All of my life I have struggled with defining my value. My worth. Growing up a black girl in rural Arkansas, I was taught to accept what I was given and to never question it because things could always be worse. When I went to school, I was placed in the back. When I went home, I awoke to crosses burning in my yard. When I raised my hand, my answers weren’t right unless validated by someone else – someone who wasn’t also black. In all of my formative years, there were constant intangible reminders that my value wasn’t equivalent to those who didn’t look like me. It’s not as if there were people who walked up to me and said, “You don’t matter. I don’t view you the same. Be seen and not heard. Appreciate what you’re given and learn not to expect much more.” But, it was there. Always, always there. It was the loudest unspoken truth of my life.
After graduating from college I moved to Los Angeles to begin my career and again was confronted with the fact that being a woman of color made me … less. I began to rebel against the notion. I was sick of being labeled and defined for something I couldn’t change without being given the chance to prove “it” one way or the other. While the rebellion was healthy, seeing as I SHOULD seek to define my own value and worth, the fruition of that battle was destructive. Internally, I desperately sought validation for my work, my presence and my ideas. If I didn’t receive it, I made you pay for it. Anyone who dared to send some unspoken message that I didn’t measure up simply because I looked different felt the wrath. I won plenty of battles, but lost too many wars to count. And oh don’t we know it’s the wars that count. Welcome to my first lesson in the power of vision versus sight.
After years of bumping my head, learning to use my words carefully, strategically “picking my hills”, and maturing, I finally was released from the demons of the past. I finally understood that my value, my worth were defined by me and me alone. It’s like that old saying, “Failing to forgive is like eating poison and waiting for the other person to die.” Well, seeking value and worth from external sources is like dressing up for a party and staying home (write that down!). What’s the point?! It’s a self-constructed prison that only confines YOU. And, no, you can’t change the system, but changing self and healing your perspective is sometimes the greatest battle with the greatest return.
This year at ColorComm, as I walked the halls with over 400 women of color, I felt my soul smile. I was able to look into the eyes of other women who intrinsically knew my struggle without needing to tell her the journey. I listened as the incomparable Carla Harris shared her “pearls of wisdom” on performance and relationship currency, under promising and over delivering and empowering yourself with understanding the market value for your role so that you’re paid it’s true value. Right there at the mention of “value”, I felt my being come full circle. It took me a long time to get here, but I now know that I define my value. And just as subtly as the negative messages were sewn into my spirit during my formative years, the messages, validation and wisdom shared at ColorComm powerfully quieted them all.
Maybe I’ve done my work. Maybe I’ve known this for a while and needed to be awakened. Who knows? Either way, attending ColorComm was a welcomed confirmation and healing after years of an unspoken battle. I am here. I am worthy. I define my value. #truthintransparency