October 21, 2018

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Chidera Eggerue Has Some Tips (and Hashtags) for Self-Love

Chidera Eggerue Has Some Tips (and Hashtags) for Self-Love
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LONDON — When Chidera Eggerue was 14, she went for a bra fitting and realized that her breasts looked nothing like those of the model on the packaging. She began to believe there was something wrong with her body. As a teenager she even started saving up to have plastic surgery.

She was saving up for five years when she had a revelation: She ditched her bra. She decided that it would be easier (and cheaper) to embrace her body.

Last September she posted a picture of herself, using #saggyboobsmatter, wearing a deep-plunge yellow dress.

She wrote, in the accompanying text, that “men are super horrible in my Instagram” when it came to commenting on her body. “But,” she continued, “I didn’t create myself so it’s not my place to explain my body to anyone. My boobs are actually pretty amazing.”

The honesty of the post resonated with hundreds women who chimed in with their own stories. It inspired women to share similar pictures aimed at challenging altered images of women in fashion magazines and the media.

Now, at 23, her message is defined: self-love. Most recently, her first book, “What a Time to Be Alone,” published in July, is an antidote to traditional self-help books, which she says often speak only to “privileged people from the first world.” For one thing, hers is peppered with Nigerian proverbs and it doesn’t have page numbers, allowing readers to start at any point that is relevant to them.

“The aim of this book is to simply hold a mirror up in front of you and give you the opportunity to observe yourself,” Ms. Eggerue said. “It won’t ‘fix’ you. It will encourage you to take your power back and take charge of your life.”

For some, that power come in the form of sharing experiences with #blockhimparty, a hashtag that she started, aiming to empower women by blocking their exes. (She explains this below.)

She also has a fashion blog, The Slumflower, that offers sharp, witty takes on self-esteem dating, friendships and fashion trends. In one post she writes a letter to her “future self” cataloging all the goals she has achieved, like leaving behind toxic traits and making peace with her past.

This interview, condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted during breakfast at an East London hotel in July.

What is your main message?

If you want to have healthy relationships with other people, you need to develop a healthy one with yourself first, and that can’t come without you spending time on your own. You literally need to be alone.

Give us your self-care tips for breakups.

Understand that in every single situation both people play a part, regardless of whether the circumstances work in your favor or not. You need to hold yourself accountable, but accountability is different to blame. Blame is: “This was my fault; I can’t believe I let this happen to me.”

But accountability is understanding that certain behavior pattern that I need to work on to stop me finding myself in situations like this.

The second step: Please do not try to impress him on social media. Don’t block him and then try extra hard to look cute because you know he will come looking at your account from another account. You are weaponizing yourself.

What is most important is that you are occupied. You’ve got things going for you. Maybe you’ve got a new job; maybe you are meeting new friends, living a busy and full life. Take on a new skill. If you start to go to a dance class or start writing a blog or do something that adds value to you, it makes you feel like, “Wow, I am a really wonderful person, and maybe I didn’t even need that relationship.” It’s about growing into a new, higher version of yourself.

Tell me more about the “block him party” hashtag you started?

Literally a party I threw. I got the name from the popular phrase “block party.” I realized I was coming across a lot of women who had just come out of some really bad relationships with men, and they didn’t really know where to go. I wanted to create an environment where people who have just come out of a bad relationship could meet one another and vent, complain about him — also get their nails done and party.

So why did you start a fashion blog?

It was basically born out of me resisting social norms. Fashion blogging was in its early stages, and it was just rich, white women that I could find. The same style — the long camel coat, the biker jackets, the fedora hats and the Chanel boy bag — was all I was seeing.

I didn’t feel that there was anyone who was broke like me back then. I just wanted to find someone who was wearing what I could actually buy. I really wanted to connect with people and use my blog as a way to start up really important conversations that I felt I couldn’t start up elsewhere.

Who are you writing for?

I am writing to anybody who feels that they have given up on themselves, and that can be anyone at any age. My audience spans from age 18 to 65. It always feels extra affirming when older women tell me they love what I do because it’s really hard as a younger person to be taken seriously by the older generation, who call us “lazy millennials” and all that. Although I’m speaking to everyone, I feel like the people directly in front of me are black British women.

What has been the biggest challenge for you?

Learning to stop feeling the need to explain myself to people who are already committed to misunderstanding me. I have to remind myself that I’m not here to be liked. That’s not the reason for my existence.

You grew up in Peckham, in southeast London, a traditionally British Nigerian community. How did that shape your perspective?

I felt like I was living in an environment where everyone looked like me. It felt like home, like this was where I was supposed to be. I could walk down the street and there will be a hair shop where I can get my hair supplies that work for my natural hair. I can get my food, I can get everything in that same environment.

It just felt like home to me, and it still feels like that now. I’m from Nigeria, so having a large Nigerian community meant that I never had to feel like I didn’t belong here. Of course, there were larger identity issues — like, am I more British than I am Nigerian, or am I more Nigerian then I am British? Being able to just live in Peckham silenced that a bit for me.

Which is your favorite Nigerian proverb?

“When the rat follows the lizard out into the rain, it’s only the rat that gets soaked.”

Try not to be a wet rat, basically.

Ceylan Yeginsu is a London-based reporter. She joined The Times in 2013, and was previously a correspondent in Turkey covering politics, the migrant crisis, the Kurdish conflict, and the rise of Islamic State extremism in Syria and the region. @CeylanWrites Facebook





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