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  • Linda R. Taliaferro

What Happened When I Started Believing in Myself


Self-confidence is so important, but also so difficult to talk about. I know in my career, looking at this pandemic situation, I freely admit that this is totally new to me. But even though I’ve never faced this, I can look back in my career and think of other times when I felt blocked or held back by circumstances. What ultimately got me past those moments was cultivating a sense of my own self-worth by looking in the mirror, owning my value, and standing up for myself.


FACING CIRCUMSTANCES

I went to Carnegie Mellon for undergrad, which was an amazing opportunity to study at one of the best engineering schools. But the campus was less than 2% black students, and I responded to being the only person who looked like me by keeping my head down and working harder than anyone else.


I remember facing discrimination at every step of the job application process, being asked to defend the legitimacy of my accomplishments, hearing surprised expressions when companies called my university and confirmed that I actually went there. It was a discriminatory experience that I’m sure many people of color reading this are familiar with.

When I got to the workplace, I experienced sexual harassment from someone high up in the organization. At the time, I drew on the same lesson that got me through school: keep your head down, deal with it, and don’t say anything. But when I eventually got support from a supervisor, I got the courage to report what was happening to me.


THAT'S WHEN THINGS CHANGED

It was an incredibly pivotal moment in my career, because I stood up for myself and found my voice. This was a moment when I put my foot down and started believing in myself. What happened to me was not right, and expressing my feelings and reporting the behavior gave me a strength and confidence that has benefitted me all my career.


LIFE IS 90% YOUR REACTION TO WHAT HAPPENS TO YOU

When I was 24 and facing that harassment, I could have said, “I’m out.”

The abuser was a general manager and I was fresh into the workplace. But I made a choice to not let it slide, to not let his abuse define me or hold me back, and that made all the difference.


I hope you aren’t reading this facing a similar situation at your work. But I think that these moments of uncertainty where we’re not sure how to proceed are exactly the moments when we most need to firmly express and rest on our own self-worth. Look in the mirror and believe that the person standing there is worth the time and effort of putting in the work or doing the hard thing. Then you too can start experiencing exactly what I've experienced.


YOU HAVE TO SHIFT YOUR ATTITUDE

These days, I’m a VP of a company. But I can’t tell you how many times people tried to dissuade me or break me down on my way to get here. If I let those things hold me back, if I let them block my view and cloud my vision, I wouldn’t be here today. And choosing to focus on your goal, overlooking the people who try and keep you small and doubting yourself, is a radical act. Confidence is a muscle. You gotta exercise it, but it starts with believing in yourself. Don’t be scared to try.


If you need help with your career, let's connect! Put a one-on-one with me on your calendar and let’s start generating your game plan.

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