On Being an Intellectual

I recently spent some quality time in France with family – I was staying at my grandmother’s house. One day we we had a disagreement and she said to me I was “such an intellectual” – she said it the same way republicans call you a “liberal”. I laughed things off and kept it moving as I usually do: to deflate the hurt a kin inflicts others when themselves are in pain.

To say the truth, I was annoyed at first, but then got curious about why she thought that voicing my opinion was a problem. It took some time, but after thinking about it for a while I came to some conclusion of my own. Every time I had felt powerless in front of injustices was when I did not know how to respond to attacks – which as a result had made me angry. So, I am constantly trying to educate myself on issue pertaining to feminism, racism and the like – because it felt empowering: in other words analyzing and instructing when feeling attached is my “defense mechanism”.

I had heard about Anna Freud’s theory on defense mechanisms for the first time a few months prior by watching The School of Life‘s episode on Psychoanalysis. I decided to find out more. Turns out that what made the most sense to me, according to this theory, was that I may champion at “Intellectualization”. 

According to Freud, intellectualization as a psychodynamic defense mechanism refers to an emphasized focus on facts, logic, and abstract reasoning to assert control over and reduce unpleasant emotions associated with internal or external events.

Yes, this made sense. I constantly need to know why things happen the way they do.

I tend to seek explanations to any and every out-of-the-ordinary-situations that may affect me – and by extension, others like me. I even wrote a poem about it:

When I feel threatened, my brain automatically fires up into “Overthinking” mode . Rationalizing helps me to calm down in stress-inducing circumstances. For instance, if someone felt entitled to say something out of line or mean to me, instead of reacting, with the tools that is knowledge, I can logically respond: I am only able to do so when I am educated on a topic. That say it does not mean you’ll be able to convinced the person in front of you – since facts are not enough to convince people!

In my research I also found out that there were a biological aspects of defense mechanisms: In short, the very ancient part of the brain called amygdala is responsible for triggering the sympathetic nervous system – which is responsible for the fight or flight response. Once that type of stress is triggered, there is no switch to turn it off on its own. Our only option to “calm things down” is to activate its counterpart, the parasympathetic system. There are efficient ways to do so, including walking in nature, breathing and meditation (more here). I should also mention that eating, although it is not mentioned,  triggers the parasympathetic system: oh that’s why, when we are upset your freewill is highjacked and your are uncontrollably drawn to the Ben and Jerry bin int he freezer!!!

Reflecting on this helped in many ways. Firstly, I learn ways to manage even better my anxieties by understanding how they arise; it also brought lots of empathy towards myself and others – in finding out there is a part that is rooted in “instinct” and early childhood experience – hence very hard to control. I am grateful I was able find some insight and happy my grand mother initiated this introspection.

On Self-Actualization

A day in Goa

Awareness is the first step at dismantling who “you are” so you can become your true self. Without it, you can stay parked in the dream, indefinitely.


Once you are aware that, until then, outside forces have played a huge part in shaping your existence, you can finally “move on” – but not without going through stages of grief first, of course; because even if it can be a relief to realize you didn’t get where you are “on your own”, you are now to embark on a journey with yourself. Take a deep breath.


Once you’ve accepted that it’s now up to YOU to merge into “yourself”, you will need the courage to challenge everything that comes your way – from your tastes to your acquaintances, and everything in between. It will be tough at times, and it can even take you a lifetime to get to the bottom of it – But that’s what’s beautiful and worth it.

In my opinion, Self-actualization is the ability to constantly recalibrate into a better version of yourself. Grit if you will. When you have that mindset, you become unstoppable.

#OnSelfActualization

#KissAndMakeUp

There is something to be said about
The way you think of others
The way you feel about them
It teaches you about yourself

Your insecurities & soft spots
Your biaises & blind spots
Are you aware of
Your Priviledge and whatnot?

