On Makeup, Mirrors and Filters

I love watching people. It’s incredibly fascinating to observe folks in their natural habitat. 

The randomness of it all. The predictability. The way social interactions evolve from mundane everyday niceties into intense emotional outbursts. 

I’ve witnessed people run over by vehicles, scuffles that resulted in broken bottles, lots of blood and a lot of wounds. 

Watch long enough and you’ll witness the dynamics of a riot, as a sea of bodies and voices jumble together in outrage. 

Ah, my favorite is watching relationships end and new ones begin right before your very eyes. See the guy smile and talk animatedly even as he tries to convince the lady of whatever it is he wants her to believe. 

The daily grind of a 9 to 5 makes people watching a luxury but I was recently able to rediscover the thrill of it. 

Between June and July, I took a pretty intense round trip to 5 states in Nigeria – Abia, Imo, Delta, Ogun and Ondo. 

I found myself watching people a lot on my trip. It was a relief because: 

  • I spend way too much time on my phone 
  • This was my first time seeing Nigerians from other tribes living in their natural habitat (the female bike riders in the East were a major highlight cos there were surprisingly many of them). 

People watching is pretty helpful for me. It helps me understand people. Something I don’t say often is I’m a bit of a dunce when it comes to emotional intelligence. More often than I care to admit, I usually say the right thing in the wrong way, and this can often cause more friction than I wish with people I care about. 

People watching provides a vast catalogue of situations and possible ways to talk to people. 

People watching can also be occasionally boring, so you make up backstories. Facial expressions, what they’re doing, and the way they walk or sit, clothes they’re wearing, the jewelry they have on, and even the state of their shoes are all raw materials for backstory. 

Well, during my travels, I met and interviewed a lady who wore a LOT of makeup. I’m not talking about just the regular touch up etc. I mean, heavy duty, massive face altering territory here. It’s fascinating because I began to wonder, what is she hiding? A scar maybe?

Or maybe she just wants to feel good about herself. Or perhaps she’s just tired of feeling undesirable and wants to be admired. Every damn time. 

Who knows?

But then, my thoughts drifted home. And I began to think about human beings in general. How we wear masks. How we are one thing underneath but we never really get the chance to come face to face with that version of ourselves. 


Look in the mirror, is that all they see? Is that good enough?

Social media has made authenticity a bit more complicated. Everyone is in everyone’s face about their views so it’s hard to decipher where your own thoughts begin and where others’ end. But even without Facebook, twitter and co. we’ve always been lying to ourselves. 

We’re our own best PR machines.

We have an internal narrative we carry around that colors everything about our lives – our self esteem, our goals, the kind of love we desire, the kinds we permit ourselves to receive, or give. 

But we’re flawed. 

We regularly overestimate our flaws. 

Someone says (offhandedly) that you’ve added weight and suddenly, you believe your waist is too wide, you’re unattractive and need to get on a diet, pronto. 

Someone made a joke about your nose and now, you’ve started googling the plastic surgeons in your area. 

Our self image is so fragile, all it takes is a jab and we come tumbling down.

Truth is, we rarely see ourselves the right way; mostly the way the world sees us. 


Thank God for makeup! 

Remember that PR agent I mentioned earlier, he lives for makeup.  And not just the cosmetic kind. 

If it’s a flaw the world around us has identified, he’ll cook up a makeshift fix for it.

A receding hairline? Try hair growth creams or a toupee. 

Someone called you fat? We cant have that so get on a keto diet please. Or a new girdle. 

Your ex girlfriend thinks you’re a broke ass? Nah, spend your savings on new garbs and bling and show her who’s boss. 

We’re professional makeup artists. 

Even our personalities are cosmetic. 

We want to appear more interesting, more open minded, more intelligent. 

So we alter ourselves. We feel we’re selling out so we tag it personal branding. 

Eventually, you realise you don’t even recognise the stranger staring back at you in the mirror. But hey, at least you have retweets and likes to keep you cozy at night. 


Instagram may have made amateur photo editing a culture, but we’ve been adding filters to our personalities all our lives. 

No matter who you are, everything and everyone is trying to exert influence on you. 

And so we need filters. A discerning eye to keep us from embracing every thing the world throws at us. The one that sifts through opinions and fights to resist toxic ones. To keep me as me. And you as you. 

One of the best filters I’ve found are friends.

