Caution: there may be some unusual bragging in this post
For a majority of my social media life, I have kept my pursuit and attainment of accomplishments to myself. I am not knocking it – I love to see the success and progress of those in my network. It was just not part of my online personality. Now, I will big up a friend, family member or colleague with authentic pride and love but I wasn’t able to extend that to myself.
When I was in my 20’s, a (an extremely self-centred) cousin of mine said that I love all of the attention that I get. This perplexed me (and I would later find out it absolutely annoyed the hell out of Mummy Reds) because internally, that is not who I am. Compliments, gifts and anything calling out positive aspects of my person really embarrass and frighten me. I have actually dedicated a good portion of my life and my writing to self deprecation.
Part of this hesitancy to accept gifts, compliments, gratitude and many other forms of kindness finds its roots in my childhood (with my wanna-be-psychologist-cliche hat on – it always leads back to the childhood), I think my parents took my achievements for granted and didn’t really reward me from academic excellence or things I did that would be considered advanced. (I spent a lot of time reading and using advanced language for my age so they just viewed that as a given). In elementary school I was practising French and Japanese, by middle school that expanded to include Spanish and Latin (do not ask me to speak any of these languages because I will embarrass myself and you). Besides this, my mother drove home the adage “self praise is no praise”.
When my parents’ marriage hit the rocks, my father’s treatment of me changed. If he was upset with Mini-Reds or Mummy Reds, he would take away anything he gave to us. I am not talking about jewellery or small tokens of affection. We would return home to find living room furniture, telephones, cable and televisions ripped out of the home in haste. Now, I realise that I internalised these actions or inactions as an indicator that my accomplishments are not to be shared and or considered as anything extraordinary and that I am not deserving of positive reinforcement. And actually if I am rewarded, it can be taken away faster than Usain Bolt can win a race.
Growing up, I became used to children teasing me as I sat reading books and they hollered out “Walking Dictionary”.
When I began working, I was determined to be a CEO and quickly climb the corporate ladder. It didn’t happen quite that way but that doesn’t diminish the positive outcomes that I led and directly contributed to in my professional life (I am not going to catalogue them because my memory is fading and that would be a brag too much). I became ashamed that I had not yet reached the levels many of my peers had. So I quietly updated my LinkedIn to reflect my (what I thought remedial) promotions and plodded along, not always giving the most of myself.
Then….. a whole panorama (funny name for pandemic) hit and hey, I was in a new position at a new company. 2020 was going to be my year – I started a Masters’ programme in Strategic IT Management, I began formally mentoring and set in motion to create a Black Employee Resource Group at my job. I was truly committed to becoming a better version of Reds. All the while, I watched as my friends, family and colleagues posted the birth of children, promotions to VPs, launching of businesses.
At the end of 2020, I had been recognised in a company of 35,000 employees for my launching of the first Black ERG outside of America, for becoming a Global Disability Ambassador, sitting on numerous panels, mentoring three Black interns, for writing two articles addressing the inequitable conditions women and Black people face in society and the workplace and my development of colleagues in the consulting space. I really put my heart in soul into 2020. On the last day of 2020, I did something unusual for me, I shared my achievements on social media……
There were beads of perspiration running down my forehead as I shared the video my employer created, I was being vulnerable and my nerves were at an all time high (I know, I am pretty dramatic). I was shocked at the outpouring of love from my network! And then….
Someone I had known and been kind to for years wrote under my post “You want a medal or something” and I literally cried. This is what I was scared of, the perception that I was showing off when I probably did what millions of others were doing. And then I started to notice the deafening silence from those I supported and bigged (autocorrect, stop trying to change the word to begged) up over the years, shit decades. I started thinking….
Am I not supposed to share my success? Is this right reserved for people who have achieved so much more than me? But this can’t be right, I follow people who share themselves cooking eggs and presenting that as the achievement of the year (and maybe it is), families in matching outfits on Christmas Day, you posting pictures with the people’s man. How come it’s all of a sudden taboo for me to share my upwards trajectory? Now people are attempting to shame me for overcoming my self doubt and being proud. (if it sounds like it, yes, I was bitter about this for sometime)
I also noticed the people who share their successes and stories constantly, those whom I previously supported, practically put on a pedestal sit silently in the background and support me in not one way. This played on my feelings that maybe success (or the socialising of it) was not meant for me, that I am not worthy of these positive experiences?
Brushing my shoulder off, I went into 2021 determined to surpass the success I had in 2020. Except COVID hit and I was flattened like Bugs Bunny after being steam rolled. Battling COVID made me grateful for life and the ability to share my passions with the world but it made me hungrier… I wanted more from work, more from life, more from myself. In 2021 I completed half of my MSc (don’t worry, I am not going to quit), I raised over $16,500 for Haiti, close to that for St. Vincent & The Grenadines, supported three of my mentees in getting promotions and drum roll please bought my first home. Along the way, I shared some of this success with my social media networks and most of them were supportive and overjoyed for me – heck I had strangers congratulating me!
But then the negative voice of that “friend” from 2020 came along, dripped in sarcasm, attempting to diminish my achievements and my joy. The voice was stronger in 2020 and said things like “I thought you were just a hood rat”, “her success is a fluke, she got lucky” and lukewarm support from people I had shown love to for way too long.
On the flip side, I experienced a level of encouragement and love like never before. The collective happiness for me (filled with self doubt, self loathing, scared my things will be taken away me) drove me to tears, tears that I have a tribe, I am deserving of love and praise (not excessively, I am not Jesus) and that I many people in my life needed to be relegated or removed.
My cousin and two of my best friends challenged me to receive this year. Receive love, appreciation, gifts without shame or fear and I did that. And I will continue to do that as I share my continued success into 2022 and beyond. And to quote a popular Soca Artiste, all who don’t like it “could suck some salt“.
Beep, beep everyone!