Perfection has never been a requirement for Love
Being loved
Or Self-worth

So cheer up and give yourself a break
It’s time to #KissAndMakeUp with yourself

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#RealTalk

Regardless of how painful they may be
The quicker you can find a way to turn your trauma and hardships into learning experiences
The sooner you will be able to enjoy your life at its fullest

#RealTalk

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#GetYourTeamTogether

You may not fully appreciate your blessings because you are comparing yourself to a team’s efforts to make someone fit a current standard of perfection

You have to recognize you already are pretty wonderful and stand out on your own! You are smart, kind & taste like Meyer lemons meringue tart

Cheer up + #GetYourTeamTogether

©️ Daphné Mia Essiet, 2018

#Blessed

Even tho I may project
My own fears and biases
I am #blessed and fulfilled
Regardless of how I feel

Into my sometimes
blurry lenses I
Get pushed and pulled back
Before my own eyes

All I need is a shift
A bit of perspective
For my hopes and my dreams
To ever become clear

Then promplty energized
Open heart, Spirit High
I give Joy another Chance
And Love in again

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#JustPlantingSeeds

“We accept the Love we think we deserve”

If you are wondering
If it’s not the moon and the stars
If this made you think
If you feel some type of way
You probably deserve more

#JustPlantingSeeds

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#Momentum

Shit’s complicated- but here we are: making the best of it.

Beating the odds
Breaking records we never knew existed
Yet, too often living with restraint
Tipi toeing around fragile egos.

Their subconsciously know that the Power sipping through our pores must
meticulously get washed away by judgement
& ever so slightly policed, err’day
With diligence – to prevent Impetus to propels us so Fast & Furiously

As our brightness will challenge Black Holes –
And more.

#Momentum

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#TenGuiltyPleasures

1. Watching cat videos on Instagram
2. Roaming in Marshall’s for hours
3. Eating Nutella
4. listening to 90’s misogynist hip hop songs
5. Girls dancing on a pole
6. Internet shopping
7. Smoking Shisha
8. Sipping on Hendricks + Tonic + 3 lemons
9. Pretty boys
10. Your lips on mine

#TenGuiltyPleasures

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

#OnFriendzoning

The story of one way extrapolation
The ultimate Trap.

My Ego’s boosted whilst yours bruised

I’ve been down this road before
I know how it feels
It feels just like tachycardia on blush cheeks

Mixed emotions ’bout my Crush & my Feelings,
& Crushed Feelings

Deflected [Lust] interest
My Ego’s bruised whilst his boosted

I refuse to contribute to relationship turning vinegar
Nor entertain a flame lacking flamboyance
I’m not the One

I’ve been down this road before
I know how it feels
It feels just like yet another unanswered text

A “full-on” Soul Ache

Deflected [Love] interest
Your Ego’s bruised whilst mine boosted

I refuse to be in the receive hand of resentment
Nor wondering what “I do wrong”
You’re not the One

Thankfully there – is an easy way out: walking away
Before Lust take over your pride
and your Ego suffers pain hard to recover from.

#OnFriendzoning

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2018

The Form or How Moving to America Reshaped my Identity as a Woman of Rich Cultural and Ethnical Background.

I was 23 the first time I was asked to officially identify my race. I had to fill an employment form and could only pick one option. The situation was anxiety-inducing because despite the fact of not being white, could I call myself black

As long as I can remember, people always asked: “Tu es de quelle origine?*” (what’s your background) or just assumed I was [insert whatever brown ethnicity they are acquainted with here]. Such remarks always came across as micro-agression, even more so because I had no answers.

My mother is French and white, and I found out in my twenties that my father is Nigerian. Until then, it was never openly acknowledged that I was black, especially by my mother’s family: a bit like in the Lacey Schwartz documentary “A White Lie”, I had to discover this part of myself on my own.

I grew up in the ’80s in southern France. At the time race was not something discussed in my family. It is still in 2020 a very touchy subject: France would not acknowledge that although from a biological standpoint we are all “humans” – socially racialized individuals and communities face challenges.  This denial makes it impossible to quantify and even more so hard to address racial inequalities . Although France prides itself on being “colorblind” it is in fact not – but that’s for another post.

So, I looked “different” from other members of my family but essentially, I was just one of them.

At first, it was subtle. It was in elementary school that I was made aware there was something different about me. Subtle at first, it became clear I was not one of the “popular kids”. Furthermore, and since there were no black nor mixed race kids around, I was oftentime mistaken for a North African, which in itself wouldn’t have meant anything if the narratives about immigrants had been positive. I recall one incident when the lunch school attendant had refused to serve me pork chops. I could not understand why. Upset and confused (I LOVED pork chops), I reported the offense to my grandmother. No later than the next morning, she stormed to the school, outraged by what had happened. At the time, it was not explained to me why I was refused the meal, but I realized that the way I was perceived had prevented me from enjoying the same privilege as everybody else: I became ashamed of what I seemed to represent at a deeper level.

