16 In Inspiration

I’m not ashamed of who I am

I'm not ashamed of who I am

Piriye Altraide is an African-born Aussie, who was mostly raised in Perth but classifies herself as ‘a child of the world.’

When at first I took out my hair extensions, I expected to feel this sudden sense of freedom. Like “Yes, go civil rights! Time for a return to the *natural* woman.” That kind of thing you know.

Instead I felt strangely the opposite. So burdened – a slave-like person reflected back at me in the mirror. It was like I was weighted down and encumbered by this hair that seemed to hold me back in this imposed position of lower than thou. Not beautiful enough, says the Western world. So meagre. So plain. So ‘slave’.

I tried to then think how to focus on my face. The eyes, the lips… to be brought to focus so that people wouldn’t notice the hair. This was a challenge for me. It was something a little different for me, which was good. It was forcing me to think outside the box. For those who haven’t had the dilemma of ‘good hair’ this may seem…strange.

What would help is understanding, because then it wouldn’t be awkward or weird to try and describe it. Because then there would simply be an understanding. Without the need for any words… And yet from this single moment I felt more words pouring out of me, forming within me, something I always wanted to say and express. As the new year dawned on me, as again I attempted to tackle this recurring demon of ‘identity’. Discovering who I needed to be. And so as usual I let the thoughts flow. Tamed, for your convenience, but not fully unrestrained…

I want to be an interpreter of diversity, an investigator of human psychology, philosophy.

I want to document the way, and why and how. The if, the but, the now.

Why people think the way they do, the mysteries of the human view.




No, I don’t want to do anything more. Go anywhere. I just want to sit down and write…Write about expectations. Write about what people expect of me. Write about what should and shouldn’t be.

I truly believe you should see a person for who they are, hold them accountable for who they are, before you even see what colour you are. Expect from me based on the person I am, and not based on any background. Any creed. Any race. Or, not expect at all.

Whether I should be expected to like African guys, or not like African guys?

Whether I should like hip hop, or not like hip hop?

Whether I follow more post rock, Indie, Punk, Jazz, Blues, Pop, Soul…Or any other genre.

Or whether I don’t.

Whether I dress classy, or whether I chuck on some high-top sneakers or punk chains.

Whether I do or not (I finally realised) is up to me. It’s up to… me!

So whosoever would try, stop putting me in a box.

Whether I bounce to Raggamuffin, or rock out to Big Day Out.

Just because you see my skin there is suddenly a list of expectations. Of what I should do, Or be?

Instead I’m sorry – I’m just me. And whatever I choose to be, I be! And so accept that… Accept that that is me!

Finally, I stop feeling guilty about it. I don’t have to be static in one genre, taste or image. I can be whoever I like, whenever I like, and that’s it. And thats me.

If one day I want to put on the African hat – fine. That should be accepted. Another day I become European, then fine. No crap about it. No qualms. Only be broad-minded. To accept that people are influenced by so many cultures in all. That really, we are all children of the world. Not one race or another, but a wonderful fusion of whatever we choose to accept and grasp and love as our own. And let each one be to whatever part of that he or she so-ever chooses. Leave them be. And let them take. And let them love. For their own. Then, well, it was at that point – I had to look in the mirror and accept what I saw. I had to look in the mirror and say; ‘This is me… And I’m not ashamed.’

We all need to do that, every once in the while. To look in the mirror, and accept you. To look in the mirror and finally say, with overwhelming relief this is me…

And I’m not ashamed.

  • Barbara
    September 15, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Piriye, thanks for sharing your thoughts so openly, in my eyes you have achieved so much, to be able to look into the mirror and say: “This is me… And I’m not ashamed.” This inner wealth shows in your picture. As I said earlier to Janine (hi, soulmate, wonderful series by the way) about the butterfly’s metamorphosis from caterpillar (grounded) to ccoon (a time for selfreflection) to butterfly (fly free), well, it applies to us all.
    Happy soaring in your true nature.

    • neanster77
      September 15, 2011 at 6:05 pm

      Hi Soul mate : ) [love it]
      I adore the pic of Piri – she is just glowing and looks so vibrant.

