As southern women, we are taught etiquette, grace, manners, poise and style from birth. These are the nuggets of wisdom that we were taught and that our grandmothers and mothers were taught by their matriarchs. And all this was done in preparation for our rite of passage into womanhood, where — come to think of it — many of us would receive our first strand of genuine pearls.
And as important as that first strand of pearls is to tradition and passing a torch to the next generation, I think it’s equally as important to discover what type of pearl you are — as an individual– and realizing your true value, not the world’s perceived value of you.
As southern women, we are born with a smile that comes with the same ease as saying hello to everyone you meet; saying yes sir or yes ma’am to every elder and having sweet tea running through our veins. These are just a few of the ingredients to creating not just a true southern belle, but also a beautiful, unique, highly prized pearl.
Our mothers and grandmothers taught us the art of cooking, keeping a clean home and other lessons that groomed us to be wives and mothers from the time we took our first steps. They handed down all the skills needed to make a happy home or give the illusion thereof.
With that singular, perfectly placed strand of pearls, we learned our place as women; how to be seen and not heard — to take the good with the bad and never complain. We learned to take care of our families and serve our church and community like it’s a full-time job. And all this was done while in four-inch heels, a dress, the perfect shade of lipstick and not a hair out of place. But amidst all that tradition and womanhood, many of us never took the time to acknowledge ourselves and our true worth.
Please understand, some of us can do this better than others, or so it would appear. Then one day we wake up and realize we have lost the most important thing along the way, self — the core of the highly valued and coveted pearl that we are.
Somewhere between being a child and having one, we forgot our own needs, desires and dreams. It doesn’t mean we don’t love our family and friends; we simply need to remember our own worth, because the pearl we truly are is more valuable than society’s appraisal of us.
Knowing that having goals and achieving them reminds us of our own talent. Fueling ourselves first allows us to be better mothers and wives. Setting goals and having mental stimulation — outside of Pokemon and happy meals — helps make us better for others and even better for and to ourselves.
Now I do not profess to be some world-renowned speaker who has traveled all over the world, met the Obamas, sat on Oprah Winfrey’s couch, or even graced the cover of any magazine. But I have cried until I couldn’t breathe, fallen on my knees and asked God why, wondered what this world would be like without me, dated and had sex with men who didn’t even desire to hold my hand or even caress my body. Yes, I said it! So unclutch your pearls and breathe! We have all dated dogs.
So, let’s make a deal. I will give you a heads up on the pearl-clutching moments. This way you can act surprised or shocked as you continue reading. Instead of clutching your pearls, how about seeing yourself as one.
We are pearls! Precious and valuable stones to be admired and prized for their luster and shimmer and treated like a one-of-a-kind beauty. And I thank God that no two pearls are the same, but they do have a common trait. All of them were shaped in secret to be prized in public.
Now let’s walk through the stages of discovering the type of pearl you are. When you think about a pearl, we see delicate, smooth, rays of color that reflect in the light. But many of us never think about the work involved in its creation and how critical a role that work plays in the pearl’s overall value and worth. The work matters.
Acknowledge: I wasn’t always a pearl. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t become one.
A pearl starts as a piece of matter — let’s say a pebble — that gets inside an oyster. Until that pebble begins to be coated with nacre — a substance created and released by an oyster — it is still a pebble. One can’t exist without the other. A pearl has to have a strong core. So, you can’t become a pearl unless your foundation is strong and enduring, and you have to be willing to put in the work. Realize what makes you feel whole and not fragmented? Once you unearth those pieces and connect them to allow you to feel complete, your pearl can continue taking shape and adding inherent value.
Identify: What colors do you want the light to catch?
The more layers of nacre that the pebble is coated with, the more vibrant the colors are that the light captures. Just like the pearl, you have to decide what colors you want the world to see, but first those colors have to be genuine, real and specific to you.
Fill your life with positive people and purpose because there are already enough challenges in the world around us. Let the light pick up the color in your heart, your spirit and your mind. Show the world your true colors.
Shape: Your pearl doesn’t have to be Mikimoto
As more layers of pearl are added to you, you also get to determine how large of a pearl you want to be. Some pearls are prized for their natural, genuine shape, which oftentimes isn’t perfectly round. Some pearls are prized when the pearl material drips away from the pebble a little to form a drape or skirt. That pearl’s beauty, color and value is shaped by its signature mark that can’t be replicated. You have to determine what your pearl — your true self– is and enrich your life with the people, places, practices and purpose that will help it to take shape.
Polish: Refine your pearl to your satisfaction
Determine how much you want to be polished and what method is best for you. Just like anything else we value, we like to keep it clean and polished so that it looks its very best. Show your care for your pearl — your essence — by cleaning it, protecting it and polishing it to enhance its value, but not to disguise it. Remove barriers and set boundaries! This may sometimes mean that some family and friends may no longer have a place in your life. Remember, you can’t find your worth if you are constantly allowing others to misuse, abuse, or take advantage of you.
Perfect: By their very nature, pearls are not perfect
Pearls are not white. They are not perfectly rounded. And most importantly, they are not flawless. Although our essence — our true self — strives for perfection, it is our imperfection that makes us all the more beautiful, enduring, graceful and poised. This realization helps us become the perfectly imperfect pearls that we were always meant to be.