We subconsciously defer to them for opinions. The right compliment from a long time pal can change behaviors overnight. A strong rebuke by a mentor can kill bad decisions in 2 seconds. 

Eventually you realise that you only needed makeup because you were using wrong mirrors all along.

Maybe we should invest more in deliberate, healthy friendships.

That may be the best “touch-up” any of us could ever hope for. 

Curtain Call on Page 33….

… and hello Page 34!

I’m starting to think of my life as an early draft of a great story being written.

With so many chapters and so many adventures, not all of them have happy endings but they all have lessons to teach. All those pages so far make me the man I am today, and I’m just so happy.

I already wrote about some good things that happened to me last year here. Keep reading if you’ve already read that.

I got to tick more boxes off my bucket list. Finally had my first air flight which wasn’t as scary as I feared. It was excruciating though – I ‘ve been living with this hole in my tooth for seven years and when the plane reached a certain height (that point where your ears pop), the hole in my tooth began banging  hard, and my head started to spin.

So it ended up being a memorable experience, even though for the wrong reason!


Had my first creative burnout.

So last year was the most intense year I’ve ever had professionally. I worked my butt off without taking a break or a leave. By December, I had nothing left to give – my writing sucked, my ideas sucked, even I sucked, I hated Mondays and started tuning out at work. Things that would usually take me an hour or two to write, started taking me days. I just didn’t have the drive anymore.

Luckily, my awesome boss picked up on it, had a sit down with me, and once she realised what was going on, gave me the rest of the year off (see why she’s awesome?). Had a long Christmas / New year holiday and stayed away from writing long enough to start missing it. And only then did I start writing again. Like the experts say, time off from work helps to refill your creative juices.

33 was also the year I got mugged for the first time, ever. It was equal parts scary and bizarre. Like I couldn’t believe it was happening even while it was happening.

So it was just me facing off 3 guys. It happened so fast! Like one minute I was strolling to my house, the next I was surrounded by 3 dudes. It was dark, threats were made, and they were all over me in the space of 5 seconds. I was right there in their middle forming Captain America and fighting them off when I realised, “Dude, you could die right now, shey you know?” I quickly looked for an opening and ran for dear life.

I’m really grateful I escaped, (wallet and my phone intact!), with only bruises and a deep wound on my wrist, (which I got treated at the hospital the following day), to show for it. Phew! Close call. Thank you Jesus!

I’m still not the patient, understanding, accommodating, meek and wise human being I desire to be. In my heart of hearts, I want to have a heart just like Jesus, I really do. I want to show people His love, wisdom, and incredibly large and warm heart. But there were days I failed so bad and ended up so far from the mark, that goal of Jesus’ heart felt like a cruel joke. But, for the first time, in the course of this page 33, I also had good days, not a few, where I came close. Like, really close to the mark. Those days I’d go to bed, feeling like I rode on clouds all day.

Like I said at the beginning, I’m an early draft that is very much being written. There’s a lot about me that needs to be reworked and even more that needs to be edited out. But at this point, the general gist of my life is evident and I like what it is turning out to be.

Each day, I wake up to the joy all around me. Aware of the beautiful story being written within me and through me.

I’m grateful for so much. I feel like I’ve lived a full life already. So many homes and families fixed, kids back in school, teenagers set on the right track in life, healings and an incredible mentoring program I’m currently a part of.

And to think that there’s still so much ahead.

I’m humbled by this.

I’m excited also.

Here’s hoping Page 34 is more beautiful, inspiring and captivating than all the pages before. As always, there will be dancing, food and lots of cake.

Thanks for reading.


Photo Credit: Brandivate

2018 in Review: Hit Me Baby One More Time

I’m writing this on the eve of 2019, the final day of the awesome year that was 2018 and I must confess, I’m reluctant to see this year end. Reason: it has been my best year ever.

In fact, I considered not doing a review this year cos of the probability of writing an article  that would end up more or less a humble-brag.

But if I get to share and review the awful years, it’s only fair for me to review the awesome years as well, right?

Career Testimonies

Got a raise at work!

Piggybacking on that, this also became the first year since 2013 (when I began freelancing) I did not have to do side gigs to make ends meet each month. In fact, I started turning down jobs!

I thought I was crazy the first time I turned one down. Like, why would you turn down money, Ibukun? But then I wanted my weekends back. For 5 years, since I began freelancing, I have rarely had my weekends to myself. However, this year, I took it back!

