Are you wondering what to do now? Like many, I am motivated to act because I believe in a society that not only embraces all of its people but also acts in concert with those ideals. That said, I am struggling with how to act. What should we do to drive sustainable change that is decades – perhaps centuries – overdue? I found an answer in my work on transition that offers a new way of thinking about acting. Ironically, it compels us to remove our masks at the very moment we are being asked to don them. Are you ready to be unmasked?
Here is a little secret from my research on transition: those who know what holds value or meaning to them are the best at navigating uncertainty. It is almost irrelevant what form the uncertainty takes. To walk forward successfully at uncertain times requires that we look inward, a counter intuitive step that produces an energy and power through which we can reach outward. Both of these glances – inward and outward – require us to do one thing. To choose growth.
What is growth? Is it attending a demonstration or switching our bank accounts to banks owned by non-white males? Growth may be both of those things. And much more.
Growth occurs when we have a willingness to re-examine the assumptions upon which we set our expectations and definition for ‘who we are.’ When we enter adulthood, we set our expectations and definition for ‘who we are’ based upon those around us. Family members. The communities where we live. The work we choose to do. The schools we attend. Our lovers. Our friends. Our teachers and bosses and countless others. They all combine to form an invisible eco-system that informs our beliefs about ‘who we are.’
We are not forced to stay in this place even though the great majority of adults do.
If we choose to grow beyond this space, we rely on a process called transition. With it, we over-write the assumptions that were informed by others, shifting instead to our own voices, our own truths.
Through this growth process, we get really clear on those things that hold value and meaning to us. This pivot takes courage and unlocks something profoundly meaningful; those who grow unlock higher possibilities in themselves AND awaken a connection to others that has the potential to change the world. This transformational journey is described by those who have made the trek as, “feeling like I’m breathing for the very first time.”
Growing into ourselves may be a significant part of this fight. Our willingness to lean in to our own beliefs – be willing to be seen for who we are – can strengthen our ability to change the world.
I have to tell you that I arrive at this fight against racism fatigued. Not from the ten weeks of pandemic response but from my three decades of activism against sexism. That fight – against gender-based inequality – has shaped my entire identity. I chose to become a visible female leader because I thought it would be my most influential posture in that fight. With that as my beacon, I took in stride comments like one from an HBS classmate who said, “How can you take a seat away from a man who has to support a family?” Instead of giving that oxygen, I worked tirelessly in service to my fight. I became the CEO of a company and a C Suite member at a Fortune 500. Even with all that fight, it feels as if my efforts produced only a tiny raindrop in the ocean.
So I come to the question of ‘how’ to act against racism both weary and emboldened. I’ve grown. In that process, I now understand the power available to me. With it, I will act and act differently – this time.
I wish for you the grace to know when and how to act in accord with those things that hold value and meaning to you. For some, it will feel like being unmasked for the very first time. But know – as unsettling as it may seem – it is the fullest version of you that is demanded to show up and act at this moment. Only then can we change and create a society in which everyone is both safe and essential.
Linda R. (linda@WomenAndTransition.com)
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