“u” to“i”

“u” represents the voice inside that breaks you down. “i” represents the voice inside that builds you up. (Artwork by Vernon Meekins)

I hate u.

Stop. There it goes again. Did you hear it? That voice, inside your head. It’s saying something. Something that isn’t true…

u aren’t good enough.

There it goes again. It’s your u voice.

The Igbo people of Nigeria have a saying. “Where something stands, something else will stand beside it.” Duality is all around us. We value patience because we have all felt anxiety. We value humility because we all have seen what arrogance looks like. We strive to be kind because we all can remember a time when someone has been unkind to us.

There’s a duality in your mind too and Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar captured this perfectly on 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly with the songs “u” and “i”.

u don’t have what they have.

“u” begins with a literal scream. Then, some of the most ominous sounds in all of music. Unsettling piano keys, a brooding bass note, and a frightful saxophone set the stage for a glimpse of Kendrick at his breaking point. His “u” voice has taken control of the song, and what follows is four and a half minutes of self-hatred.

u ain’t sh*t.

u f*ck’n failure.

u ain’t no leader.

The world don’t need u.

Lies. Every single one. But that’s what our u voice does best. Blame and shame. How many times have we found ourselves listening to that voice inside our head that’s constantly telling us that we aren’t good enough? Or that we are somehow less than because things didn’t turn out the way we wanted them to? Or that we are somehow less than because we don’t have what someone else has?

When we listen to our u voice, we become our own worst enemies. We become capable of breaking ourselves down far more than any other person possibly could.

But the u voice doesn’t have to win. Standing there, right beside our u voice, is the voice of i.

i will always be enough.

Kendrick Lamar’s “i” appears near the end of the album and it is the glorious antidote to “u”. With rich guitar grooves and a rolling drum beat that makes you want to get up and shake every bone in your body, “i” is the celebration of the self. It is pure, unconditional self-love.

Where u sees ugly, i only sees beauty. Where u sees a mistake or failure, i sees the lesson. Where u says you are lacking something, i reminds you that you were born complete.

i already have everything I’ll ever need.

When we wake up in the morning. When we lie awake at night. After every setback. After every heartbreak. When things don’t go our way and life just seems entirely out of our control. There will always be two voices in your head. One of self-hate and one of self-love — u and i.

On your most difficult days — be brave. Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself, often. And remember, you always have the power, in any situation, to listen to i instead of u.

I think I hear something. That voice, inside your head. It’s getting louder. Yes, I hear it now.

i love myself.

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