Now I have more time to read, study, visit people, attend programs and events, or just literally have a lazy day and sleep in.

I. Love. My. Job!

Have I said how much I love my job? Ok, I reeeeaaally love my job. My boss, my colleagues (who are fast becoming like family), getting paid to write, seeing my name in national newspapers etc. But at the top of the list is the fact that what we’re doing at SIDFS matters in really practical ways to millions of people. I also like the fact that I get to work on really diverse and interesting projects.

Speaking of projects, this year, our team organised and hosted an art exhibition at the Lagos Business School. It was a classic “fish out of water” moment for me. I was responsible for PR and ensuring people attended the event.

No Pressure

But thanks to that awesome team I work with everyday, we pulled it off and it was a blast.

Adulting 201

Got my own apartment!

Lessons Learned

I learned quite a few lessons in 2018.

First and perhaps most important on the list, is the difference between guilt and responsibility.

I’ve always felt that when my friends made bad decisions, it’s a reflection on me – that I’m a bad leader and friend. Like, why would my friends or students make bad decisions when they have me?

I’ve held onto this mindset for years so it’s a blindspot. But then one day, God flashed a question across my mind.

Who do you blame for your own bad decisions?

The question stopped me in my tracks.

I replied, “I dont blame anybody for my bad decisions. It’s all on me.”

The voice went, “Exactly”.

Basically, my stance meant people make bad decisions because their friends allowed them to. And as a person who has a library of bad decisions, that means I should blame people (aka my friends) for my own bad decisions.

That’s not true. And since we’re supposed to treat others the way we want to be treated, it means I had to let go of that belief. It’s not only wrong but harmful.

Secondly, spending less time on social media gives you so much time for other things. I drastically reduced my social media usage in November and, well… I had even more time to read (my first love), study, pray, and genuinely connect with people. That last part, connecting with people, means practicing mindfulness which was a really healthy exercise for me last year which I plan to continue next year.

Chasing God

In 2005, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life. I committed myself to Jesus and resolved I’d spend the remaining years of my life chasing Him. Trying to become like Him.

I knew it would involve a lot of sacrifice but I had no idea just how much it would demand.

However, I’ve traded a life of fear, selfish pursuits and ego for a life of beauty, peace and contentment. It’s the best deal I’ve ever made.

Except for 2005, every year I usually spend more time down spiritually than up. This year, that trend was reversed. I spent more time up than down! And while there’s still a lot of room for improvement, I’m really happy about 2018.

Love: Pending

2018 was supposed to be the “I do” year. But in what is becoming a yearly trend, 2018 had its fair share of disappointments and heartaches.

I obviously still have a lot of growing up to do. So I’m grateful for a new year, another 365 days to become more selfless, generous, kind, patient and wise.

I’m still growing. I may know how to talk a big game but I’m still figuring a lot of stuff out. So is everyone else. So please give me (and everyone you know) some margin for error. We’ll need it to excel in the next 365.

Hope you’re ready do it all over again, this time, even better?

15 Things I learned in 2017

Wow, that was a rather quick year.

I still remember doing this end of year review last year (seems like just a few months ago though).

Anyways, it was a quick year meaning there’s so much left to do. I honestly can’t wait to start running.

But before we hit the tracks, I decided to jot down my learnings this past year.

  1. You don’t have to like people to work well with them

Throughout my relatively short career, I’ve worked with truly amazing people who remain friends till this day. This year, I started out on a fresh adventure when I switched jobs. For the first time, I’m working with people… let’s just say I’m not so fond of. There’s just something about their personality that rubs me wrong.

I always assumed this would be a problem for me but the reverse has been the case. It became an opportunity to slow down and practice tolerance, as well as keeping an eye on the bigger picture which is the task at hand.

So, while working with colleagues who are like friends and family will make your work experience infinitely enjoyable, working with “colleagues” has no negative effect on the final output. At the end of the day, you’re at work not to make friends but to work.

  1. Liking your colleagues however, makes work feel amazing

On the other hand, this year I blessed with another amazing boss (warning, gushing sentences ahead). My boss is like a coach, a cheerleader and Albert Einstein rolled up in one. She’s so brilliant, industrious, always bursting with ideas and versatile. I see her tackle new subjects with a mental agility people only dream about.

But intelligence does not a decent human being make. Luckily for me, my boss is fiercely supportive. She’s like a mom and a favorite aunt rolled up into one. We joke, we laugh, we fight and we kick ass together.

