In 2019, I graduated with my Doctor of Business Administration from the University of South Florida. This was huge for me.
Success always seemed like a losing battle. A doctorate degree, let alone finishing high school would have been alien to me when I was younger. At 12 years old I was assigned a truancy officer for skipping school too much, and at 13 I was kicked out of school.
When I hit my late teenage years, I found determination to build a better life for myself, and that started with mustering up the courage to take two busses a night to GED study classes. I failed the math portion of the test, but on the second try a few months later I passed.
At 21 with a 6-month-old baby at home, I enrolled in college courses. Despite my worries that I wasn’t smart enough and that leaving my baby at night made me a bad mother, I earned my bachelor’s degree. Then two master’s. Then my terminal degree.
To me, my doctorate degree means: overcoming adversity, successfully navigating impostor syndrome, perseverance, sacrifice, self-love… and finally earning the ‘Dr.’ in front of my name.
After graduation, the time came to announce to the world that I was ‘Dr. Clark’. I was thrilled, but a sense of hesitancy creeped in. For several months and even with my business students, I’d introduce myself as ‘Danielle’ or ‘Professor Clark’ and avoid the doctorate title altogether.
What if people think I’m conceited? What if my students think I have an ego? I feared coming across as arrogant, as some kind of pompous professor shining a stage light on my achievements.
A friend I graduated with had the letters ‘Dr.’ beautifully tattooed on his wrist. I loved the idea of having a visible daily reminder of ‘I can do anything I put my mind to’ whenever I needed the confidence boost.
I told a few people I was considering getting the tattoo myself and each one further fed my fears by responding along the lines of, “Conceited much?”
It took many conversations with myself and others to finally realize I’m the only one who knows if I have ego, and I shouldn’t care what others think. If it feels good to me, why not? If I want to honor my journey and who I am today by introducing myself as ‘Dr. Clark’ in certain situations (like the classroom), then go me!
It’s now been a few years of hearing ‘Dr. Clark’ echoed back to me. Each time I hear it, I experience a ping of pride. And I’ve heard from many others that knowing I am a young terminal degree holder with an at-risk youth path inspires them to shoot for the stars.
I still don’t have that ‘Dr.’ tattoo. I’ve chosen not to get it; not for concern of what others think, but because I’m just not ready for a tattoo yet (this would be my first so I’m taking it slow).
What have you been holding back from because you’re worried others will assume you have ego? Where have you made yourself small to make others comfortable? And the most important question, how can you put others’ thoughts aside and follow your ego-free desires?
Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this newsletter to a few family members and friends. The greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.
PS – Here’s an affirmation to remind you that your desires matter regardless of what others think, ‘I know my intent and truth. I am a magnet for my dreams and desires.’
PPS – Do you want to work on your self-confidence when it comes to owning your growth and achievements? If so, grab your journal and a pen. Jot down areas of your life you’ve grown in the last year (health, finances, career, spirituality etc.) Have you told your family and friends about your progress and wins? And not just the short generic version because you didn’t want to look like you had an ego? If yes, good for you! Give yourself a pat on the back and write yourself a kudos note. If you answered no, write out how you think a conversation with a family member or friend would play out if you humbly boasted about the things you’re proud of. If this person hints at arrogance or ego within you, how will you respond in a courageous way?
A few weeks ago, I gave constructive feedback to a colleague. Although those types of conversations are never easy, the discussion went well. Looking back on our meeting, I attribute its success to my detailed pre-planning.
At the close of our meeting, I was feeling good about our time together, but then something unexpected happened: This employee said they had feedback for me. My colleague then shared two examples of when I had recently let them down. The feedback stung. While I had planned to give feedback, I certainly hadn’t planned to receive it. I was thrown off guard and immediately felt hurt because I could empathize with this person’s concerns. They were right — I could have handled a few things differently than I had.
Last month was one of my most stressful months this year. Work was tense, my home life was chaotic, and my personal and professional calendar was jam-packed. Looking back on the month, I have to give myself some well-deserved kudos.
Although I was faced with a lot of challenges and commitments, I endured and did so gracefully. I never lost my cool, I never got run-down and I never missed a beat. If this had been five years ago, I would have been burnt out and sick in bed writing out sorry cards to all the people who had to deal with my frazzled, angry and impatient behavior. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but you get my point.
In the event you are ever faced with a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, week, or month you may benefit from learning about some of the steps I took to get ready.
Recently, my son Aaron finally learned how to ride a bike on his own. He was so proud! Every time he made it down the street and back he became more confident—but unfortunately, that confidence quickly morphed into cockiness.
Not even an hour after he learned to ride a bike, he attempted to ride it one-handed all in an effort to show off in front of our neighbors. Needless to say, that didn’t work out, and within seconds of raising his hand he (and his bike) fell to the ground.
Last week, I opened my tea bag and read the inspirational quote attached to it as I always do—only this time instead of feeling inspired, I felt aggravated. The quote read, “Don’t ask and everything will come.”
I felt, and still feel, this is lousy advice and cringe at the idea of people believing it. If you want to succeed, especially in the workplace, you have to advocate for yourself, get support from others and ask for help.
I attribute a lot of my professional success to being memorable—and that comes with leaving people with a lasting impression. When you can become the topic of conversation because of your “memorability factor,” you’ll find yourself being introduced to a lot of new people and getting invited to a lot of new meetings, work projects and events.
My memorability factor has allowed me to grow, develop and network—helping me to become the supported and accomplished leader I am today.
I’m thankful for all of the great career lessons I learned in my 20s. Thanks to the poor decisions and mistakes I made (and yes, there were a lot of those) I started off my 30s feeling prepared to kick butt in the workplace. As I reflect back on what many people refer to as “their selfish years,” here are three of the most important lessons I learned.
You won’t make it if you fake it
In my early 20s, I was overly concerned with giving others the impression I was smart and knew it all. Even if I didn’t understand what someone was saying or asking I would nod my head and act as if I did.
This behavior backfired in a few ways—I’d leave meetings confused, disengaged and unprepared to work on my action items AND there were times I had to confess that I pretended to know something.