intelligence, confidence and determination to reach higher ground. The key to effectively dealing with the haters, naysayers, envious and jealous people and others, is a strong sense of self. When you possess high levels of self-esteem, self-identity, self-pride and self-respect through love of self, you become empowered. No person, thing or situation will be able to break your stride, defer your dreams or diminish your hopes. The most amazing thing of all is when they shoot arrows to bring you down, you will be able to catch them in your hands and break them into pieces. The power of self-love!
When you truly love yourself with every fiber of your being, you transcend to an untouchable state of being, you are empowered and that self-empowerment will render you invincible to the poison of the aforementioned negative cultures and people. Your empowered state of being will automatically send a message to toxic people not to come for you unless you send for them and should the need arise where you need to send for them, they will think twice before coming. God’s favor, your faith, inner strength, confidence in yourself, and zero tolerance for any toxicity to permeate your space will shield you from the negativity – trust me! When you truly love yourself, have a strong sense of self, and truly know who you are, you will walk with a “can’t touch this” coat of armor. Your inner beauty, self-love, self-esteem, self-identify, self-pride, and self-respect, a/k/a your DIGNITY will radiate on the outside. Believe that you, like Muhammad Ali “can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” The only limitations that exist for you in achieving your goals and reaching higher ground are the limitations that you impose upon yourself. If you believe that the sky and beyond is the limit for you, then you must step out on grace and your faith will lift you higher. Dare to be different and dream in color! The power is within!
I loved the soundtrack from The Greatest (the original movie) and when I was younger, I often listened to The Greatest Love of All over and over again. Today, while listening to George Benson bellow out “I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe” (Masser and Creed, 1977) moved me emotionally. It was that one line that sent me on a journey of deep reflection. I realized that part of my foundation for trailblazing a unique path in all that I do was because I “never wanted to walk in anyone’s shadow.” I wanted to be able to say that I paved a path for myself and as noted in the song, whether I failed or succeeded, at the end of the day, I will always be able hold my head high with a smile knowing that I did what many would never dare to do. I had the audacity to create a space and pave a path where I found myself in a good place psychologically, emotionally, physically and socially, allowing my creativity to blossom in color. I had the audacity to stand firm in my convictions and not waver to appease the status quo. I had the audacity as a woman of color, to create unique projects designed to make a difference in the lives of people of color, to take a stand and address issues affecting girls and women of color, to blaze a trail, and be unapologetically driven to be a part of the change needed. I had the audacity to take a stand on injustices, inequality, racism, colorism, among other social ills. I had the audacity to believe in racial unity against all odds. I had the audacity to define myself for myself in my pursuit of happiness and as I keep rising to the top, my dreams and goals will continue to be my inspiration! Like Muhammad Ali, I had the audacity to love myself unconditionally and that self-love empowered me and made the difference. Know that self-love is “the greatest gift of all” (Masser and Creed, 1977).
Have the audacity to refuse to settle, to believe in your dreams and goals, to remove yourself from toxic people and environments, to take a stand against injustices, inequality, racism, bigotry, and colorism, to above all else, love yourself unconditionally. Have the audacity to know that when one door closes, you don’t have to wait for the next one to open. Buy wood, build a frame, install your own door, and when finished, open the door and walk into your space, pave your own path and begin your journey to higher ground. Muhammad Ali had the audacity to be “The Greatest” and he did so by paving his own path built on a foundation of a deep self-love.
Love yourself madly, find your passion in life, pursue your dreams, set realistic goals and be your inspiration to keep rising to the top! If you must, jump-start your journey into a deeply psychological, emotional, and physical discovery of learning to truly love yourself by standing in front of the mirror every morning and every evening and simply saying “I love you.” Mean it, believe it, begin focusing on really loving yourself, and it will come to pass. Most importantly, be confident in yourself and know that you do not need to be validated by anyone in order to have self-worth. Validate yourself by believing in you and by focusing on building high levels of self-love, self-esteem, self-identity, self-pride and self-respect and you too will achieve the “greatest love of all” (Masser and Creed, 1977).
Continue on your journey with great enthusiasm and a zest for life just like Muhammad Ali. “Live and breathe what you believe” (Masser and Creed, 1977). You will discover a renewed sense of self-love and become empowered to pave your unique path to greatness – to reach higher ground (that “special place”) and in doing so, be unapologetically unique in all that you do. Most importantly, remember “if, by chance that special place that you’ve been dreaming of, leads to a lonely place find your strength in love” (Masser and Creed, 1977).