“You have to be twice as good to get half as much.” — Rowan from the television series Scandal
Like most Black women, I grew up with the concept of working twice as hard as my peers. In fact, research shows that most Black women have the drive and the eagerness to advance in their companies. Yet, they are less likely than their white women counterparts to find a mentor who will support them in rising in the ranks.
While growing up, I met struggles and accepted them as a part of life. I put in extra hours, sacrificed, and did whatever it took because I was chasing the concept of success. Struggle fueled my ambition because I believed it was necessary.
The formula was simple: work hard + struggle = triumph.
I focused so much on the struggle, and I accepted that things couldn’t be easy. I spent years suffering as I struggled my way to success.
When I became an adult, and by adult I mean my late 20s, I realized a flaw in this way of thinking.
For years I held on to the reality that because of prejudice and racism I would have to give more and do more to achieve my dreams. At times, it felt like I was running a marathon with a ball and chain attached to me. I came to the realization that while running the marathon of life, yes there would be hurdles to jump, holes to leap over, and strong currents to swim through. Yet the ball chain slowing me down wasn’t from life itself but from my limited way of thinking. Here’s how I turned things around.
“Working hard and working smart sometimes can be two different things.” — Byron Dorgan
I decided to start working smarter instead of working harder. This concept was not easy to follow at first. And to be honest, I didn’t know what it meant. I realized that I was trying to do it all. It was as if I was trying to be the CEO, the boss, the employee, the secretary, and the mailperson. It took a lot of humbling to realize that I could ask for help. In a work environment, I could delegate tasks. Once I lifted that load off my shoulders, I started better managing my time. There were days where I felt like I was working 12 hours straight, trying to complete everything on my to-do list. When I limited myself to the five most important things I needed to do, I learned to prioritize. I focused on doing the work that would help me achieve my goals instead of keeping me busy.
Along with these crucial mindset shifts, I changed my beliefs. I use to envy people who had it “easy.” For example, when I was in high school I would spend hours and hours studying days before a test. Sometimes that studying would pay off, and I would get a solid B. Yet there were classmates who seemed to barely study at all, and they would get an A. I thought how unfair it was that I put in hours of work and they still did better than me. Now I see that situation differently. Perhaps they just had a better understanding of the material. They could’ve had better studying practices. It didn’t mean they didn’t put in the effort.
There is this irrational idea that if something is easy to do and if something was easily received then it’s devalued. I feared being labeled lazy or unworthy if completing a task was simple for me. However, the more I used my unique talents to achieve my goals, the more I learned that not every aspect of life has to be difficult.
If you relate to my experiences and you want to make that mental shift from struggling to letting things be easy, here’s how to get started.
How to introduce more ease into your life
- Do more of what you love, and the work doesn’t feel like work. Stop putting so much work and effort into building someone else’s dream. From people making money by doing dances on TikTok to professional hand models, there are so many interesting ways to make a living. When you are passionate about what you do, dedicating hours and days doesn’t feel like you’re chipping away at your life.
- Rest when you need to rest. Rest is something you can define for yourself. It can be taking a deep breath, going for a meditative walk, or taking time off. Either way, resting, or taking time away from demanding activities, is crucial to mental, physical, and emotional health. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Resting feels your cup.
- Find joy in the process. Perhaps right now you’re not working at a job you love or there are several aspects of your life making you unhappy. Whatever the process may be, find some joy in what you doing, even if that joy is knowing that every boring task you complete is getting you closer to what you desire.
Working hard doesn’t mean you don’t have to put in the work. In order for Black women to achieve success, we have to use our talents, skills, and resources to climb the ladder. Yet we don’t need to hurt, punish, or damage ourselves in the process. We may not always have a choice in the struggle, but we do have a choice of how we want to wade through it. Do we suffer in our struggle or do we find a way to rise above it all
“When you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. When you feel good about yourself, you treat others better.” – Solange Knowles
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Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.