From that moment on, life unraveled awkwardly. I was (and still am) an empath and although it was not an everyday issue, the unspoken facts surrounding my appearance overshadowed my existence. I grew up in a middle-class white community with little to no diversity. I would have been the only “exotic bird”, had it not been for this beautiful brown little girl named Sana: she was a first-generation French-born with Tunisian roots: she pretty ‘woke’ compared to me.

She lived in the projects of La Gavotte Peyret, but her parents had tricked the system by pretending they were living in my home town so she and her brother could enter my school district. Sana’s father, Moncef, is probably one of the fieriest personalities I have ever been around. Smart and kind-hearted although also abrasive, never afraid to speak his mind (loudly) and a bit of a revolutionary, he had come to France from Tunisia when he was a child and had been a brilliant student. Unfortunately, the school system had rejected his ambitious attempts to become an accountant because he and his dad were told by his school principal “people like him were in France to manual jobs”. He became a mechanic. He was the one who gave us Malcolm X’s autobiography to read in 7th grade and challenged us with geography questions at dinner. Sana’s mother, Naima, was kind and motherly. She helped me acquire my first admin internship in 9th grade and later got me a job to clean offices during the school break; with that money, I was able to go on vacation to Tunisia with them. Both hard-working and focused individuals, they were determined to give to their children anything that hadn’t been afforded to them growing up, including access to higher education, as well as a taste for culture and travel.

From the time I met them, they had claimed me as their own and even jokingly pretended I was their daughter. I lived a dual life, where I would alternate vacations between my uncles and aunts in the Alps or  Switzerland, and on another hand bus trips with kids from the projects. It was interesting for me to see that despite their seemingly different livelihoods, how similar they were in many aspects; however, despite flawlessly ‘passing’ in both worlds, I never felt as if I completely fitted in.

When I was 10 years old, I moved to Corsica to join my mother and her new boyfriend: things got tricky and I felt extremely isolated. The population of the island is known for being very conservative and as an outsider – let alone a brown one – it was even harder to make new friends. At the house, it wasn’t any better: when I expressed the difficulties I had encountered in
school I was told by my mother that “it was in my head”. I took it as my cue to keep things to myself, and as an early teen developed a strong inclination for independence and solitude. Thankfully, we moved back to the continent when I was 14, and things got a lot better. For starters, I got back in touch with Sana and old classmates, and although I did not feel like I truly belonged, the landscape was not as hostile.

In the early to mid-’90s new genres were slipping through the radio waves: Hip-Hop and New Jack Swing started their ascension in France’s music charts and we even had their own French rappers such as MC Solaar and IAM. I loved the groove and the energy, however, the cultural impact was limited. My English was good, but I was not fluent enough to understand what was said and why it was said. Moreover, there was no access to any type of ‘visuals’ at the time that could have assisted me in grasping the lyrical meaning.

My pivotal moment happened in 1995 when right before entering high school my mother took me on my first trip back to the US. I don’t expect anyone to understand how it feels to see for the first time people who look like they could actually be related to you – your long lost tribe – so prolifically engaging on major media platforms such as TV and magazines. Until then I had never realized how invisible people of color were in the French landscape. I returned to France a changed teenager.

The Lycée Montgrand (high school) was located in downtown Marseille. The foreign languages taught in the school attracted a variety of students from all over and it was the ultimate cultural melting pot. I picked Portuguese and Sana Arabic. For the first time in my life, I was physically surrounded by a rainbow of complexions. Youngsters from everywhere: first-generation Cape Verdeans, Comorians, Ex-Yugoslavians, Tunisians, Greeks, Vietnamese, Malagasy, even Brazilians, just to name a few. The ones we considered ‘white’ were usually second or third generation Italian or Spanish. In my opinion, it was very integrated – for the most part. Never before had I felt a stronger desire to identify as “something”. My English professor explained to the class I had been born in the United States (I think my mother had explained in a note why I had missed the first week of high school) and soon the newsworthy information spread and I became ‘Daphne l’Américaine’, a nickname that stuck for years to come.

