As most of you know, this year I participated in the Southern Miss homecoming elections. I campaigned to be Miss Southern Miss, and by the grace of God, I actually freaking won. While I am excited and enamored to be taking on this huge position, I had lots of thoughts during the election process that I didn’t have the time or the effort to process and discuss. Now that they are over, I really need to get this stuff off of my chest.
- We really need to stop using the phrase “most deserving” when it comes to things such as elections or positions that multiple people are going out for. Deserving means to be worthy of being treated a certain way. We are ALL worthy. None of us can decide who deserves something more. What’s your scale? Who gave you the right to decide how to measure how “deserving” someone is. The only negative feelings I had about this process was when phrases like “most deserving” or “can’t think of anybody more deserving” came up. I use this phrase too and the phrase was even used when people posted about me but being in this election has opened up my thoughts about how hurtful or painful the phrase can be deemed and how unworthy it can make someone feel. Verbals and word usage are things that I’m very cognizant of and this process taught me to be even more aware of the implications my words can bring! So be cautious. Know that everyone is deserving of good things, and there is no way to measure who deserves something more. You can say someone is more qualified, someone was more involved, someone made better grades, etc etc etc but you can’t say who deserved it more.
- Homecoming elections can be super lonely if you’re running without a support system. Most days I felt like no one understood what I was going through or how I really felt. I felt like I was alone and that the only person rooting for me was me. This wasn’t true at all but that didn’t change the way I felt. So if you have friends running for homecoming positions in the future – make sure they are taking care of themselves. Make sure they are eating, drinking water, and that they know you support them and are willing to help them in anyway you can. Don’t just post fliers. Pay attention to them and help them through this process. The week was probably the most anxious and nervous I’ve ever felt, so make sure to be a source of peace and consistency for your friends who are going through the election process.
- One thing that I learned is that homecoming elections have the power to leave one feeling detached and deserted despite affiliation. I thought that because I was running as a non-greek, I would be the only person with lack of support and feelings of being alone. That is just not true. Even those who appeared to have the most support during this time suffered from feelings of loneliness and sadness because of the illusion of lack of support. Whether it was noticeable or not, this process can be taxing and make you feel like no one is there for you. So do more for the people running. Be more for them. Don’t let them do this alone.
- When I won, my first feeling wasn’t one of excitement. It was one of relief. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions of losing. I was relieved that I could look at food without wanting to throw up. I was relieved that the time and effort I put into campaigning didn’t go to waste. After relief, I felt sad. It wasn’t easy running against my friends, and it was hard to know that they may have been hurting depending on the election results. I thought about how they felt, if I could help them, and winning was worth watching them hurt. Eventually, I felt shocked. “Who voted for me? Am I really qualified enough to do this?”, were questions running through my head. Even after winning, I suffered with feelings of inadequacy and questioned my worthiness. So know that even if someone wins an election or a position of any sort, they are allowed to feel more than just happiness and joy. They are allowed to FEEL IT ALL and will share those feelings with you as they please.
- So many emotions and thoughts come up during election season that it’s unreal and depending on the results, those thoughts and feelings have to be processed adequately. Don’t expect people to just be open, ready, and willing to share. Give them the space and time they need to figure out how they feel, how to process it, and how to heal. Be aware. Be smart. and Be there.
- I struggled with one fact more than I struggled with anything else during this process – there were some people who didn’t necessarily support a particular candidate. And that’s perfectly fine but what is not okay is that they supported anybody but me, and it was quite obvious and very clear to me when this was happening. It made me feel unworthy and abandoned, which are things I absolutely don’t deserve to feel. This concept of “rooting for everybody but Imani” made me realize that I have done this to others before. It made me look back over my past and realize how much hurt or pain I could’ve caused to someone simply by supporting “anybody but them”. After much needed conversations with mentors and friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you did or said vile things to or about me during this process, I don’t have to continue any sort of relationship with you. It’s not childish for me to cut ties based on your actions just because it had something to do with an election. If you made me feel less than or not enough, I honestly don’t care to be associated with you. If you deliberately supported another candidate based on your disdain or disliking of me and not solely based on their qualifications and worthiness, I forgive you but I don’t want to be your friend. And as a human with feelings and an adequate awareness of those feelings, I have that choice and I will be using it.
- Honestly, it is quite amazing where I found community and support during this process. I found friendliness and love in spaces that I never dreamed of finding it. People that I thought I would never be able to reconcile with were in my corner and supported me through this endeavor. People who I didn’t necessarily have the best relationships with saw my heart, saw my efforts, and deemed me worthy of their support. I will always remember the people who had my back the most during this process.
- Despite having to process so many feelings, I AM TRULY HONORED to be Miss Southern Miss. I hope that me winning this prestigious title will inspire and motivate so many women to run despite affiliation, support, or campus involvement. I hope that students will gage this year’s platforms and see this as a stepping stone to making homecoming about more than what clubs you were in during college and will see that campaigning is truly an amazing way to connect to students and help shape their Southern Miss story. I hope that it begins to be more about your heart, how you impacted people, and what you did to leave Southern Miss greater. I hope that every woman who ever felt like she wasn’t enough sees me with all my insecurities and failures and is inspired to believe in herself. I hope that people know and believe that none of this is a reflection of me and any glory that I deserve. I didn’t do this. God did, and I hope that Christ in me could be seen throughout this entire process. I hope that people see that they can do and be WHATEVER and WHOEVER they want at Southern Miss and still be deemed worthy and honorable enough to run for such a title. I did this for me. I did this for people like me. I did this for us, and I don’t regret or wish to change a single thing about this experience. I have learned. I have loved. I have been changed.
As always love God, love people, and love on a homecoming candidate a little bit harder today. Southern Miss TTT!