Ifemelu folded her arms, and as often happened when she was about to say something she knew was better unsaid, the words rushed up her throat. “Why should I make decorations for a thief?”

This quotation appears in Chapter 3, when Ifemelu gets in trouble at church for refusing to make garlands for Chief Omenka, who donated vans to the church. Although Ifemelu is correct to call Chief Omenka a thief, Sister Ibinabo becomes furious because the church relies on donations and works to encourage them. Even as a young girl, Ifemelu makes astute observations about the absurdities and hypocrisies in the world around her. However, this trait often gets her into trouble or is considered a sign of her being difficult or insolent.

He fit here, in this school, much more than she did. She was popular, always on every party list, and always announced, during assembly, as one of the “first three” in her class, yet she felt sheathed in a translucent haze of difference.

Ifemelu makes this observation of Obinze in Chapter 5, as she watches her wealthier classmates talk about their dual passports. Ifemelu is a scholarship student and from a poorer family than the rest of her classmates. This moment is emblematic of younger Ifemelu’s insecurity. Even though her relationship with Obinze at this point is going well, she still feels insecure because of the disparities between them. The way she compares him to her other classmates likely is a remnant of how Kayode initially tries to set Obinze up with Ginika, who is more conventionally sweet and attractive.

She would have to tell him what happened, and she could not bear the thought of telling him what happened. She felt shamed; she had failed.

This quotation from Chapter 16 describes Ifemelu’s self-loathing in the aftermath of being taken advantage of by the tennis coach. Ifemelu stops replying to Obinze’s messages because of the deep shame she feels. In everything Ifemelu has heard about America, it is meant to offer her more opportunities and a better life than Nigeria. However, the only job she has been able to find is sex work. Instead of blaming the system that has brought her to this moment, Ifemelu blames herself. This deep shame and fear of Obinze’s judgment temporarily destroys their relationship.

There was something wrong with her. She did not know what it was but there was something wrong with her. A hunger, a restlessness. An incomplete knowledge of herself.

Ifemelu has these thoughts about herself in Chapter 31, around the time she and Curt break up. Drinking at a bar after Curt will not return her calls, she believes the bartender would be a better girlfriend for Curt. Although by this point there are plenty of signs that Curt may be too insecure and controlling for Ifemelu, because Curt is conventionally attractive and rich, Ifemelu partially believes that not being happy with him is a personal flaw. She does not yet trust or value her own desires or preferences.

Still, she was at peace: to be home, to be writing her blog, to have discovered Lagos again. She had, finally, spun herself fully into being.

This quotation appears in Chapter 55, as Ifemelu considers the life she has built for herself in Nigeria. She has finally created a life where she feels she can fully be herself, in the city where she feels most at home, profiting from her outspokenness on her blog. Importantly, at this point she believes that Obinze will never divorce Kosi, which means this strong sense of self is independent from their relationship. She likes herself the way she is, with or without Obinze.