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self-pos·ses·sion

[self-puh-zesh-uhn]

noun

the quality of being self-possessed; control of one’s feelings, behavior, etc.; composure; poise.

 

I first encountered the term “self-possession” when I fell in love with all things french years ago and began reading all those why-French-women-are-more-confident-than-American-women books. The key to the French woman’s allure, according to all these books, is her “self-possession.” As described in Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl,

If you strip away the stereotypes and contradictions about her, one of the fundamental qualities associated with the French girl is her sense of self-possession. She is entirely, unequivocally self-contained. She is focused on living her own full life, following her own agenda and cultivating her actual self, rather than reinventing herself or pining away to be someone she’s not.

Out of everything I learned from these books — buy classic clothes, Original Pink 80db 80db Original Braxton Braxton TRCwHU, watch your portion sizes, slow down when you eat, drink good wine, etc, etc — self-possession is the one concept I always come back to when I think of my growth as a woman. Yeah, I’m improving my wardrobe, yeah I’m eating better, yeah I’m working out…but is my appreciation for my quirks and imperfections growing? Am I cultivating my unique gifts and talents? Am I growing a stronger sense of myself?

One of the reasons (among thousands) that I don’t watch Real Housewives of Wherever or Basketball Groupies Wives (?) of [Insert City] is because above all, the women demonstrate exactly what it means NOT to have a sense of self-possession as a woman. With their incessant fighting, desperately revealing attire, and overall lack of life goals, you can tell that they never took time to cultivate and find value in who they are which is why they are so wild and lost in their behavior.

Though you will rarely find women displaying self-possession on reality TV, examples of truly poised and self-confident women are out there. Here are a few of my favorite “self-possessed” women and the lesson I learn from them:

Shirt Man 2017 Blue Home City Ladies Nike 2018 Gabi Gregg

Last night, I was surfing the interwebs while on the couch (you know, being my highly productive self…) when I stumbled up Gabi Gregg’s blog, GabiFresh.com.

It had been a while since I had visited her blog — I remember first discovering her back in 2009 when the blog was “Young, Fat and Fabulous.” Though I enjoyed her outfit posts back then and thought the blog’s mission to showcase plus size fashion was cool, I never became a regular reader because at the time, I erroneously thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to her adventures in fashion since I’m not plus size.

When I was surfing through her post last night, however, I was able to appreciate her blog with new eyes. As I scrolled through her posts, checking out all the cool stuff she’s involved in, the fun outfits she wears, and how she plays with makeup, one thing became clear:  Gabi has the guts to love herself just as she is.

She ignores societal pressure and chooses to celebrate, indulge and revel in the very characteristic she is “supposed to be” ashamed of: her large figure. To me this was very inspiring!

Tracee Ellis Ross

Tracee Ellis Ross is the Queen of self-possession to me. By having Diana Ross as mother, it would have been all to easy for Tracee to shrink behind her mother’s legacy. Instead, Tracee has always blazed her own path, of which I’ve always admired.

She not only has a strong sense of style, but a quirky yet thoughtful personal philosophy that seems to permeate all that she does. One of my favorite blog post of her’s that captures this is “A Culture Confused by Fake Boobs,” a post about why she chooses not to wear a bra on occasion. How self-confident is that!

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Esperanza Spalding

Esperanza Spalding is not only a musical genius but also a great example of what it means to be a self-possessed young woman. As a 29 year old, Grammy winning bass player, I love that Esperanza has dedicated her LIFE to cultivating her interest and what she is good at — jazz music. Just from her interviews and comments about her music, I get the impression that she has never desired to be something she is not — not a pop star, not a video vixen, not a R&B diva — she just seems so happy getting better at being herself.

One of my favorite songs by Esperanza, Precious, explains this defiantly “I am who I am” sentiment exactly:

I’m not gonna sit around
And waste my precious divine energy
Trying to explain and being ashamed
Of what you think is wrong with me…

Lessons in Self-Possession

Inspired by Gabi Gregg

Instead of thinking in terms of perfect vs. imperfect when it comes to who you are, think in terms of “mine” vs. “not mine.” Acknowledge the positive characteristics that are yours and own them. Don’t stress about who or what you aren’t (i.e. things that aren’t “yours”) — celebrate who you are!

Inspired by Tracee Ellis Ross

Take time to cultivate your own ideas and develop your own personal approach to life. Don’t be afraid to be a little quirky! Maintain a strong sense of self!

Inspired by Esperanza Spalding

Instead of trying to become someone else, seek to refine who you already are. Master your own unique gifts and talents. Forge your own path.

***

Talk to Me:

What does “self-possession” mean to you? Do you think it’s something worth striving for?

Photo Credits: 1. via, 2. Madrid Originals 2016 2015 Ucl White Home Adidas Real Shirt Football xISqwqA, 3. via, 4. via

 

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