“So what are you doing now?”
It’s the question I hear quite often these days from inquisitive folks wanting to know about my latest accomplishments. “I always have something going on,” they’d say after I coyly mentioned my latest endeavors and successes. I’ve always been an achievement-oriented type of person, like many other people; but until recently I saw nothing wrong with it. In fact, I thought it was an admirable trait. I was a busy girl. I hustled, always striving for success. That is until I realized that I was allowing my accomplishments and what other people deemed as successful to define who I was. My longing to say “Mama I made it!” was making me a nervous wreck. My happiness was tied to what I did and not who I was. It didn’t take an Iyanla: Fix My Life intervention for me to make this revelation. And after talking to other women, I made another not-so-shocking discovery: I wasn’t alone.
Black women are progressing in leaps and bounds when it comes to education and career. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Black women are the most educated group in the United States. Black women enroll in college more than any other race, and to make that good news even better, most of us graduate, too. Often times, we get even more ambitious and pursue master’s degrees and Ph.D.’s.
Here’s another fact to toot our own horns: Black women are also the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. According to a 2015 State of Women-Owned Business Report, businesses owned by black women have grown by a whopping 322 percent since 1997. Now that’s the epitome of progression.
So why am I running down these number in comparison to my self-worth issues? Not because our achievements don’t deserve recognition and accolades. But rather, because it’s an issue when we depend on the praises of others to increase our self-worth. I realized how I became so consumed with becoming one of these positive statistics. My ego needed a success story to fulfill me. While some people unfortunately tie their self-esteem to their physical appearance, for years, mine had been based on what I’d done and how far up the status ladder I was climbing. It was exhausting, not to mention damn near depressing.
After coming to a career crossroad, having to decide on a glamorous but personally unfulfilling career versus one that was less glamorous but more enriching, I decided to focus on my own definition of success. My happiness was now at the forefront, and my accomplish-driven ego had to take a back seat.
To be clear, setting goals and crushing them is still my motto, but it isn’t at the expense of my happiness. I’m not chasing dreams so that I can update social media accounts to appear successful (let’s not pretend that this isn’t a prevalent activity even among grown-ups). Instead, I’m chasing them to fulfill a purpose. My purpose. No longer do I feel compelled to live up to what others expect me to do or to achieve. My goals are rooted in my purpose and my definition of success. That definition can be explained best in the words of Dr. Maya Angelou who said that success is liking myself, what I do, and how I do it. That has now become my greatest accomplishment.