    • Piri
      September 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Barbara, wow thanks for the encouraging words! I cringed, hesitating, to put this out there, but I’m so glad that it can encourage and uplift others. I hope you soar too into who you strive to be! 🙂

  • Mathy
    September 15, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Wow piryie! 4 years ago when I cut all my lovely straight relaxed hair I was in a similar state. I was told by friends and family that I was loosing it, never find a man and just looked plain ugly for a pretty girl. Didn’t phase cut my hair the second time and still doesn’t phase me. It’s all grown back quickly in it’s natural state and even though my family still doesn’t like my hair, they know they can’t change me.

    Keep it up Piryie

    • Piri
      September 16, 2011 at 9:15 pm

      Hi Mathy! Thanks for your words!! Your bravery and boldness is inspiring. I’ve always wanted to do the same… in order to take a step, make a statement, but I’ve always stopped short! Good on you for being true to your inner-self and being proud of who you are. I’m glad my words could encourage you too :))

  • Muriel
    September 18, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I also love Piriye’s smile. We are what we are and I believe that we are our own specialty! Why should we confine ourselves to one style/way of thinking? Thanks for reminding us of this!

  • Thom Brown
    September 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    I understand the “This is me… And I’m not ashamed.” I also have a lot of respect for you for getting there. What troubles me is I grew up in a world where I have never needed to have such a thought, and the fact that the world treats people in a way that leads them to have to “work” to not be ashamed creates a sadness in me. I wish it weren’t so.

  • cath
    September 18, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    What a marvelous post and what a beautiful woman Piriye is. Thanks for the inspiring words. My favorite was:
    “That really, we are children of the world. Not one race or another, but a wonderful fusion of whatever we choose to accept and grasp and love as our own. And let each one be to whatever part of that he or she so-ever chooses.”

    Perfect phrasing. And what I truly believe.
    ~cath xo

  • Bonnie
    September 18, 2011 at 11:46 pm

    How very brave of you to put this out there Piriye. Once you remove your own inner expectations and stop ‘shoulding’ yourself…now that is freedom! Keep on being your fabulous self!

  • Roberta Budvietas
    September 19, 2011 at 2:58 am

    Just proves that when one performs a ritual it is possible to free ourselves of other people’s perceptions. Well done on making choices for yourself Piriye. Love your name. Not sure how it is really pronounced but it sounds pure and yet fun when I say it. I am all for acceptance, acknowledgement and appreciation
    Enjoy Australia.

  • Tambre Leighn/coaching by tambre
    September 19, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Beautiful and beautiful…the woman and the writing. Thank you for sharing this. Yes to taking time to appreciate ourselves exactly as we are right now with our perfect imperfections.

  • Samantha Bangayan
    September 20, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Wow! What an amazing woman to feature, Janine. Thank you!

    Piriye, I was in total awe reading your poem. I feel that it’s a piece that’s so profound and so essentially true to every human being. I can certainly identify with the feeling of needing to ascribe to my nationality’s stereotype, especially here in Peru where everyone pretty much calls me “Chinese girl.” They like labels here. =P

    Thanks for putting into words what I couldn’t. =) And thanks for showing me that putting my feelings down in words may set me free. =)

  • Lalia
    September 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Love this post! Thanks for introducing Piriye, Janine. I relate to her in a lot of ways. And Piriye thank you for sharing this piece of yourself.

  • Joy
    September 22, 2011 at 2:56 am

    There is really so much freedom, so much wisdom, so much wealth to be found once we find the courage to step beyond the ‘shoulds’ imposed by society. Great post, Piriye! And your poem is so full of truth!

  • Piri Altraide
    October 3, 2011 at 6:50 am

    Thankyou so much everyone for your kind words! Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to you all. I’m really touched, honoured and inspired. Above all, it’s made me want to commit more to writing. Thanks again, for all what your words meant to me. Hope to be able to share more with you soon, and that you all manage to find your true selves. Soaring to what you are truly meant to be! :)) xx

  • Leanne
    October 23, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Thanks for sharing a bit of you with a bit of the world who is paying attention. I found your perspective free, yet bounded by the boxes that make up people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Interesting, well done.

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