I work with women of color with big career goals. They want to start their own business or nonprofit, move up to the top of their organization, become a sponsor or champion for other women of color. They want to do build a meaningful career, break the mold, make an impact.
And I love it. I think it’s so awesome – and I feel so lucky – to get to help them pursue their dreams.
But it’s definitely not easy for my clients.
Not only do they face obstacles and barriers just like everyone else, but the obstacles they face are amplified and intensified because they live at the intersection of race and gender (in addition to other identities).
Today I want to focus on one such obstacle: fear of failure. Women of color have a unique experience when it comes to the fear of failure. There’s the weighty sense that, as the “girl” or the woman in the family, they’re the representative who’s responsible for pulling everyone up. There’s the pressure from knowing that outsiders – the white establishment – will judge them for being different and inferior, secretly (or not so secretly) hoping for them to fail. There’s the baseline stress from living in a world where they’re always in fight-or-flight mode against racism and sexism.
It’s…a lot. And those are only a few examples.
So how can we, as women of color, make sure we don’t fall prey to all the pressure? How do we tackle our fears of failure? How do we keep from just giving up?
First, we gotta acknowledge that all the added pressures we face as women of color are real, valid, and legitimate. Structural racism and sexism abounds in our society. There’s no sugarcoating this.
Second, we have to remind ourselves that we’re not alone in our experience. We have find a support system.
We have to validate each other.
Third, we can’t use the fact that the cards are stacked against us as an excuse to give up on our dreams. Our dreams are 100% worth fighting for. Other people stand to gain from our success – in addition to ourselves and our loved ones. Our path lights the way for others. It inspires. It can do wonders for our communities, the environment, the economy.
So we gotta put aside our fears and double down on the work that needs to be done (and take breaks so we don’t burn out!).
Battle fear by taking action.
Reach out and talk to someone you trust. Send that email to set up the informational interview. Apply for the grant or enter the competition. Bet on yourself and commit to doing something that forces you to put yourself out there.
Because the world needs you. The world needs what you bring to the table.
Of course, none of this means the discriminatory structural barriers magically disappear. But putting in the work, betting on ourselves, and putting our work out there are all necessary, though not sufficient, factors. We gotta work 10x as hard. And still, success – or “success” – won’t be a guarantee.
But guess what? We sure as hell won’t achieve success if we don’t put in the work. No one is gonna hand it to us on a silver platter.
If we don’t fight for what we want, our aspirations will remain aspirations.
So. Who’s with me? Let’s shove the fears aside and take a bold step – or leap – toward our kickass career goals.
Got something you’ve been wanting to do? Drop a note in the comments to hold yourself accountable!