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Overcompensation Isn’t Always Harmful

The concept of overcompensation and its effects have been stewing at the back of my mind for over one year. Overcompensation, the act of going above and beyond in certain areas to cover for those that lack, was something I was familiar with; part of my anxiety means that I function under hyper-awareness, intense self-reflection and catastrophising, often more obsessive worry than anything positive. 

Little over a year ago an activist I admire very much, Luvvie Ajayi, posted on facebook about ‘fauxtivism’. Luvvie’s post caused controversy, and one part, in particular, struck me:

And what’s interesting is, a lot of the most CAPS CAPS CAPSing “activists” out here are of mixed race descent. I just wanna tell them that they can chill. You don’t have to make up for the lack of melanin in your skin by always using your outside voice, even in situations that don’t warrant it. Tuck in your overcompensation. It’s like they’re performing Blackness based on anger, which is insulting’. [sic]

As a mixed race Black woman who had only recently begun to use my outside voice to speak against injustice and to advocate for mental health, Luvvie’s post rattled me: I’d always cared deeply about equality and justice, but how could I strike a balance between doing impactful work, and harbouring any motives stemming from overcompensation? During my life I have had many privileges, even within my Blackness. Access to education, light skin privilege, access to medication for my mental illness, to name a few. These, together with other parts of my identity that I am yet to unpack, have all contributed to my need to overcompensate in one way or another in the context of my advocacy and outspokenness about justice.