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Come see the world from up here



Today I’m going to spend the day revisiting myself

Resetting my world

Reorganising my shelf

Because yesterday is too far gone

And all I need is to be ready for tomorrow…

Vanessa Guimarães

 

I wrote this text to myself but I think it should be shared. I want to share it here because we are part of a global community, and that should mean something. We are supposedly open to diversity and more tolerant to the differences. We have travelled around the world, we learned about other cultures, we speak other languages, most of us have been labelled “the foreigner” somewhere. When we speak our minds, people see a person who is international, a leadership. It should mean something. So I want to share this with you, and if you still think diversity is only another policy to tick out of your corporate social responsibility list, please, just please re-evaluate your privileged position and have some empathy. You might be making someone’s life a bit harder.  

 

 

Every now and then we have to face a difficult situation. It makes us stronger, it makes us review our values and principles, it tests our patience, it brings us closer to who we really are.

Every now and then we are caught in a dilemma. You can either follow your heart, your guts or your brain. You can hurt, be hurt or let hurt. You can take a breath, take some time, react, overreact, but you can never keep it quiet.

Silence does not exist. Those who are alive are always haunted but a little voice inside asking those questions that we try so hard to avoid. Is this it? Is that all? What is next? Who is next? Am I enough? Am I strong enough? The thing is that the answers to these questions are not relevant. What triggered them, what they make you feel, that´s what really matters.

Understanding the trigger, though, is just as complicated. Sometimes it was just a bad day, you were just not feeling it, it was just the weather, the pending bills, your boss, your partner, a car driving too fast, an unworthy person, an idiot that crossed your way. Do people really say things they don’t mean? How long does it take one to process what is in front of them, rationalise about it, decide to say something about it and… Regret? Really?

Some things just can’t be changed. Yesterday I was a victim of racism. I can’t change the colour of my skin and I shouldn’t need to change the texture of my hair. I can’t change the fact that I heard what I heard. And it was such a dear person to me… It still is. Some things can’t be changed, at least not that fast.

Those who know me will agree that I am not easily offended. And for sure it was not the first time that racism has looked me in the eye… Usually I am strong, I rise above, I prefer to think that I deserve better, that that person is just not worth my energy. But why do I always have to be so strong? Why do I have to wear such a thick shell to protect myself from others, from the world? Why can’t I just be me?

Dressing up, the make-up, the hair, the neutral colours… How much of that is really me? I tried not to be affected by what happened and, like I said, usually I am pretty good at it, but should I?

Going back in time I realise that this so called strength has been with me since I was just a kid. Is it fair that a kid needed to be strong in order not to be broken by the environment? You might think it is an exaggeration, but I remember second guessing myself, not because I did not believe in my potential but because I always had something else to prove. It was always harder for me, I was never an option, I would always have to explain that no, I am not the maid, I am not the babysitter, I am not lost I live here, I was just looking, I want to try that dress and yes I can afford it, please don’t touch my hair, I am not a woman yet despite the body, I don’t need to show my parents’ payslip to be accepted by your family, yes my nose is natural and small, these are not homeless people it’s a picture of my family.

Yesterday, when I heard what I heard, and it wasn’t even the worst thing I’ve ever heard, I just allowed myself to be hit, feel offended, act normal as anyone else would have done in my shoes. And it took me to a very deep place that I had not visited for quite a while.

So yes, today I allowed myself to stay in, to sleep longer, get in touch with these feelings, understand my moment, reassess my plan, and rebuild my pillars. The funny thing is that vulnerability is the key to that room where only a few people are allowed in. We are not born strong, we become strong. We are not born fighters, we become fighters. But what are we actually fighting against? And why now? Why has vulnerability hit me now?

I have recently dropped a brilliant career working for a foreign government to start my own business. Actually two businesses. They are both growing well; I have managed to mobilise more than 20 wonderful women to volunteer in this initial phase; my network is bigger and greater than ever; I am constantly being complimented on my achievements; I keep on having one great idea after the other; strategic partnerships are being established. Why now? Like I said, it was far from being the worst thing I’ve heard, usually I would have ignored, but this time was different, and I believe that it might have something to do with the so-called “Impostor Syndrome”.

