Award-winning blogger and author of What a Time to Be Alone: The Slumflower’s Guide to Why You Are Already Enough, Chidera Eggerue is a modern-day philosopher and self-help advocate.
Known as The Slumflower to her more than 220,000 social media followers, the Peckham native has inspired women around the globe to recognise their self-worth, avoid toxic relationships, and promotes the power of minding your own business (‘it’s the new black’).
Chidera strode into the studio for her Happiful cover shoot braless and cheerful. What followed was an inspiring conversation about being uncompromisingly true to yourself, what it really is to ‘choose yourself’, and why #saggyboobsmatter
"You can never be too proud of yourself. Anybody who tries to make you feel embarrassed for being proud of yourself wants you to be smaller. You should never shrink yourself for anybody,” says Chidera Eggerue.
“Whether you’re conscious of it or not, your light is so bright and it should not be dimmed at all – because you deserve that,” she adds matter-of-factly. “In a world that tells you that you don’t even deserve to be here, in a world that tells you that you’re deserving of love only if you meet certain conditions, absolutely take up as much space as you want to, be as loud as you want to, because nobody’s going to protect you like you can protect yourself.”
These aren’t just words the Pecknam native has rehearsed; meet the What a Time to Be Alone author in person and it becomes immediately apparent that there’s something about her. And that something is that she is boldly and unapologetically herself – and she wants you to be boldly you, too.
A common theme throughout Chidera’s book and blog is “choose yourself” – a statement that seems equal parts common sense and impossible. I think back to a page in What a Time to Be Alone that put a lump in my throat, and, as I read it back to her now, and tell her how much her words touched me, I feel that lump coming back again.
It reads both simply and powerfully: “Choose yourself. Over and over again. Even when you’ve let yourself down. Choose yourself. Even when it feels uncomfortable. Choose yourself. Even when you’re tired. Choose yourself.”
I quickly explain away the feeling – I wasn’t expecting to be affected by those words so much – but Chidera is genuinely touched and thanks me for it. I have to ask her: Why does the concept of choosing yourself feel so intimidating?
“When people are told to choose themselves, they often feel quite scared by that idea, because choosing yourself often means disappointing other people,” Chidera muses. “You learn in life that if you want to get far, you’re going to have to disappoint people – especially people that you love.”
Evolving into a newer version of yourself comes from deciding that you’re worth the effort you’re going to put into yourself, and to Chidera, that’s definitely something worth celebrating.
However, she recognises that becoming a healthier version of ourselves can be difficult, with the risk that we may leave people behind. And it involves a lot of accountability.
“It involves you visiting situations where you believed you were right, realising you were wrong, and having to reckon with that,” she says. “Some people just aren’t ready for that work – it’s exhausting, and heartbreaking. But all you can do is try to be the healthy version of yourself, and surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you.”
Reading this, I’m sure there are friends and loved ones who immediately come to mind; those people who always leave you feeling better than before you spoke. Then, there are others – people who exhaust you and leave you feeling worse about yourself. It’s an uncomfortable thought. But, if it’s at the cost of your own happiness, it’s a feeling that may be worth examining.
Once you’ve made that decision to better yourself, often the hardest part can be keeping that momentum for change. Chidera’s advice? “Wake up every day with the intention that your role is to just be better than yesterday. You have to believe you are deserving of that love from yourself. Every single choice you’re making right now is leading you closer to the person deep down that you want to be.”
Part of Chidera’s own work on herself recently includes going to therapy, something that she says helps her to feel seen.
“If you’re in a position where you can afford a monthly Spotify membership, you can get your nails done, buy a new pair of trainers, then I think you can afford to put aside money and invest in therapy. Everyone deserves therapy, and I think it’s important that we put that work into ourselves,” she says.
“Therapy definitely helps me, but it’s not there to fix you; it’s there to hold a mirror in front of you, and it’s up to you to decide what to do with what you see.”
For some people, counselling is an expense their bank balance just can’t stretch to. Recognising this, Chidera says there are a lot of ways to help yourself for free, like giving yourself more room to sit with your emotions. Even just going online you can find support networks and advice.
In her continuing efforts to address her own needs, Chidera’s priority with her mental health is focusing less on being liked and more on understanding herself – something many of us strive for, but find difficult to do. Yet when people put you down, Chidera has an interesting perspective: “You’re never a reflection of how someone views you. People view you according to what the world around them looks like. And that is shaped by their experiences and how they’ve learnt to deal with them.”
Not everyone can recognise their own behaviours though, let alone break out of negative ones. But Chidera is firm in her belief that it’s not our job to try to change anyone else – a lesson many of us still need to learn.
“Every single person who wants change has to want that change from the core. You can’t spend your time trying to convince someone that they need to be a better person. All you need to spend your time doing is implementing boundaries that will protect you from people who impose themselves on you.”
The thing about boundaries is they can be a really hard thing to set, especially with those closest to us. But Chidera emphasises that they are not about building a barrier to keep people out, but rather they are the key to maintaining healthy relationships.
“You can’t protect yourself without implementing certain cautionary measures. Every single person in your life needs to have a boundary, because love in itself needs conditions. Everything needs conditions for it to be healthy, and to serve both parties in a balanced way.”
Speaking with Chidera, I’m amazed by the deep insight she has about herself and the people around her. But I also wonder what motivates a person to not only dig that deep, but to then have such a drive to share it with the world.
“I want as many people as possible to understand that how they feel, however wild that feeling is, they’re not crazy and they’re not alone,” she explains. “I think the more you come across people who feel as chaotic as you do, or as lost, or as misunderstood as you do, the more comfort you will find existing in this world. So I guess my aim is to provide people with comfort.”
To read more of Chidera's exclusive chat with us, pick up the October issue of Happiful in supermarkets from Thursday 20 September.
Chidera’s second book, ‘Scribble Yourself Feminist’ (Penguin, £7.99) is out now. Follow her on Instagram @theslumflower and join the movement using #saggyboobsmatter