I was in a diner having breakfast with a friend and saw a former client and sister-friend on a national morning show promoting her bridal business. I instantly put my conversation on pause to pick up the phone and send her a message.
She called me shortly after, and as we chatted, she said something I wasn’t expecting, "Rashada, I have always been inspired by your understanding of your personal value and self worth."
Now you have to understand that this is someone who exudes confidence. I will go on record saying she is one of the smartest and most strategic thinkers I’ve ever worked with. She successfully transitioned from corporate PR to entrepreneurship and doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Although her comment was relevant in context, it nonetheless put something on my mind.
I have a pretty good career. I’ve won a lot and lost a few, some of which were game changing. I’ve had people tell me I’m great. And, I’ve had not so nice things said about me. I can say with all honesty, I have never lost sight of who I am. The positive nor negative has swayed me to step outside of who I firmly know myself to be. (I will count this to the power bigger than myself and avoid the mistake of a humble brag.)
I didn’t get the flawless voice of Whitney or the amazing grace of Misty. The agility of Serena flew past me and the wittiness of Ellen wasn’t in my cards. I haven’t pioneered like Mae or created fashionable inventions like Sara. As a matter of fact, there are countless women, both famous and unknown by the masses, in leagues I don’t have the credentials to play in. These women bring richness and value to the world in tangible and intangible ways.
But guess what? For them to win, I don’t have to lose. I realize that any time I compare myself to others, I will fall short. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, more curvy or slender, funnier, more creative, strategic, resourceful, charismatic or nurturing. Still, there is space, time, and capacity for all of us.
What I can claim is smarts and integrity. I can own a heart of compassion and belly of passion. Verbal and written expressions are my things. I’m a pretty good teacher and an even better life student. And, yes, I have an unflappable sense of value and self worth, which allows me to cheer on others without fear that I myself might lose.
I’ve heard the stories of women tearing one another down, from skewing reality on TV to competing for or blocking promotions in real life. But there are more women along my path who have assisted in my success than those who have intended my demise. In the rare cases where there has been professional discord with another woman, I chose not to take it personal because her story and her value are hers and mine are mine. I can be okay with that. The same friend I spoke about earlier always says, "Even if I can’t help you, I’m not going to hurt you." I think these are words we all can live by.
Personally, I salute and value women of all shades, shapes, sizes, and spirits. I exalt my mother and empower my daughter. Professionally, I find joy in watching women do their thing, helping shine lights and shape generations at home, inside the workforce, classrooms and beyond.
As voices in communications, Women’s History Month is an opportune time to highlight and celebrate the accomplishments of women. I believe the more we do this, the more clients, companies, organizations, voters, and so many others will take notice. We aren’t all the same and we won’t always agree, but, the unique nature of our differences is in itself foundation for common ground. Our individual value and collective worth is priceless.
The women’s movement of today seems excessive and overdone to some, but the work of women will never be done and the contributions we make to families, communities, and the world can never be overstated. There are mothers to honor, sisters to uplift, friends to celebrate, and girls to champion – glass surfaces to be broken, doors to be kicked in, walls to be torn down, and bridges to be built up. And, we’re going to do it.
Let’s take that to the bank.
Rashada Whitehead is a professor, writer, and the president and chief transformation officer of KGBerry, an organization that helps conscious companies navigate big changes. Connect with her here on Twitter.