enemies of progress

i shared last week that i am in counseling and i truly believe that when i made the decision to seek help, to be vulnerable and transparent, that the hounds of hell were unleashed. these are the internal whispers, the mental taunts, the unseen forces that prevent me from pursuing my gift due to self-doubt. despite what other people say to me about my background or knowledge i question my authority to share my professional experiences and life lessons with other SBFs who are traveling a similar path.

let me tell you, it has not been easy facing my truth: i am afraid to believe that i can and will be a successful blogger, writer, speaker, podcaster, grad student, or pmo director.  i’m on this treadmill of ideas, dreams, hopes, disappointments, going nowhere fast but watching other people get on and off and move forward.

there is an enemy of progress, a demonic spirit that settles in and tells me that i do not have a calling, a purpose, a focus, that i am not where i want to be because of this or that failure or lack of preparation or some other avalanche of mental rumination. what i realize is that i am battling not only myself, but also what i *think* other people believe about my capabilities. the dreaded impostor syndrome. a phrase i’ve heard about, skimmed past, but never spent much time on until now.

i am a podcast nut and i was scrolling through apple podcasts while at a stoplight and stumbled upon “your career girl – deeper than work” a podcast by dorianne st. fleur. i pressed play and listened to episode 50 “how to eliminate the impostor syndrome” and i was arrested by one of the first things she said, (my paraphrase):

“often we are the only one who looks like us in a specific room, team, company…you’re the only black person there and you think, maybe i don’t belong here.”

boom. let me stop right there. that statement is the crux, the reason, the foundation, the purpose of singleblackfemale.me. dorianne validated my premise and connected it to my feelings of being a fraud when i enter the boardroom, look into a sea of white faces and my “singleness” suggests that i am an impostor who should not be at the table.

i often present at meetings where no one looks like me and i must ground myself in the space, shake off the fact that i am the SBF and accept that i earned the right to be there. when the executives are disengaged, speaking in code, or firing questions at me and challenging my content, when the ONE (white) woman of status (a veep) is less than a champion, i have to dig deep to find the confidence to stand firm and hold my own. i search for a “friendly” who will offer support in terms of a nod, a smile, or verbalized agreement. that’s a topic for another day, but as women (of color) the very least we can do is encourage a fellow woman who has entered “the men’s room.”

the podcaster recounted 5 types of impostor syndromes from a Landit.com article and that’s when i got my pen and my “it’s gonna be ok” journal and began scribbling down each of the points, my ballpoint pen dragging across the page, backing up the podcast 15sec, 30sec to make sure i got them all. i won’t recap the podcast or the article, check it out for yourself, but i will confess that all 5 apply to me. i am a perfectionist. there i said it. i have a powerpoint deck i have avoided working on for months because the last steering committee meeting was like a brightly colored pimple on the tip of my nose. i walked away feeling defeated and like i had failed to present the data in a coherent way. since then i have let other work take precedence to avoid returning to it.

the podcast triggered a memory of the time and money i spent preparing for and taking the GMAT, an exam that kicked my ass twice. i accepted defeat and redirected my focus, money, and time to PMP exam prep. in 2011 i earned my PMP certification and decided that grad school would not be in my future if i had to face the GMAT giant again.  but god. sisters, in 2018 i enrolled in an eMBA program with a concentration in project management. my eyes are fixed on graduating in december 2020. the GMAT was not a requirement, but my PMP certification allowed me to bypass exam prep and write two research papers, the second of which my professor asked me to prepare as an abstract for the PMP symposium in 2020. i learned how to define my topic, identify the right articles, cite my sources, and i was asked to present my findings to my cohort. i excelled in the first year of the program with a straight As and have now earned my masters certificate in project management.  had i not stumbled upon this podcast, i would not have had this moment of self-reflection and of personal achievement.

for the first time in a long time i am encouraged. i have been at the end of my rope and ready to give up on my dream of blogging, writing, speaking, sharing my experiences as an SBF and equipping project managers with tools to be successful in the discipline. i have allowed doubt and fear to creep in, tell me i am an impostor and hold my dream hostage. i am not out of the woods but i know there is a path through this thicket, that there is sign, a directory, a map, a star, a light that will guide me as i journey toward fulfilling my gift.

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