“The first time I attended a large family gathering was my grandmother’s funeral. I was 36.” (Excerpt from my TEDX talk delivered May 2019)
Just recently I told a part of my personal story for the world to hear as I walked onto the TEDx stage. While I had told this story before, never before had I added the level of detail and pain. You see, I buried the pain of my childhood pretty deep.
When the coaches nudged me to go deeper and show more emotion, I wasn’t very comfortable doing so, because I had learned to reframe what happened to me. What is reframing, you might be thinking?
Reframing is “developing a new conceptual or emotional outlook relating to situations experienced, and putting it into another frame that follows the facts or evidence equally well, changing its whole definition. Reconstruction of a subject’s experiential view to impart a more positive view of it. Method for changing self-defeating thought processes by consciously inserting more positive ones.”
In my TEDx talk I shared examples of when I, and people I know, experienced some adversity or challenge and how we were able to “develop a new conceptual outlook” about our circumstances.
My most impactful story is about my upbringing. I opened this article with a real quote I used about my life. I was born into an interracial and interfaith marriage. My mom is white and Jewish. My father is black and Christian. My mom’s parents were very disappointed and embarrassed by this union, and I was simply a reminder of those emotions. As a result, I was never invited to public family events with my mother’s side of the family. I was never invited to bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs, weddings, or funerals. My school photos were nowhere to be seen in my grandmother’s home. I was the literal black sheep of my family.
I was left out of my family for something I had no control over: my race. That still hurts to admit.
So that happened to me. What was I going to do about it? Act like a victim? No. I was not created that way. I needed to move past that truth to make something of my life.
That is when I developed the ability to look at my circumstances as an opportunity. I “reframed” without ever knowing I was doing it. Living a life feeling all alone, without a voice, unimportant and disrespected, I decided that it was their loss. They didn’t have me in their lives, and thus, I felt sorry for them.
What could I do with this adversity?
I felt like this happened to me for a reason. I was put on this earth to do great things for others who feel or felt the same way I did growing up. I used my newfound perspective to advocate for others who are often voiceless and powerless to the leaders in their workplaces. I advocate for employees. And while I do this in many ways, I am fueled to do what I do every day because of the adversity that sent me down this path.
If I hadn’t come to the realization that this and any adversity I might face in my life would make me stronger and positively change my trajectory, I would not be where I am today.
In a big way, my adversity is the same thing that liberated me from mediocrity, liberated me from living a life of never feeling good enough, liberated me from blaming my life on others.
One of the things most people never expect me to say is, “I loved my grandmother.” In fact, she and I had a pretty good relationship despite this little secret. She visited me in Colorado occasionally; she rooted for me to go to and to graduate from law school.
She was prouder of me with every one of my accomplishments, but it was never enough to make it okay for her to reveal my existence to her community. That was a fact, and I was fine with it. I took what I could get regarding a relationship with her.
I am stronger because she pushed me to be more and to keep a stronger outer demeanor.
Many never understood my relationship with her. When she died, I did not wait for permission to show up to her funeral, which was the first time I ever showed up at a public family event. As many there wondered who I was, I walked with my head up, knowing that I was, indeed, an important member of that family.
So, what are you going to do with your adversity? I attended law school, wrote a book, host a podcast, have four beautiful children, and speak on world stages. I used my adversity as fuel to keep moving forward, and I am becoming my very best self.
I challenge you who are reading this to remove yourself from a victim category and be empowered by the obstacles in your way. How can your being laid off be a positive for you and your family? How can that new health diagnosis be a learning experience that you can and will overcome? Will you liberate yourself from what is holding you back from being your best self?
Reach out if you need a nudge. I got your back, and please remember to watch my first ever TEDx talk HERE.