This is one of those books we all need on the shelf, especially for now… Luvvie Ajayi Jones was once afraid to call herself a writer because she was afraid of the title. She nearly skipped out on doing a TED talk that changed her life because of imposter syndrome. And, as she shares in The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker, she’s not alone.
The blurb says:
We’re all afraid. We’re afraid of asking for what we want because we’re afraid of hearing “no.” We’re afraid of being different, of being too much or not enough. We’re afraid of leaving behind the known for the unknown. But in order to do the things that will truly, meaningfully change our lives, we have to become professional troublemakers: people who are committed to not letting fear talk them out of the things they need to do or say to live free.
I LOVE that phrase, ‘professional trouble maker’!
Getting over the fear that was holding her back, Luvvie’s work as a culture critic and activist has brought her much acclaim – she was selected as a part of Oprah Winfrey’s inaugural SuperSoul 100 list, as someone who elevates humanity.
With humor and honesty, and guided by the influence of her professional troublemaking Nigerian grandmother, Funmilayo Faloyin, in The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker Luvvie walks us through what we must get right within ourselves before we can do the things that scare us; how to use our voice for a greater good; and how to put movement to the voice we’ve been silencing-because truth-telling is a muscle. Her point is not to be fearless, but to know we are afraid and charge forward regardless. It is to recognize that the things we must do are more significant than our fears. This book is about how to live boldly in spite of all the reasons we have to cower.
Luuvie is the MOST inspiring motivational speaker, and I think can speak best for herself, so here is 10 minutes of Luvvie to give you a little inspiration on this Saturday morning…
And in her own words….
We fear being perceived as arrogant.
We spend our lives trying to be humble and modest, because we’ve been told that to do otherwise is to think we’re superior to others. We dedicate a lot of time to ensuring that nobody can accuse us of being too proud. A part of me is all, “Yes, let’s keep perspective and stay grounded.” An‑ other part of me is like HUMILITY CAN GO TO HELL. LET THESE HOES HAVE IT.
Sometimes you gotta show up, show out, and let people know that you have arrived, so they gotta make room.
There is an oft‑posted quote that says, “Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man.” In the previous chapter, I talk about having some of their gumption, but I don’t wanna carry myself in the way they do it cuz that confidence is bland AF. It might be ballsy but it doesn’t come with much swag. Instead, I want us to carry ourselves with the confidence of an older West African woman who has been through some things, come through on the other side, and doesn’t look like what she’s been through. A thousand useless goats can’t tell them nothing.
My grandma was the queen of Smell the Roses While Here. What does that mean? It means that woman was not shy about accepting any and all love sent her way. Growing up with her, I saw what it was like to be unapologetic about how awesome you are. It wasn’t that she was arrogant or went around to people declaring how amaz‑ ing she was. Nah. She didn’t have to. But others made sure they told her how incredible she was. And not only did she say thank you, she also sat in the compliment and let it fill her heart up. She didn’t run from it, make excuses for it, or diminish herself in an attempt to seem as humble as she was supposed to be.
Mama Faloyin loved the Lord with all her heart. And like many Black grandmas around the diaspora, she had a main line directly to Jesus and his holy posse. So, on Sundays, where would you find her? In church, of course. She was a staunch Christian, and specifically a member of a denomination called Cherubim and Seraphim (C&S). Actually, correction: She was a prophetess at the church. No no. I’m not giving her all the glory yet. Her official title was the Most Senior Mother‑in‑Israel Prophetess Faloyin. I want you to read that again. My grandma had a certificate from the church crowning her as THE MOST Senior Mother‑in‑Israel Prophetess Faloyin. I laugh about how things and people do the most, but she literally WAS the most. I don’t even know what that whole title actually means, but if there’s one thing Nigerians love, it is grand titles. The longer, the better. The more grandiose, the better.
Members of the C&S church wore white gowns, prioritized praise and worship, and therefore spent five hours at each church service. My grandma herself contributed to making each service at least thirty minutes longer. Lemme tell you why.
Service started at 10 a.m. Praise and worship went on for about thirty minutes. Then Grandma would show up at around 10:30. (Be‑ cause why should she be on time? A WHOLE her.) When the pastor and choir learned that she was outside and ready to come in, EVERY‑ THING stopped. I’m talking record scratch. Stop the presses, and stop the singing. Her presence was then announced to the church as the doors opened, and a whole welcome committee met her by the doors to usher her in.
Then, music started playing and my grandma, like the perpetual holy bride of Christ that she was, made her way down the aisle danc‑ ing. As if that wasn’t extra enough, Grandma would dance five steps forward but stop to take two steps back, for true peppering and scat‑ tering! BRUH! She took her sweet time, and the mini‑carnival lasted all the way down the massive church till she took her place at the pew in the first row, at the seat only she could occupy. If doing the most was a sport, that lady was a Hall of Famer. Entrance theme music? Welcome committee? Interruption of services? Dancing for your life? CHECK CHECK CHECK CHECK.
The church insisted on doing this regularly, and Granny, not be‑ ing shy, protested minimally. She reveled in it. And that in itself is revolutionary behavior, in a world where you are not encouraged to celebrate yourself.
We do not all get a weekly celebration of our very presence via song and dance, but there is something to be said for how we would handle it if it ever came. Many of us don’t even know how to accept compliments. Someone tells us our shoes are cute and we’re quick to go, “These? Please. I just pulled them out the back of the closet,” when a simple “Thank you” could go a long way. People might tell us, “You look amazing,” and we go, “Nah, you.” There is, of course, nothing wrong with exchanging compliments, but how often do we do it because we are uncomfortable with being praised? How often do WE praise ourselves after doing something great? How often do we sit in the good vibes of someone SEEING us, acknowledging it and sending some words to prove it? We don’t get a gift for being the most self‑deprecating in a room. Or being the one who can make fun of ourselves best. We have mastered that. Now I want us to master the art of owning our dopeness.
What I learned from my Grandmother is how to allow myself to be truly celebrated. Women, especially, have been told that humility is a required character trait. And somehow, that humility has been turned into perpetual self‑deprecation. We’ve been convinced that the more we downplay our awesomeness, the better the world is. As if knowing we’re the shit is somehow a threat to climate change. As if us accepting celebration of our wondrous ways makes gas prices go up. As if know‑ ing we wake up and piss excellence is a cause of world hunger.
This permeates everything we do and how we move through the world. When you are not used to owning your dopeness, odds are you’re actually covering up how amazing you are. We’re not gassing up ourselves like we should, and how does that show up? It means we end up selling ourselves short.Extract from The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker
Be amazing, be the domino that Luuvie talks about in her TED talk (just one of many, watch them all!) – and find more out about her here. She’s the very personification of awesome 🙂
(c) Sam Blake
Luvvie Ajayi Jones is the author of the New York Times bestseller, I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, and The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker, which was released in March 2021.
A 17-year blogging veteran, Luvvie writes on AwesomelyLuvvie.com, covering all things culture with a critical yet humorous lens. She is the host of the top-rated podcast Rants & Randomness and is the co-host of Jesus & Jollof with actress and comedian Yvonne Orji. Luvvie also runs her own social platform, LuvvNation, which is a safe space in a dumpster fire world.
Grab your copy of The Fear-Fighter Manual: Lessons from a Professional Troublemaker by clicking the link.