Yes, minorities tend to feel unworthy of their accomplishments and we doubt ourselves all the time. It had been a while since the last time I was in that confusing place but here I am again, allowing myself to be offended because being a woman of so much success can only mean I am a fraud, right? So my old friend Vulnerability decides to pay me a visit and next thing I know… Racism and sexism hit me hard. One punch from the world, another punch from my own mind, tricking me into believing that “this”, a successful career, an extensive portfolio of achievements, this can only be one thing: a fraud.

Going back in the whole situation, which happened a few minutes ago, I have come to one conclusion: you can only be a “fraud” if you allow yourself to be one, and there will be many insecurities that will arise to make sure you feel like you are an impostor. Being the only woman in every single board meeting I have recently been to has certainly made me more likely to go down that road, but it can also be proof that this is exactly where I should be:  at the top, because I know it was not an easy mountain to climb, and you know what? I’ll dry my tears – which have reminded me of my struggle -, and instead, I will enjoy the view: oh yes, it was a tough challenge to get to the top, but it is a beautiful view from up here. 

 

--------------------------------

Portuguese version (from Google Translator, sorry)

 

Eu escrevi este texto para mim mesma, mas acho que deveria ser compartilhado. Quero compartilhá-lo aqui porque somos parte de uma comunidade global, e isso deve significar alguma coisa. Estamos supostamente abertos à diversidade e mais tolerantes às diferenças. Nós viajamos ao redor do mundo, aprendemos sobre outras culturas, falamos outras línguas, a maioria de nós foi rotulada como "o estrangeiro" em algum lugar. Quando nos expressamos, as pessoas veem uma pessoa que é internacional, uma liderança. Deve significar alguma coisa. Então, quero compartilhar isso com você, e se você ainda acha que a diversidade é apenas mais uma política para cortar da sua lista de responsabilidade social corporativa, por favor, reavalie sua posição privilegiada e tenha alguma empatia. Você pode estar tornando a vida de alguém um pouco mais difícil.

 

De vez em quando, temos que enfrentar uma situação difícil. Isso nos torna mais fortes, faz-nos rever os nossos valores e princípios, testa a nossa paciência, aproxima-nos de quem realmente somos.

De vez em quando, nos vemos presos em um dilema. Você pode seguir seu coração, seus instintos ou sua mente. Você pode machucar, se machucar ou deixar machucar. Você pode respirar, demorar um pouco, reagir, reagir exageradamente, mas nunca conseguirá silenciá-lo.

O silêncio não existe. Aqueles que estão vivos são sempre assombrados, mas uma pequena voz lá dentro faz as perguntas que nós nos esforçamos para evitar. É isso? Isso é tudo? O que vem depois? Quem é o próximo? Eu sou o suficiente? Eu sou forte o suficiente? O problema é que as respostas para essas perguntas não são relevantes. O que os desencadeou, o que eles fazem você se sentir, é o que realmente importa.

Entender o gatilho, no entanto, é tão complicado quanto. Às vezes, era apenas um dia ruim, você simplesmente não sentia, era apenas o tempo, as contas pendentes, seu chefe, seu parceiro, um carro dirigindo rápido demais, uma pessoa indigna, um idiota que cruzava seu caminho. As pessoas realmente dizem coisas que não querem dizer? Quanto tempo leva para processar o que está na frente deles, racionalizar sobre isso, decidir dizer algo sobre isso e… Arrependimento? Mesmo?

Algumas coisas simplesmente não podem ser alteradas. Ontem fui vítima do racismo. Eu não posso mudar a cor da minha pele e não preciso mudar a textura do meu cabelo. Eu não posso mudar o fato de que ouvi o que ouvi. E era uma pessoa tão querida para mim ... Ainda é. Algumas coisas não podem ser alteradas, pelo menos não tão rápido.

Aqueles que me conhecem concordam que não me ofendo facilmente. E com certeza não foi a primeira vez que o racismo me olhou nos olhos ... Normalmente sou forte, me elevo, prefiro pensar que mereço melhor, que essa pessoa não vale a pena minha energia. Mas por que eu sempre tenho que ser tão forte? Por que eu tenho que usar uma concha tão grossa para me proteger dos outros, do mundo? Por que eu não posso ser apenas eu?

Vestindo-se, a maquiagem, o cabelo, as cores neutras ... Quanto disso é realmente eu? Eu tentei não ser afetado pelo que aconteceu e, como eu disse, normalmente eu sou muito bom nisso, mas eu deveria?

