This post was adapted from my talk at the 2016 Glappitnova Festival.
Recently, I’ve been taking a page out of Shonda Rhimes’ best-selling memoir, Year of Yes. For those of you who don’t know, Rhimes is the mastermind behind Shondaland aka TGIT aka the holy trifecta of prime-time television known as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. The premise of her memoir is essentially saying yes to things that scare the shit out of you, pardon my French.
Which is how I ended up here, speaking at Glappitnova. A friend and former coworker (shout-out to Felicia Matthews) asked me if I’d like to participate and, before I had the chance to talk myself out of it, I said yes. Not really knowing what was involved or much about the event itself. But I said yes. And, shortly thereafter, panic started to set in. What am I going to talk about? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not cool enough?
Enough. What a loaded word. Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I thin enough? Chances are we’ve asked ourselves some version of these questions at some point in our lives.
For me, it started with “Am I Black enough?”
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself since middle school when my classmates called me an “Oreo,” code for “Black on the outside and White on the inside.” My classmates, who were mostly Black, accused me of being bougie, talking White and acting White.
Yes, I’d grown up in a predominately White suburb 45 minutes outside of Baltimore. Yes, I spoke “proper English.” And yes, I preferred Britney to Biggie and Justin Timberlake to Tupac. But did this somehow make me less Black?
My Black girl imposter syndrome continued into adulthood when I was the digital content editor for JET magazine aka one of the oldest Black-owned publications in the country. While my boss and the editor-in-chief (along with the majority of the women on staff) wore natural hair, I chose (and still choose) to wear a relaxer. Does this somehow make me less Black?
The answer, despite what many proponents of #TeamNatural, will have you believe is “no.” Living in the ‘burbs, wearing a relaxer and listening to so-called White music does not make me any less Black nor does it mean I hate myself. I am Black enough.
Fast forward to two years ago when I was transitioning from my career as a journalist to a career in nonprofits and the top question plaguing me was “Am I good enough?”
Yes, I’d won awards as a journalist and yes, I had a good thing going working for one of the most respected Black magazines in the nation. But I was burnt out and worn it. I’d become desensitized to story after story of police brutality and I knew I had to get out before it got the best of me.
But would I make it? Could I successfully transition into another career after seven years as a journalist? I’d never worked for a nonprofit before. Was I good enough?
The answer was and still is yes. I took a leap of faith and pursued my passion with a purpose. And I’m so glad I did. All I’ve ever wanted to do was write and help young women. And I’m fortunate I get to do this every day at Girl Scouts. It truly is a blessing.
It wasn’t easy. But it was worth it. And I learned that I am good enough.
So now, a year into working my “dream job” and the biggest question I face is “am I enough?” As I am? In this moment? Right here, right now?
It’s the question that comes to mind when I’m asked to participate in a Twitter chat or on a panel or an event such as this. What do I have to offer?
I don’t have a million followers on social media. I don’t get big brand name sponsorships on my blog. I’m not making six-figures from speaking engagements. Am I enough?
It means something different to everyone. If we’re being candid, for me it means making Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. It means being director of media relations or communications for a nonprofit that benefits girls. Or perhaps maybe even accomplishing my lifelong dream of becoming editor-in-chief of a teen magazine.
But if I’m constantly hoping and praying for “the next big thing” or the next stage of my life, then I’m not living my best life now. I’m not living up to my potential. I’m taking what I have now for granted. The truth is I am enough. As I am. Right here, right now. In this moment. And every day.
Not to get all Oprah on you, but you are enough and you are enough and you are enough. We’re all enough. As we are. Right here, right now.
There’s no one else on the planet like you or like me. And that is our gift. That’s what makes you “you.” Don’t lose sight of that. Don’t ever think you’re not enough. Because you are. We all are.