Last year, on my birthday, I wrote about letting go of my perfectionism, overachieving tendencies, and the need to prove myself to everyone and no one in particular. That was to be my 29th birthday gift to myself. I’m not sure about my progress in fulfilling that gift, but a condition of it was to acknowledge my accomplishments, often. Talking positively about myself is difficult; it feels vain. I am terrible at self-promotion, even when I should, i.e., for job applications, interviews, or networking. I thought this would be a quick post to compose, but somehow it’s taken me longer to draft than the several 2,000-word posts I’ve written over the past week. Even though I knew self-promotion was a weakness of mine, going through this exercise made it undeniable; I need to do this more often.
- Got closer to the perfect red velvet cake without food coloring–made two attempts, altering an existing recipe, maybe 3rd times the charm…birthday cake anyone?
- Doing a better job setting and maintaining personal boundaries
- Didn’t allow a rejection to prevent my becoming an integral part of a team conducting, what should be, groundbreaking research on policing in New Orleans; was able to build some great professional and personal connections and benefit from indispensable mentorship.
- Acquired a new set of qualitative research skills as a result of the above
- Constructed, then broke, and the rebuilt my own headpiece for Mardi Gras
- Was offered and accepted an evaluation contract; CDC funded!
- Gave an hour-long lecture on U.S. police violence in a master’s level public health class
- Was invited to give that lecture to a community organization in New Orleans, as part of their workforce development
- Learned how to do my own makeup…I’m still working on this, though #strugglebus
- Got out of my own way and started seeing a therapist–[everyone should see a therapist]
- Was accepted to present at a conference as part of a panel of researchers whose work I admire and frequently reference. I’m feeling completely out of my league here, but I’m going with it.
- Finished all of my PhD coursework! Time to move on to the dreaded comprehensive exam.
- Built up the courage to ask for, and ultimately received, what I needed to be more successful in my professional life. (Vagueness is purposeful.)
- Led an evaluation workshop at a small conference for sexual violence prevention advocates in Louisiana
- Have been more deliberate about patronizing Black owned businesses for goods and services; seeking out more small online businesses owned by Black women
- Finished a rough-draft of, and got positive feedback from two faculty members on, a manuscript that I will
hopefullysubmit for peer-review, as first-author, by the end of the summer
- I’m an author on another paper that is currently being peer-reviewed; hoping it gets accepted!
- Managed to sneak in some much needed home repairs, not happy about the price tag but I have level floors now and a bit less rot on the porch (some of the repairs were less than 100%)
- All of my Journey to 30 progress
- Purposefully doing things that make me uncomfortable, but that I would like to be comfortable with–eating out alone, going to big events alone and meeting new people, speaking directly about my research interests without cleaning it up to make white folks feel comfortable, even just featuring pictures of myself on my own blog (I realized most of my photos are of objects and scenery)
After a day of thinking, this is all I could come up with, not to say that it’s not enough, but I’m sure there are things missing from this list that I should feel proud of. Halfway through my brainstorming I realized I was only focusing on those objectively more significant victories, the ones that other people would acknowledge. But the personal victories were just as, if not more, important than the externally validated ones, especially if I account for how much time I spent on them. It’s easier to promote your talents as a lecturer at a well-respected university than it is to discuss baking the perfect red velvet cake, but if you’re proud of the cake, who TF cares what other people consider valuable?
I also minimize my accomplishments, because I have paralyzing perfectionism, and because imposter syndrome is real. If it wasn’t a flawless “performance” I feel like a fraud for even bringing it up in conversation, which is pure nonsense. It’s a reflection of having a lack of confidence, harboring excess concern over other people’s valuation of my life, and spending too much time making comparing myself and my progress to others. If your motivation and your pride is not internally driven, it will be impossible to promote yourself, or even talk about yourself in a positive or healthy way. You will be your biggest saboteur.
When I started writing this, I felt kind of ridiculous; who cares what I’ve done? Yet, throughout this process I realized it’s not important who might read this. I’ve been able to reflect on the many times my lack of confidence and ability to self-promote have thwarted opportunities, that others–less talented, less skilled, but more self-assured–have ultimately received. And recollecting on the infuriation I feel when that happens has been a stark reminder that I need to work on being my own biggest cheerleader, not for anyone else’s validation, but for my own sake. So that I’m not preventing myself from opportunities to grow and learn and do things I’ve never even considered.
I am the author of my own narrative. I determine what is valuable within that narrative. My success story will not, and should not, look like anyone else’s. And it is important and worthy of being shared, because it’s mine.