Voltando no tempo eu percebo que esta força tão chamada tem estado comigo desde que eu era apenas uma criança. É justo que uma criança precise ser forte para não ser quebrada pelo meio ambiente? Você pode pensar que é um exagero, mas lembro-me de adivinhar a mim mesmo, não porque não acreditava em meu potencial, mas porque sempre tinha outra coisa a provar. Sempre foi mais difícil para mim, eu nunca fui uma opção, eu sempre teria que explicar que não, eu não sou a empregada, eu não sou a babá, eu não estou perdida, eu moro aqui, eu estava apenas olhando, eu quero tente esse vestido e sim eu posso pagar, por favor não toque no meu cabelo, eu não sou uma mulher ainda apesar do corpo, eu não preciso mostrar o salário de meus pais para ser aceito por sua família, sim meu nariz é natural e pequeno, estes não são pessoas desabrigadas é uma foto da minha família.

Sim, as minorias tendem a se sentir indignas de suas realizações e duvidamos de nós mesmos o tempo todo. Já fazia um tempo desde a última vez que eu estava naquele lugar confuso, mas aqui estou eu de novo, me permitindo ficar ofendido porque ser uma mulher de tanto sucesso só pode significar que eu sou uma fraude, certo? Então meu velho amigo Vulnerabilidade decide me fazer uma visita e a próxima coisa que eu sei… Racismo e sexismo me atingiram com força. Um soco do mundo, outro soco da minha mente, me enganando em acreditar que "isso", uma carreira de sucesso, um extenso portfólio de conquistas, isso só pode ser uma coisa: uma fraude.

Voltando em toda a situação, que aconteceu alguns minutos atrás, eu cheguei a uma conclusão: você só pode ser uma "fraude" se você se permitir ser um, e haverá muitas inseguranças que surgirão para ter certeza de que sinta-se como um impostor. Ser a única mulher em cada reunião de diretoria a que fui, certamente me fez mais propenso a seguir esse caminho, mas também pode ser a prova de que é exatamente onde eu deveria estar: no topo, porque sei que não uma montanha fácil de escalar, e sabe de uma coisa? Eu vou secar minhas lágrimas - o que me lembrou da minha luta - e, em vez disso, vou apreciar a vista: ah, sim, foi um grande desafio chegar até aqui, mas é uma bela vista daqui de cima.

 

Posted by Vanessa Guimarães on: February 02, 2019 05:14 PM | Permalink

Comments (12)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item
Nice article.
Thanks a lot!!

Yes there is always up's and down in carrier even people try us to hold by imposing lot of constraints.
Good Sharing!

I'm so sorry this happened to you, especially from someone you trust and care about. You are amazing for the way you reacted and worked through it!

Excellent, very interesting and very helpful, thank you very much for sharing, success in 2019

Thanks you for this it’s very helpful and motivating

Sorry what happened to you and thanks for sharing those deep feelings! First, that type of comments describes more about the people who said them than the one who is intended to. Second, Impostor syndrome are in general waiting us around the corner, but the first step is recognise it - as you did it - and move on. Congrats for your insight and all your deserved achievements!

Tough situation to be in when its strikes the trust we have in folks.

Wow Vanessa!
You said lot of things that happen to many people every day and it’s good not to keep it silently.
Really thanks for sharing!
We need to be aware of the prejudices we have and how we can make someone feel bad.
Being a woman, being latin, being from a different country or having different skin color make us vulnerable of discrimination.
After reading your post many of us could make an inner reflexion about our stereotypes, prejudices and mental models that are influencing in the way we relate and communicate with others.
Thanks for sharing and congrats for your strong attitude and your great achievements!
We are here to support one each other!
💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

Wow Vanessa!
You said lot of things that happen to many people every day and it’s good not to keep it silently.
Really thanks for sharing!
We need to be aware of the prejudices we have and how we can make someone feel bad.
Being a woman, being latin, being from a different country or having different skin color make us vulnerable of discrimination.
After reading your post many of us could make an inner reflexion about our stereotypes, prejudices and mental models that are influencing in the way we relate and communicate with others.
Thanks for sharing and congrats for your strong attitude and your great achievements!
We are here to support one each other!
💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻

I try very hard to keep a lot of this in mind when managing projects. Everyone is a human, with human concerns and emotions and needs. If we can lead by example, and lead with compassion, we're inviting others to follow their truth also!

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