I used to think I was completely comfortable being behind the scenes. I tend to shy away from the spotlight and allow everyone else to shine professionally.
But then I started to notice how much heavy lifting I was doing but no one knew and I would give the spotlight away to elevate others. This has been an inner struggle because for me it’s not about being seen in an unhealthy ego kind of way, but merely being recognized for my passion and efforts.
I think I have tended to shy away from the spotlight because as an African American woman, I have internalized oppression I have felt over the past 20 years in my professional life. This has, unfortunately, dictated how I show up in the world. I have put others in the spotlight to the determent of my own career and have often felt used and forgotten.
But isn’t that my own fault that I gave my power away? Or is it the system?
I think many people shy away from the spotlight, no matter their race, gender or background. And the longer we sit on the professional sidelines, the more comfortable we’ll get. We all need to put ourselves out there and become leaders in our communities and on our campuses.
I have decided to get out of my comfort zone and move beyond my learned behavior in 2018 and start embracing the spotlight. Here’s how I plan to do it:
- Silence My Inner Critic
The number one thing that stops most of us from putting ourselves out there and reaching our professional goals is that inner critic. You know that voice in your head that seems to spend every second of every day telling you how wrong you are. Don’t be fooled by this voice, it can often mask itself as “the voice of reason” when in actuality it is just an expression of your fear. This year I finally tell mine to shut the hell up!
- Accept Myself – Be True to Myself
I think authenticity is a powerful space to live in. From this place, we can reach our personal goals while helping others along with theirs. In order to be true to ourselves, we’ve got to accept ourselves first.
I learned a while back that in order to lead others, I have to know what makes them tick. When I realized this, I understood I needed to know what makes me tick. I have spent the past 20 years discovering myself, my passions, strengths, weaknesses, fears, warts and everything else, and I encourage you to do the same.
But here’s the kicker, once you know who you really are, BE that person. This year I am going to try and let my real light shine. My light is different than your light and yours is different from someone else’s. But when we all let our lights shine (warts and all) we light the way for students and community members to do the same. That’s powerful.
- Accept My Accomplishments
Living life in the spotlight will not be easy. Exposing ourselves to those in power takes courage. After all, when we let our light shine there is always the chance that someone will tell us we’re not good enough, not worthy enough for that promotion or to head that department.
And that’s okay, let them. The important thing is that every day we stay committed to this process; that we remain true to ourselves. If we do this, then we also need to CELEBRATE ourselves and our courage on a daily basis.
This year will be a big one for me as I try and stop being a shy violet and start living out loud. I invite you to join me.