A saying can cut to the core of an issue and provide insight and advice to the listener, in Africa our body of knowledge was stored in stories, music and sayings.
The truth is always the truth, in any era the same principles apply; take this saying for example.
What does it mean to you? It applies to so many situations and has differing meanings. The other day as I was in a party and a friend said “I need to borrow your car to impress this chick” and in a reflex I responded “You can’t use another man’s teeth to smile.”
It reminded me of when I was a lovesick teenager and borrowed a motorbike to impress a young fine thing, only to crash it and fall out with a friend.
It often strikes me that some people will do anything to look successful; they will beg, steal or borrow to keep up with the rest.
What should ultimately matter is what someone thinks of themselves as opposed to what others think, but human beings are social animals and as such they want to fit in.
We need aspiration in society in order to advance, there is nothing wrong with that but we need to be more realistic in our outlook.
Kigali is sometimes a farce; everyone knows how much everyone has, where they got it from and still the charade persists.
A young man tweets his car alarm just to show you he recently received a loan at an exorbitant rate, and proceeded to invest it in a depreciating asset.
But the looks of adoration make it worth it, suddenly your blackberry is ringing off the hook with people who “don’t know what you do exactly but want to do business with you.”
In life sometimes, you have to believe it before you see it, you have to create a reality and solidly believe in it before anyone can believe in you. However, behind this hype must be something of substance – you have to smile with your own teeth.
People always have a dual-identity, with one based on how people perceive them and second one based on how they perceive themselves.
One has to believe in the inner you before others can accept you, but most of us seek validation in others. Rudyard Kipling wrote that one should treat success and failure as the same imposter; the same goes with criticism and flattery.
I receive several emails a day concerning my articles, some complimentary, others insulting, most are fair but they reflect the wide range of opinion out there.
Recently a friend of mine, who had been very supportive in helping me finding my writing style, criticised my punctuation and grammar; for a writer that is like murder or telling a Mathematician that he can’t add.
It really hurt me and I even had a crisis of confidence where I lost the will to write, which is rare for me.
I called my old English teacher in UK and informed her that the grammar she taught me was incorrect, no matter how much she reassured me, I was convinced I was a bad writer and a fraud.
I made the mistake of taking the flattery at face value, when someone flatters you they have reasons for doing so; then tomorrow they’ll say something nasty and all those compliments then look false.
People will always tell you that you have bad teeth and you should get new ones or improve them but if you did, it wouldn’t be your smile.
I guess the best lesson I take from that is - be yourself because you can’t be anybody else.