  1. When managing conflict, it’s okay NOT to be cynical

Have you ever been in those situations where you get into a not-so-friendly exchange with someone from which you eventually walk away? Then after several hours you come up with the perfect comeback, but the opportunity is gone. Painful, right?

In the bid not to be outdone, we now have the clapback culture – people sit behind the safety of their keyboard screens, and tear down other human beings.

It’s ugly.

We tend to celebrate it on twitter and laugh it off but truth is, it’s a zero sum game.

Towards, the ending of 2017, I realised managing conflict is a handy skill to have. Unfortunately, over time, my go-to social skill for managing conflict is usually sarcasm. And sarcasm has a twin brother called cynicism. Together, both siblings had grown significantly in my speech and attitude.

I had to consciously avoid using them. The real shocker was the fact that, this was frigging difficult! I kept stifling myself several times a day, just to keep from sarcastic retorts and cynical comments.

But stifle we shall.

  1. Be generous with praise and stingy with criticism

When you’re right, stifle the need to tell people – “I told you so”. They already feel bad enough.

  1. Become a cheerleader to others, especially your family and friends.

It’s easy to overlook those closest to us, I honestly don’t know why. This year, I tried to fix that, popping in regularly to let them know I believed in them and want them to succeed.

  1. Stay away from lazy people

Laziness is contagious. So is an industrious spirit. I learned this the hard way. If you want to improve in anything, first unclutter your life. Lazy people are everywhere – we are friends with them, we chat with them, we make plans with them on how to kill valuable time. There are also really diligent + focused people around. We know them so why not speak with them often, chat with them, learn from them? Let them inspire you to be better.

  1. Stay away from toxic people in general

Toxicity includes people who complain but refuse to do anything to fix the problem. This year, I noticed a lot of people kept seeing problems everywhere around them but they rarely if ever do anything to fix it. I’m not talking about big, national problems. I’m referring to personal everyday issues they face. They simply complain and that’s it. They go on with their daily routine or douse themselves with TV.

Another side of toxicity is numbness. A lot of people are passionless. They’ve lost their sense of wonder. They live for themselves alone, having nothing bigger to live for.

Newsflash: That’s called selfishness.

Been weeding out these people from my life all through 2017.

  1. There’s no such thing as a boring subject

My new job involves a lot of research around financial services, national development and policy. The past 6 months saw me reading, writing and interviewing major financial services ecosystem players in Nigeria and delving into the core of the dynamics of the sector.  On the last day of 2017, my dad asked me to tell him about my new job. And for the next 15 minutes, I talked about the Nigerian financial services sector and my work at the SIDFS initiative of Lagos Business School. You could see the light coming on in his eyes. He asked questions, smiled and nodded several times. Judging by the fact that there was a premiership match going on when we were talking, I think I did a good enough job keeping his attention (dad is a huge soccer fan!).

  1. Be more vocal with what you want

“I want a day off.”

“I want a raise.”

“I want to work from home twice a week.”

As long as you think it is valid, go ahead and ask. The worst that will happen is a no. And then you’ll be right back where you were just two seconds ago before you asked. So what exactly are you scared of again?

  1. People will always try to exploit you if you allow them to

I love helping people. And some people caught on to the fact that, Ibukun likes helping out. So they exploited it. This bothered me until I realised something – I do this shit cos I like doing this shit!

I’m doing it cos I care but I’m also doing it cos it feels good to help!

Most times, helping out is its own reward. After all, what else would you do? Watch them suffer? That’s worse.

  1. For writers, complement your writing with speaking

Learn how to talk. As someone who makes a living constructing words, I spend a lot of time in my own head. Social media has kind of exacerbated the situation cos I get to bypass speaking and just directly imprint my thoughts on a page.

Until it’s time to speak at a team meeting and I found myself stuttering and “ehmig and i-ing”. It’s really frustrating cos it makes you seem less competent than you really are. As a writer, speaking well can do wonders for your career. It’s a worthy investment.

  1. Love is worth the pain

In the search for love, you’ll go through a lot of disappointments. People will break your heart, take you for granted and mostly further their agendas. Yes, some will treat you right but the heartbreaks usually overshadow the good memories.

Underlying those horrible experiences is change. You’ll learn, you’ll grow, you’ll change. You’ll cry, yes. But you’ll also have some laughs along the way. You’ll learn to recognise and discern crushes. And side step them when cupid wants to shoot you that silly arrow. When love comes eventually, it will be worth it.

