Helping young Latinas become leaders and achieve their full potential is the reason BeVisible exists and why I wake up every day. But it’s not an easy job. Ever since I came to the United States from Chile, I’ve been trying to honor my cultural background while at the same time trying to overcome it so that I can take advantage of the educational and economic opportunities that this country provides.
And based on a Twitter Chat we did this summer, many of you experience that same dichotomy. Whether first or second generation Latinas, you struggle with the differences between what you want for yourself and what your family and community taught you to revere and strive for when you were growing up.
And sometimes those competing interests and beliefs get in your way.
Here are 3 reasons your cultural background might be holding you back… and how you can move forward without dishonoring it.
#1: You were taught to take a backseat
Very often Latinas are told, “Don’t get too good for your own good.” And they’re criticized for being elitists if they’re too loud and proud about accomplishing their own goals. These attitudes can wreak havoc on your confidence. Worse, when you’re applauded for keeping quiet and playing down your accomplishments, often without even realizing it, you stop taking risks and you stop yourself from working toward – or even wanting – greater success.
When that happens, not only do you suffer, but so does everyone else who could’ve been touched by the gifts, intelligence and leadership you have to share.
“I grew up being told, “tone it down a bit”. So I did. That didn’t last long.
I can’t… this is who I am.”
“As women we’re taught to not take up too much space.
Time to unapologetically take all the space we want.”
#2: You were taught to work hard and that would be enough
Working hard is great. But it’s only part of the equation. In the United States it’s expected that you work hard but that you also nurture and rely on your network to help you start, grow and advance in your career. The typical Latina doesn’t have access to sponsors and networks like her American counterparts do. She may have her own network of like-minded Latinas, but these networks don’t have the influence and power she needs to advance.
You therefore not only have to work twice as hard as your peers, but you have to find your way into networks that might not be ready to welcome you with open arms. How do you breakthrough and get your voice heard?
Identify all of the places and communities where you can add value
Find a mentor who appreciates your experience and who fought her way through just like you want to
Invite your peers to events, support each other, and always have each other’s back