But this was not enough – I often had to elaborate on my background. My very limited cognizance of Black-American culture was based on series like The Cosby Show, the Prince of Bel Air, Sister Sister etc… and it seemed that in the United States, being black refers to one’s culture, for instance,  individuals who are of African-American descent are considered black
regardless of their complexion or features, even if one of their parents is not – Barack Obama, Lenny Kravitz, Halle Berry, Tracee Ellis Ross or Alicia Keys to name a few are considered black even though they have a white parent. This was a concept that was unheard of in France where ‘Black’ is only a generic term associated with one’s complexion; people of African descent always identify themselves by their country of origin and the nuances of their specific tribe (Senegalese: Peul or Mandiac etc…); and mixed-race people like myself are called as ‘métisse’. At the time, in order to “legitimize” my blackness (or at least my mixed-race status) my very good friend Sofaya and I decided we would pretend to be each other’s sisters: this is how after 15 years of blurred lines and uncertainty I finally had concrete answers to the ever-annoying “what are you” questions: I was a ‘métisse French American’. Along with this newly discovered identity I was eager to learn everything I had never been exposed to. I felt I had so much to catch up on what I thought it meant to be black. I immersed myself in everything I could put my hands on: music and TV were the easiest and most accessible means to do so – we would stay awake late to watch the latest American RnB and rap videos on cable, exchange cassette tapes and imitate our favorite artists. Later on, in college, I was able to access more Afrocentric literature and cinematography and some translated African American books. Mind you, this was in the 90’s, way before open access internet and on a teenager’s budget.

There was only so much I could understand from a distance and no guidance, and although I was somehow familiar with the black African experience in France, what I knew about the African-American experience was very superficial. At the time I moved to the United States in 2004 and was asked to officially ‘claim’ a race, my understanding was still very limited, and I did not know that although perceived as black, this same blackness would often get challenged due to my – until then unidentified – “light-skin privilege” and “racial ambiguity”.

This experience encouraged me to familiarize myself with and better recognize the racial dynamics that ruled the social American landscape. It took me a while and a lot of interactions with different people, but after living in the US for nearly 15 years I came to conclusions of my own. Mainly that it is complicated and that my specific set of lenses allows me a unique perspective. I identify as a black woman – a woman of color with mixed heritage, a Franco-Nigerian, an Afropean – and consider myself “a Woman of Rich Cultural and Ethnical Background”. I belong with the Black diaspora.

I acknowledge that although race and gender are social constructs, stereotypes associated with these factors have real socio-economic consequences in the real world. Ultimately, my racial identity is just another layer making up the complex and ever-evolving person I believe I am.

#ImHere

I used to be fearless
But somehow, somewhere
Things changed

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise the little redheaded girl who pushed me – and I pushed her back: harder, to the floor – all because she was challenging my intellect. I knew how to spell “Oignon”! and even when her daddy grabbed and shook me after class, I kept it together – and to myself.

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise the mean girls of all ages who called me name and ugly; They made me believe the only place i belonged was hidden behind soft cover books. They tried to bury me so deep i almost suffocated. If only they knew how much they contributed to my enlightenment – who knows what would have happened had I had known all along I was that precious?

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise my mother for never saying “those words” – I may not have had the desire to create magic if not to fill the void she leaves.

It takes a while to heal
It takes a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise the disruptive souls, the fuckboys, the insecure bosses and fake friends for triggering my creativity into its greatness.

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise the diaspora for its vibrant rainbows and its soft tongues, for its bold and warm textures, for its woody spicy scents; we’ll keep dancing – barefoot- on your syncopated rhythms so to loosens our spirits – That same spirit, they attempted to kill

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#WeareHere

Praise those strong legs I used to hate: they may not fit your beauty standards but allowed me to yoga on deserted Goa beaches, explore the busy streets of Shanghai, peruse Marseille by night and stroll down Prospect Park; and when at last, I dared to showcase, the sweet sound of my thighs kindled some fervent surprise

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

Praise my sister-friends – my ionic bonding tribe – my A team – for believing even though i hesitate, for encouraging even when I am about to vacate, for noticing even when I’m passing into oblivion. Appreciative – such a weak term to qualify my overwhelmingly supportive network

It took a while to heal
It took a while but still-
#ImHere

& I’m Here making magic
& Here overcoming fears
Full circling

#ImHere

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2017

#OnLoveAndLustAndEverythingInBetween – part4

There is something very humbling about being rejected by someone whom you really like.

Humbling because after the initial shock, it forces you to think about the reasons why it hurts so much.

Humbling because if forces you to decide whether you will allow this pain to morph into compassion or anger – towards yourself and others.

After going through yet another deception, will you decide to keep believing in Love and convince yourself that it will “all gonna be alright” (Kendrick’s voice), eventually – or will you just numb all feelings by indulging in [insert here your worse favorite  vice]?

How many times will you listen “Anytime” before the lyrics you know by heart do not hurt (as much) anymore?

