I am a Black woman.
A mother of two Black children.
A wife. A daughter. A sister. A friend. A child of God.
A writer. A communicator. A maker. A creative type.
A student. A teacher. A professional.
I am a whole bunch of things. All those pieces create my personality and who you see when you meet me and interact with me. Those things inform who I am.
During my years in corporate Canada, I heard the phrase, “Bring your whole self to work” pretty regularly when it came to diversity and inclusion…but, truthfully, no one really wanted to me to bring my “whole self” into their corporate workplace. Why? My “whole self”–my Black, natural-haired, female, intelligent self–made some people uncomfortable and unsure of my qualifications and my right to be there. My “whole self” was only OK in certain spaces.
I felt my otherness very keenly in those corporate spaces. I felt like I stuck out, yet was invisible at the same time. Going into meeting rooms and having people straight up ignore me–then having them look quizzical and shocked when I introduced myself. It got to the point that I didn’t bother to speak to people until a meeting started because most times I was met with blank stares.
It was being told I wasn’t ready for a promotion, yet being put in the same position I wasn’t ready for when a colleague left on mat leave.
Yo. How am I not ready for the promotion with the title change and pay raise, but I’m ready to do it with no training, no salary increase and no title change?
All the grunt work and none of the glow up.
I was frustrated, angry, uncomfortable and unable to be myself because all of me wasn’t accepted. The microaggressions and flat-out disparities of being a Black woman professional was taking its toll on me.
I was still all the things I listed above, but I was vexed, undervalued, annoyed and irritated. I was laid out. Depressed and questioning my value and my skills–unsure of who I was in the context of work.
And it wasn’t just me who was feeling it. A number of colleagues who looked like me were becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of opportunities for us to succeed.
When I finally left corporate, I went through a period of soul-searching, needing emotional support from friends and family, research, rest, and reflection. It took a few months, but I got up.
I got up and started rebuilding my confidence.
The first decision I made was to be genuinely me, regardless of where I found myself in future.
A former colleague gave me perspective on my time in corporate. A friend forced me back to my love of communicating. Family encouraged me to try something different.
I stepped out. I got out of my comfort zone.
And I brought all of me to my new endeavours–whether that made people uncomfortable or not.
I rediscovered the value that others didn’t see in me. I saw it in myself and best believe not one person can take that from me because I know my value lies in me–not in a workplace or in what a few people may think.
I learned never to give anyone the opportunity or power to determine my self-worth. If they can’t see your value, dust your sandals off, and keep it moving.
Today, I am creating a space for me, where I can create, bring value and a fresh perspective to my clients–while being true to myself. Is it hard? Yes. Do I question myself? Daily. But is it worth it? Definitely.
So, I’m all the things I listed above, but I now add one more to the list: entrepreneur.
And, boy, doesn’t it feel good.