Why do you always want to borrow my work but never broadcast it?

I won’t lie, I’m fuming. 

I always think anger is the worst when there is no one exact reason for feeling so, it just feels like a domino effect, a tsunami, a thankless game of pass the parcel where the music never seems to stop once it’s in your hands. 

But the last domino in this line up went something like: 

‘just nudging you…’ and then I couldn’t read the rest  because I didn’t want to open the message because I was being nudged for something that I hadn’t yet completed and to be honest wasn’t the top of my to do list. 

The person had asked me to give a quote for their book. This is a very sensitive subject for me. As someone who has wanted to write since they were a little girl and finds themselves surrounded by acclaimed writers, it’s getting a little hard to watch book deals be flung out left right and centre. But I’m a Pisces to the very end so of course my initial response was ‘Yes! Anything to make you happy!’ Well of course I didn’t say that but thats how my subconscious works. I’m forever afraid of being labelled as a bitch. Or angry. Especially because I’m black. 

Continuing to use this interaction as an example, this person specifically has ten and thousands more followers than me. They’re verified and clearly a respected leader in their field. It often makes me uncomfortable to contribute to such peoples work or platforms because since the dawn of time black women doing great work just don’t get the respect they deserve. For these people who like I said are considered ‘leaders in their felid’ to constantly want to pull from my personal pool of talent or want my opinion on something, then aren’t I also a leader in my field? Using social media as a barometer, I’d have to say no. As it’s them with the huge followings, blue tick and being paid petty pennies to do work they love. Not I. And yet, they keep asking me anyway. 

So now times a message like that by ten. Per day. In your dm’s and inbox. Imagine people constantly telling you how they love you work and what you ‘represent’ to then quickly follow that up with an ask. 

Can you be on my podcast?

Can I have a quote for my book?

Can you come to my event?

Can I have your opinion on this subject?

And on and on it goes. 

Sometimes these requests come from people whom I know can’t stand me but constantly find me in their atmosphere and so for professional purposes just pretend to like me. It would hurt if i didn’t know what was going on but I’m a Pisces. I always know. 

And for a long time, I too just wanted to be regarded as professional. And so I would say yes to almost everything. I’d support people in as many ways as I could very rarely ever asking for anything in return, not even to reimburse my travel. And before the negative nelly’s in the back pipe up, let me make it crystal, I do this for anyone. Following doesn’t matter so it’s never with the thinking ‘well yeah look at their following, if i help them I could be exposed to their followers etc etc’ It never works like that. I am self proclaimed marmite and have no intention of diluting or censoring for the sake of a larger following. If mine is to grow, those on board wont flinch when I ‘act out’ because they know it’s to be expected. If I don’t like you, you don’t exist to me. And thats online and IRL. I’m not a very good game player. 

But today I’ve just hit empty. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been doing school runs and drop off’s with a teething baby. Maybe it’s because I feel stuck professionally. It’s definitely because many of those asking for things from me are already where I want to be and it’s a mighty kick in the teeth for my talent to always be borrowed but never broadcasted. 90% of those who ask something of me never return the favour. They don’t even think to ask. 

Of course they wouldn’t ask. Asking if they could help you could open them up to competition. It’s all well and good to borrow your voice, your talent or what you represent but to share their space with you? Bitch they would rather lose the string on their tampon and awkwardly fish it out. At least that could be done in the privacy of a toilet. But helping you out would have to be done in public and in this world where social media sharing is currency, every one wants to retain their bags full of gold. 

And yes one could ask what did I expect? These aren’t my real friends. Even if our paths cross in the tangible we’ve not met in the spiritual and that for me is where it counts the most. Social media is a great glass wall. It allows you to see everything but also be disconnected and distorted, tricking you into believing you know someone when you don’t and you’re really not friends either. But I was just raised to believe that this kindness, this natural flow of give and take (or give, give, give and then take) was exactly that, natural. 

But in this time when everyone is just trying to put their heads down and succeed as fast as they can of course there is more taking than giving. And being the giver, I just feel as though sometimes I’m clearly being taken advantage of. The things I create mean so much to me and clearly help these people want to borrow my voice find me and yet, they never share that work. Before or after their ask.

I’m a big girl though. So I readily admit that most of it is my fault. In a bid to be liked and to shy away from the ‘Angry black woman’ stamp I’ve found myself just giving until of course I’m left depleted. Also a major part of my fear was the misconception that the trajectory of my career is based on not pissing anyone off, being liked by all and saying yes to everything. I often have to remind myself that this is a lie. Because my best work thus far has only ever taken two parties, myself and God. Sometimes I cringe at the fact I often allow myself to believe that another person is to thank for or has control over my destiny. 

So enough is enough. I’m not going to be a bitch but I won’t fear being called one either. My ‘No’s’ will be firm but polite. I’ll give reason if I feel like doing so. Not because some are expected to follow their ‘No’ up with a reason akin to a loved one just passing away. Maybe it’s because I’m tired or it could be because the Sky is blue. But it’s my No and I’ll say it if I want to. 


Candice Brown-Brathwaite