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Chineze Aina: Grow A Spine



To grow a spine means to acquire strength of character. It also means making choices that someone with self-respect will make.

Didi calls her boyfriend, Sunny, for the umpteenth time. He repeatedly ends the calls and she gets the “line is busy” message. Many hours later, he does pick, sounding bored and mumbling that he is busy. A lump forms in her throat, but she soldiers on, tries to make conversation. After some seconds, he cuts her short, says, “Please, go straight to the point.” Didi knows their situation is all shades of wrong, but has never addressed her concerns with him.

Akaa prepares to join the staff bus at 5 PM then receives several more emails. They are all from Ahmed, his boss, and all the emails are flagged as urgent. The time is 5:05 PM already. Akaa is distraught. This has become his truth. Leaving the office close to 10 PM daily. He knows the long work hours is killing, but lacks the courage to approach his boss for fear of upsetting his “Oga.”

Both Didi and Akaa urgently need to grow a spine. For Didi, it’s the fear of losing Sunny and starting over with another man. For Akaa, it is the fear of losing his job, or not being liked in a workplace where being liked goes a long way in determining longevity and protection.

Developing a resolute character is part of growing a spine. It is an ability to stand up to someone or a situation more than once, if need be, to be consistently audacious. Also, note that growing a spine is not the same as losing tact or becoming reckless in our actions.

How do you know you need to grow a spine?

  • Do you often think people are out to get you?
  • Do you crumble when you get criticized?
  • Do you spend your day complaining about other people?
  • Do you worry about what others think about you?
  • Do you steer the day in the direction you want or do you let the day rule you?
  • Are you an inflexible, unkind and rarely empathetic person?
  • Do your actions not match your goals?
  • Do you let others dissuade or distract you from doing the things you planned to do?
  • Do you let your self be humane without feeling manipulated?
  • Do you avoid all risk, even small ones?

If you responded YES to more 5 of these questions, you may need to urgently grow a backbone – a spine.

How to Grow A Spine
You must first admit that you are spineless, even if this admission is to no one else but yourself.

Make a small decision and stand by it. This helps in no small way. There is nothing more refreshing than a consistent person.

Become more emotionally intelligent. Self-awareness and an awareness of others help us manage our emotions and create results. You have to know yourself, your limits, your triggers.

Always take note. Keep a journal. Keeping notes helps you recall the things you promised to do, the things that bothered you, made you happy.

Crystalize the decisions you need to make to get you to where you want to go, and take action.

Remove trivialities from your priority list.

Always ask the why. Do not accept the status quo.

Seek out people who function successfully, who get the results that you seek.

Do not succumb to intimidation. When people make statements like “What were you thinking?” “We are not sure you can do this,” do not believe them. That’s why it’s important that you know yourself, your strengths and find ways to find your power.

Growing a spine requires asking some salient questions: Who really am I? What is important to me? What do I want? If we do not examine issues and we fail to put particular emphasis on our goals, we’ll be pushed around by what is crucial to others.

Why Should I Grow A Spine?
When you grow a spine, you will not be afraid of showing both your good and bad sides, accepting our flaws and strengths. You will quickly stop putting yourself down with negative self-criticism and develop self-compassion.

People who know what they want put out a better quality of work, and self-evaluate and move on in life with fewer regrets. You will dare to be different without losing sleep over the opinion of others. You will also enjoy life!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Chineze lives in Lagos with her husband and 3 young children. She is excited to connect on twitter @ChinezeAnuli, Instagram @chinezeaina and Medium


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