How many times will you have to listen to “Prepared” until you decide this will be your new mantra and you are now ready to channel your inner Nola Darling?

Will you allow your heart to stay open, cause you perfectly know that it is the only way love will find its way back there or shut down for a while in order to find yourself again?

There is something very humbling about the by someone whom you really like.

Hopefully this new found humility will open your eyes to the infinite possibilities the Universe granted you – as everything given or taken from you is purposeful and deliberate: Trust that everything that’s ever happened is,  indeed, Δlways the best outcome.

#OnLoveAndLustAndEverythingInBetween

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2016

#JustDont


Appearances are somehow misleading.

Most times… What seems great, perfect, enticing, greener on the other side… Is in fact completely rotten.

Somehow, the smell does not bother your asepticized noses, probably because you have been acclimatized to it. Little by little. One passive aggressiveness after the other. F*** That.

Somehow, you feel uncomfortable but you DO NOT want to trust your gut. F*** That.

Don’t let your insecurities get the best of your happiness. Be who you are meant to be and have as much freedom as you can possibly attain being who you are. Don’t let others’ bullshit mess with your spirit, your soul, your aura. F*** that, F*** them.

Remember: you only live once in that body of yours, and who knows who/what you’ll be next lifetime. Enjoy the Freedom you have been granted this time around.

Love like you give a  damn; kiss often (the French way and don’t apologize for it); hug everyday and inspire others by being the best version you claim to be.

Appearances are somehow misleading. Most times… What seems great, perfect, enticing, greener on the other side – just ain’t.. Trust me! Don’t let mofos rain on your parade. #JustDont

With Love.

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2016

#AtTime

#AtTime, there is a definite disconnect between the person I know I am, and the way I feel about myself. Let me reiterate: I get insecure. #AtTime.

But I am not completely sure why.

Pragmatically, I have nothing to complain about, I guess… Of course there will always be a Better-Looking-Smarter-Tighter-Booty-More-Accomplished-Talented-Perfect-Skin-Perfect-Teeth-Perfect-Fro-Perfect-Diet-Goes-To-The-Gym-On-A-Regular-Basis-Drinks-One-Gallon-Of-Water-A-Day-Has-That-Flawless-Fashion-Sense-Eloquent-Just-Got-Her-PHD-Chick, ya know… you feel kinda inadequate around, #AtTime – you know…

But, aren’t flaws what makes us who we are, what differentiates ourselves, what makes us interestingly unique? Right? right…

So how come, if I’m aware of all those blessings, my Blessings, do I feel that way, #AtTime?

I guess, I feel that way so I can really appreciate those other times… Those times when, as I enter the realm of enclose parameter – the air pressure drops, and I become aware of my status; those times when, the temperature instantly rises and the beat of the drums – in unison – emerges from the depth of the (h)earth.

But this is not today.
Maybe tomorrow?

#AtTime

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2015

#MergingIntoMyself

I long to be Free.
Free from my fears.

Free from the imaginary boundaries I inflicted mySelf.
I long to be mySelf.
The woman I’ve always meant to be. Phenomenal woman, that’s Me.

The one who will own her flaws and recognize them as the most enticing part of who she is. The one who will appreciate them the way they deserve to be.

I long to be aware.
Aware of Reality

Fully aware of the Love I’ve been the recipient all along. That Love that has been kept away from my heart by the fear of being rejected.

Everyday, I look at mySelf.
Everyday, I’m one step closer.
Everyday, I am grateful of the joys and the pains and the hardships I’ve been subjected to.

I’m emerging and

#MergingIntoMySelf

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2015

#AndIlKeepSayingThat


Everything happens for a reason.
2015 is coming to an end, and, is so far one of the most epic years to date.
The people I crossed path with this year shaped my life is significant ways.

The people I crossed path with this year filled my heart with new found purposes.

The people I crossed path with this year, whether as confidents, part-time lovers or foes allowed me to reach my true potential.

I am immensely grateful cause I have met you. I really am, with all my heart and soul, and you might feel it as you read these words, don’t you? Cause I’m talking about you… Yes you! And I hope that makes you smile, or think, or tilt…

I am no longer afraid, scared, ashamed nor feeling awkward about my claims, as I have realized that we never know when things come to an end. When we have to say goodbye to great friends. So tell them, today, that you care…

#LiveYourTruth. #Everyday

#AndIlKeepSayingThat

©️ Daphne Mia Essiet, 2015