Black women are strong, mothers can handle anything, and women are better at multitasking.
Even “positive” stereotypes can affect you mentally. They will have you multitasking until you breakdown. Have you in the bathroom crying alone because you are too strong to let them see you cry. We allow these positive ideas of ourselves to dictate our behavior without notice.
I allowed these ideas and others creep into my mind and lead me to a brick wall. It started with my career journey. Like most people my journey started with school. I had to go to college and get a degree so I could get a good job.
To get a “good job” as a Black person or a woman you not only have to be the best, but exceptional. The world taught me that I have to be exceptional for someone to accept me. It taught me that I had to be overqualified for the job.
To be the first Black president you need a degree from Harvard and you still have to be male. Your partner has to be the most educated first lady ever with a degree from Harvard and Princeton.
I felt like a failure because I didn’t have my degree, so I did what a billion Americans have done. I went into debt getting a piece of paper so I would have the right qualifications. And these qualifications are only to apply for the position not to get the job.
Feeling unqualified is an unproductive mindset. But how do you break free from a mindset that the world has confirmed true?
Every job ad ended with the words 3 to 5 years experience or only qualified applicants will be contacted.
Before I got my degree I wasn’t good enough. When I got my degree I didn’t have enough experience. My personality wasn’t a good fit for the next job and so on. There was always something that was in the way of finding the job that’s right for me.
So, I stopped applying for jobs I knew I wouldn’t get.
My Eureka Moment
I was stuck doing a job I hated. Burdened by what I had to do and what I thought I had the ability to do. I was forced to decide what I really wanted. In the back of my mind I still questioned what I was qualified for.
So many women in my life are strong, intelligent, and creative. And have all been plagued by the thought that they won’t get “the job” so why apply? Part of the reason I’m writing this is to let them know I feel it too. If we all saw ourselves the way we see each other we’d be unstoppable.
The problem is you have to break free from yourself. You’ve been taught your limitiations based on your sex, color, and class. The only thing you can do is keep working through every no you’ll hear.
Centuries of racism and sexism have defined part of the way I react to the workplace. Think about how strange it is to apply for a job somewhere your ancestors weren’t allowed to be. Generations of people had to fight for me to have a chance to even apply.
And it’s not over.
I’ve been walked out on for asking for pay I deserved. The worst part was that I didn’t even want the job I was insulted over. I was trying to achieve an idea of what success looks like. I needed to take the first steps towards my own happiness. Once I did that I began to realize I deserved my definition of success whether I went to Harvard or not.
The truth is no level of qualification will ever be enough. Privileged people will apply for anything they want confidently because they believe they deserve the job.
Finally I realized my mistake! Who cares about experience, if no one with experience applies. That’s when I realized I was limiting myself. Apply for the job, make the submission, and express yourself before it’s too late.
Change in Mindset
I decided what I wanted and made a plan. I wanted to start my own business and I wanted to write.
Yes, I may have to send out an extra 1000 emails for every one racist or sexist person that doesn’t want to work with me, but I keep going and thriving. That person is not going to stop me because achieving my goals is the only option.
I see now all those generations of Black women didn’t fight so that I can live “the dream”. They fought so that I can create an even better one. Here I am simply wanting to be a writer feeling the weight of the world. Often small tasks in your life can feel heavier by the weight of those who came before you. You feel the pressure to make every Black mother proud.
Today, I am doing what I dreamed of and it’s not glamorous. I’d convinced myself there was no way it was possible. Funnily enough, even after I’d begun I still had a long way to go.
I read a job ad and decided I was not qualified for it. Either I didn’t have quite enough years experience or a glamorous enough portfolio. I read through every task knowing that I could do every one efficiently and prove it. I planned to file it away in the back of my mind to apply to “someday,” when I read the words:
Women and minorities please apply.
Despite the strides I made I was still limiting myself out of fear. I didn’t know I was stuck mentally believing I was unqualified until I saw those words.
Who knows why they posted that at the end of the ad. Maybe they realized they needed a different perspective or maybe they haven’t gotten any applications from minorities or women. This made me wonder if others feel like I do.
You may think your not ready or unqualified. You may think you will be rejected, but how can you possibly know unless you take the chance.
Put yourself out there today and give your best. Don’t sabotage yourself by not giving it everything you have. Understanding that I may be sabotaging myself with unproductive thoughts subconsciously I devised a plan to fight against it.
Fighting Against Mental Sabotage
I can’t control if the world looks at me and sees my color or gender first. I can control my mindset and my willingness to get to the next level. I did three things to help me remove the seed planted in my mind, I’d accepted as my own voice, telling me I was a little less deserving.
- I started applying to jobs I want, that I can do. Even if in my mind, I feel I’m not qualified for them. And yes, even if I only had one year instead of two years experience or no experience at all. All the while learning more about my craft everyday.
- I let go of the idea of what success meant. For me that meant to let go of this idea of finding the perfect job. I had to create my own job and finally become my own boss.
- I began counting up to my 1000 NO’s. I’ve never gotten to 1000 before having to start over. The idea is to take what’s constructive in rejection and move on to the next. Each no is one step closer to my next yes, so it’s exciting each time because everyday I’m getting closer to completing my goals.
Some people can’t understand what I’m doing. Anytime you break a rule and make a change in your life people will question it. It’s how you will know you are finally on the right path, because you are doing something for yourself.
I can finally see how to achieve one goal after the next. I’m not done, I’m just getting started, but the first step is setting yourself free from you. You are the only one who break down the wall the world will undoubtedly try to build around you.