My mom thinks I’m amazing. Yes, I know, all moms think their children are amazing. But, I’m talking about more than that. My mom gives me compliments, real measurable reasons for why she thinks I’m amazing. She doesn’t just say, “you’s smart, you’s kind and you’s important”. No, she has actually assessed what I’m good at and praises me for that. Spending time with my mom is akin to getting a true evaluation from a supervisor. She points out successful moments, gives honest feedback on ways I can improve and shares a story or two about how she has experienced me. If my mom had been the only voice in my head I would have a real accurate portrayal of who I am. I would walk in this world, completely as the person I am.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t been the only voice. There are other voices that have been put there by the boxes that are supposed to dictate what women of color do. Those voices come from media messages, by adults when I was a child, by peers (as a child and in adulthood) and by the experiences that have limited me. These voices have resulted in a strong voice in my head that says, you can’t do it and no one wants you to.
There is one piece of advice that I give to each mentee in my life. Learn to let them tell you, “No.” I had so many times in my life when opportunities passed me by. It wasn’t because I was passed over; it was because I failed to put my name in, I didn’t go for it. I just knew they wouldn’t want me, they were looking for something/someone else. The voices in my head were telling me, that is not your opportunity. Those opportunities may have opened up for me if I had just gone for them. So, I’ve had to learn to not be the one that says, “No.” I put myself out there for the opportunities and make them say, “no” to me.
Now, I would love to say the thing that got me to this place was that I read a few self-help books, took a seminar for female empowerment and changed the voices by giving myself affirmations. Instead, I needed the affirmations of those around me. I needed others to reflect to me what they saw and I needed them to do it in a real way. We all need true compliments that share exactly what is being experienced. Try expanding on a compliment you give to a woman today. Don’t share with her that she is great, not even that she is amazing. Tell her the story of your experience of her; a compliment she can use to challenge the nay say voices in our society.