  1. Love is worth the wait

While waiting for the “one”, I’ve met loads of people. In the process of meeting and getting to know people, they’ve exposed my weak points. I’m glad these weaknesses are coming to light now and I’m getting to deal with them early. The wait means I get more time to grow. I get to be more patient, wiser, kinder, stronger and more disciplined.

Sometimes I look at the man I’m becoming. And I smile cos I’m growing.

Future wifey is in for a treat.

P.S. I hope you’re growing too!

  1. A lot of what happens on social media is posturing

People are aspirational. And that aspiration translates to social media. We are usually trying to portray an image of what we are, or what we think we are or what we hope to be. Hence, you can’t judge people based on their social media feed/timeline.

While this is understandable, I also believe we need to have integrity. As we age, we should be consolidating not fragmenting. Same life in church, at work, at home and ultimately online.

Tall order? Maybe, but I’m working towards a unified presentation of my life to all. Adopting this mentality has enabled me to re-examine what I share online. Even the discussions I join.

It’s not every conversation you need to join.

  1. Stop putting people on a pedestal, everyone is still figuring things out

Nobody has it all figured out. Even though some folks will not admit, we’re mostly just winging it through life. Unfortunately, it’s hard not to idealise them. And when we idealise them, we set the up to inadvertently disappoint us, big time.

Rather, the right attitude is to give people a large margin of error even though they will rarely ask for it. People are human so they will be selfish, forgetful, opportunistic and entitled.

No surprise. So are you.

So am I.

The important thing is: Are you changing?

Thanks for reading. Happy 2018.

About Pain and Heartbreak

Heartbreak sucks.

Anyone who’s ever heard the love of their life say, “We’re done!” will understand how it feels to have your chest caved in with a bludgeon.

It’s not just the rejection that crushes you.

You’ll fight memories and old habits, many of which you formed together.

You will wear out your soul while reliving the moment he/she rejected you, a thousand times each day.

It’ll hurt so much you will sometimes wish for death on yourself, and later on, you’ll wish it on the leaving party who is causing you so much pain.

The pain is intense and it has no remorse.

While dealing with the pains of heartbreak, people repress feelings. In a bid to escape the pain, they stifle themselves and shut the emotions in and out.

True, some people feel things deeply, much deeper than others. And negative, painful feelings have a way of weighing us down, even dangerously so. But something I learned from watching Inside Out was that sorrow is as much a part of life as joy. (If you’re yet to see Inside Out, you should fix that right away).

You can’t wish or pray sorrow away. Recite all the motivational quotes from now till Aristotle’s grave turns over, sorrow will continue to be a part of our human existence.

Knowing that sorrow is part of our journey will stop you from panicking when it shows up. You’ll take it in stride.

I used to hate sorrow. It sapped my energy and made me unable to think straight. I’d shut down, convince myself it wasn’t such a big deal and that was the end of it. I’d struggle with the pain for about three days, and each time the thoughts showed up, I’d nix them right in the bud.

It worked.

I felt better. At least, I thought I did. I went back to getting work done.

But these things found other ways of expressing themselves.  More painful and devastating ways.

Perhaps more importantly, repression changes you in ways you didn’t bargain for. You lose a part of you.

You become hard. You lose your wonder, your quest for adventure and love.

Love eventually becomes transactional – nothing goes for nothing. It seems wiser and safer to be economical with love. You don’t realize you just settled on an even more twisted version of Machiavelli’s theory – the end justifying the means.

But is this the end you wanted? Deprived of love, the selfless, rapturous kind that storytellers and musicians have spun tales and ballads about. You become the centre of your own universe, your focus is you, your feelings, your wants, your plans, you you you.

You’re bankrupt.

Love has left you. And it didn’t leave a forwarding address.

So yeah, repression works, granting you short term benefits but in the long run, it leaves you worse off.

So instead of repression, try embracing the pain.

Sit down and have a good cry. Stress eat. Load up your playlist and play all the love songs, imagining how right or wrong the singers were. Look at the stars and yell at God. Reach towards your friends’ shoulder and soak it with tears.

Let pain find expression. The heart knows how to heal itself and will tell you when it’s ready.

It’s hard, I know. It hurts, I know that too.

But I also know that it’s all part of what makes love worth it eventually.


Photo Credit: MaleCodependence