Life is all about Defining Moments. Defining Moments are things that happen in an instant in our lives that define who we are. For me, my life has had many defining moments. As a teenage girl growing up in South Central Los Angeles, a socioeconomically disadvantage community better known as “the ’hood,” the paths for escape seem to be limited to finding a means to “get rich quick” and move out. So I was attracted to the “bling-bling” life of the drug dealers and equally infatuated by the allure of Hollywood life and that of the video vixens seeking stardom. I often dreamt of meeting a baller, you know a basket-baller or foot-baller who could somehow save me from my existence. The desire to get money by any means necessary is often thought of as the only way out of the ’hood by teens and young women who grow up in circumstances similar to those that I was raised in. The thought of getting a good education or having a successful career seems rarely to be top of mind. It wasn’t for me, at least not until I met my mentor which was my first defining moment.
She was my YMCA summer camp counselor, whom I met when I was twelve years old. That summer as I watched her prepare for law school. Her dedication to achieving entrance into law school helped me to dream of the possibility of higher education. In one summer my mentor fundamentally changed my life! Before then, I had never seen anyone that looks like me who had gone to college; let alone studying for graduate school. That summer, my mentor Cheryl, planted a seed in me that would change my life and show me that there were more options in life to choose from then those that existed within the four blocks that had occupied most of my life. She helped me to understand that getting an education was more powerful and rewarding than the get rich quick schemes that had previously pervaded my thoughts. This was my first defining moment! I have had many other defining moments after that, and each has helped me to get closer to realizing my potential.
Knowing the enjoyment and satisfaction I have found in defining my own way, it is disheartening for me to see women with so much potential that is never fully realized. I thought I was alone in this until I recently read a quote by Oprah Winfrey, “It’s depressing and overwhelming at times to look at how much potential we have and yet we’re constantly bombarded by images and information that speaks to the lowest common denominator. We can do better. We can be better. I know it’s true.” This is what I describe as a call to define! My wish is that every woman finds the joy I have found inside of me by fully realizing my potential. I believe it is time for us to turn the tide of the pop culture values that pervade the media (tabloids, reality TV) and start embracing our own potential. It is time to define our authentic self, to stop allowing people, places and things to hinder us from developing our individual gifts and talents and to discover who we each are meant to be. I say this from experience because if my neighborhood had its choice, my life would have been defined by jail, drugs and drive by shootings. Instead my mentor shined a light on me of hope, possibility and promise. Now how to get it but she showed me that it was already there and available for me to tap in to. I now know that this same power is available to each of us.
I’m sure you are asking, why this call to define? Think about it, so many of us as woman define ourselves by the car we drive, the hair we buy and that designer purse on our arm. There is nothing wrong with wanting nice things but I wonder how many women actually realize that those things do not make us who we are! It is as simple as understanding that an outfit I may treat myself to has nothing to do with the label or definition I allow myself to be defined by. What does it matter if I look good on the outside if I feel less than on the inside? My desire is that we no longer allow people, places or things to DEFINE us but instead allow our passion, our purpose, our gifts and talents to be the fuel that drives our life. My wish is that we each become the author of the definition that defines our lives. This is why I am calling all women to the Define Your Own Way Movement so that as we become the women we are meant to be, we no longer need things to define us but instead we find that fulfillment from the light that burns within; that “bling-bling” that shines forth as we live in OUR truest calling. It’s time for us to stop thinking the grass is greener on the other side and start to water our own lawn.
So what is your untapped potential? The Webster dictionary defines potential as “existing in possibility: capable of development into actuality.” So if potential is that which is possible then it is up to each of us to make it possible, tangible, and real in our lives. Think of it this way, no one starts a race at the finish line! So, if we are capable then all it takes is to show up to the starting line and then run the race to get to the finish line. What does this mean to your untapped potential? Well all you have to do is actually begin to move in the direction of developing your ability, your own genius, capacity and talents in order to be ALL that we are meant to be! How you might ask? Let me share with you my own journey and the 6 key principles I found that it took for me to DEFINE.
D – Discover. The first stop on my journey was to fully realize what was holding me back from realizing my potential: perceptions about what I thought it meant to “be‘ hood.” These thoughts created self-imposed limits about what I believed possible for my future. I had to fight to get this off of me so that I would no longer be hindered by narrow minded thinking. I can tell you stories of the young woman I used to be and the things I did to try and be down in my ‘hood, and I have to tell you it was hard to make the switch but if I didn’t there is NO telling where I would be today! What may be holding you back? Or what limits might you be putting on yourself? It is time to heal yourself from it so can move on from the hold it has on you, preventing you from being ALL you were meant to be!
E – Edification – I learned that it was important that I be a complete package, and to be complete I had to build myself up both inside and out. I had to increase my positive self-esteem, learn more about personal finances, focus on health and exercise, make better choices in regards to sexuality, concentrate on education and develop my self-image to be aligned with the definition of me that I wanted others to see upon my arrival.
F – Faith – in order to succeed in defining myself, I learned I had to first believe in myself. In all things, I learned that I had the power to choose to believe in my gifts, talents and abilities or to doubt and do without. I had to learn to take my power back and believe just as my momma always says, God don’t make no junk!
I – Invest – I had to start to pay closer attention to who was around me and who was investing in me. I had to figure out if my friends, family and relationships were building me up or tearing me down. What I learned is that if I wanted my life to continue to move in a positive direction, I could only allow people, places and things in my life that will invest in me and help me to move in a positive direction toward maximizing my potential.
N – Nurture – above all else, I learned that I had to stay focused on nurturing my gifts and talents as I moved in the direction to fully realizing them. If life is a game, it was time for me to score points and play to win! It was time for me to put myself in a position that every defining moment in my life propel me in a positive direction and no longer take me off of my path.
E – Essence – once I began to flourish in the first 5 areas I realized people began to tell me that I was glowing. That there was something different about me and I realized that what it was is that I was truly allowing my essence, my soul, my true authentic self to shine as I was now a fully DEFINED woman! “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
These 6 key areas are not a onetime “wham bam thank you ma’am” exercise, but something I continue to work at constantly which causes movement toward my potential on a daily basis, and thus I can live as my truest self!
So what is the dream that you have not fully realized? The thing you are good at that you never fully started for fear of being laughed at? Who is the negative person or the negative self-talk you continue to plant in your own soul? What is that thing that happened to you in your past that prevents you from thinking you are capable of being the fabulous woman you are meant to be? Whatever it is, it’s time to LET IT GO and get moving in the direction of your purpose! I have to tell you that this is the most significant desire of MY life, to truly, fully become the woman I am meant to be so that I may live in purpose and passion in every aspect of my life in every day of my life. This is the same thing I want for each of YOU! If this too is your wish I invite you to join me on this journey to finding your true self! It is time to DEFINE!