Nigerians have perfected the art of making life choices based on other people’s oppression/impression of them; The Art of Keeping up Appearances. There are some people who have what I call “Chameleon vision”: their eyes can rotate to see what others all around them are doing, and quickly move to conform as seen. Make a conscious decision to develop central vision and focus on what’s best for YOU and you will discover some things are REALLY unnecessary. Not those shoes or that party. Your friends will not laugh because you declined to go out with them due to low funds; they will laugh at your obvious struggle to impress.
May our “friends” not be the death of us—Amen. Most people think peer pressure is something that ends when the clock strikes twelve and you turn twenty years. Sadly, this isn’t so. Our friends’ impression of us can dictate our life choices, old or young, positively or negatively.
- If you know you cannot afford those shoes as well as dinner tonight and for the next five days, then don’t go to the mall with your friends who can! Their spending will just make you bring out your card also.
- If you know you can’t afford Peruvian, honestly just rock your Supreme Ultimate with pride! I mix it up all the time; very few people can tell. And even if they do, so? You paid honest money for your weave.
- If your friend is married and you’re still single, it’s okay! And if all your friends are married with children, it’s okay to not go out with them, if you can’t help but feel bitter when they start talking about nannies, summer vacations and their husbands’ promotions at work.
- If you know you can’t afford to go to lunch with your colleagues, to that Thai restaurant whose food you can hardly pronounce, it is okay to look for the nearest Buka and eat rice and ofada stew! Eat it with so much relish that your colleagues will want to follow you on your next lunch break.
- If you are late for that interview and there’s traffic, it’s okay to jump on an Okada! Don’t sit in that hot cab and worry about who will see you. Your job or ten minutes in a Jincheng?
- It really is okay to say ‘No’ when a friend asks for money. If you can’t afford it at the time, please don’t discomfort yourself just because said friend considers you a ‘Big Girl/Boy’.
- You are still living in a rented apartment, and saving towards a home with your fiancée, but a group of friends intend to charter a jet to Vegas for the weekend. It is okay to say, “You know what guys? Not this year”. Let them laugh. They will still show up at your house-warming.
Wedding seasons are a blurry of invitations, hen-nights and Aso-ebi colours. And it is easy to get overwhelmed, stressed, and yes, broke even when it is not your wedding.
- You can’t afford Aso-ebi for your friend’s wedding? It’s okay to say no! Why be in debt over a wedding that isn’t yours?
- If you know you can’t afford the ten thousand naira all the bride’s friends have to contribute towards the bridal shower party, it’s okay to say you aren’t going! N10k so you can eat a piece of cake and sip champagne? When you’ve not paid your bills? Prioritize please!
- All your classmates are contributing towards a snazzy gift for the couple or souvenirs to be shared at the reception, and your wallet is not exactly smiling at the moment; it is okay to gift something you can afford, or offer your services on the wedding day. Like helping out with serving or if you’re a caterer for instance, helping with the cooking for the house guests. Be thoughtful in your giving, not foolish.
- Don’t blame your friend for wanting a destination wedding in Dubai, or an out of town wedding. If you cannot afford travel expenses without living on Indomie for the next 2 years, it’s okay to not attend! Send him/her a gift, or use work as an excuse to avoid going even. But don’t incur debt to impress anyone. No one cares, really. This moment isn’t about you.
- And are you the bride/groom? It really is okay to have a small wedding with 100 people. This is YOUR life and YOUR financial future. Don’t let anyone, even your parents tell you different.
My friend’s younger sister once told me she wanted to go to a party in Lekki. Meanwhile, she lived in Alausa. So I asked her: how are you going? She said by taxi. Who with? Just her. Who does she know at the party? No one. I asked her to sit her silly self at home.
Living in big cities like Lagos, Atlanta, Abuja, etc, the desire to impress our peers and even strangers in social interactions is at an unbelievable high. So we buy dresses we can barely afford, get in cabs and go to events that bring us no personal value whatsoever.
- You survive on the NYSC stipend, so why get in a taxi, pay N4000 to commute to the island and N5000 to get back to your home in Ikeja, just to go see a N1500 movie at Silverbird? It’s okay to buy popcorn and invite your friends to watch a DVD at home.
- Why dress up and go to an event you have not been personally invited to, with zero knowledge of if you will meet anyone you know, or if networking opportunities are available for your business/brand? Why are you there?
- Why spend a whole month’s salary to buy an outfit, borrow some extra money to do your hair and transport yourself to an event just to get photographed on the red carpet, in the hopes of appearing in ThisDay Style or on BN? It really is okay to not honour every invitation you receive.
- Why dress up EVERY weekend, go clubbing, only to get bored, get irritated by the cigarette smoke, come home and crawl into bed reeking of sweat and stale smoke. It’s okay to put your radio on and dance in your house. Seriously.
- If you know you can’t afford to pop bottles or buy shots, it is okay to drink water with a slice of lemon. Or stay home.
One of the biggest mistakes I made when starting my company was getting involved in a venture because a friend talked me into it. I had made the commitment to invest, but even when it became clear to me that this venture may not go as expected, I still went ahead and put my money in it. Why? Because I didn’t want my friend to think I was broke. Too often we make decisions so that our friends will think a certain way of us, even when it is clear that they are the wrong decisions. I lost a lot of money, my parents haven’t let me forget till this day, and since then I have realised that I could have just backed out and I would still have my money. Many bad situations can be avoided if we realise it really is okay to say ‘No’, forget what anyone else thinks.
I love this saying: “Spend life with the people who make you happy, not the people who you have to impress.” Make a decision today to avoid people and even places that will oppress you to impress unnecessarily. Exercise your right to say ‘No’ today. It is Okay, really.
Have a beautiful week!