PERSONAL SPACE: You've Got the Power

Editor-in-Chief Amy DuBois Barnett

One day when I was in my early 20s, I came across a picture of my mother and me that was taken when we were living in India. She had decided to do research for her Ph.D. halfway around the world and brought me with her on the experience of a lifetime. I was a toddler, but my memories are still vivid. My mother was an amazing woman: She was both a terrific mom and a groundbreaker in her field. As the president of the University of Houston, she became the first African-American woman in the country to run a major research university. She was also an adventurer who traveled the world, did what she wanted and refused to be categorized. But right after I graduated from college, she passed away. Though I had grown up with her example, I was just 22 years old, and l felt very awkward and insecure. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted in life. At the time, I was working at a job I hated, living in a grimy basement apartment and dating a man who did not treat me with respect—’nuff said on the latter. 

As I looked at the picture on a rainy afternoon, I had the sudden realization that my mother was not going to save me. I know that seems pretty obvious, but many of us—whether we like to admit it or not—are waiting for someone or something to come along and fix our problems. At that moment, I realized something: No one was coming--not my friends, not my family, not my boyfriend. I truly understood for the first time that nobody could crawl inside my skin and live my life for me.My happiness and my success were up to me. It was a terrifying and lonely feeling, but it was also very empowering. I realized that only I had control over what I did, where I went and with whom I spent my time.

That moment changed everything for me. I decided to use my mother’s example of independence and confidence. I stopped doubting myself and listening to others’ opinions about my life. I started to have more faith and to take risks toward establishing goals that made sense for me. Putting my new philosophy into action, I quit my miserable job, dumped my awful boyfriend and moved out of that nasty apartment.

As I stopped feeling like I couldn’t do things, I began acting confident and successful, and I realized that the better I felt, the more opportunity was coming to me. I became a magnet for good luck. I met great new people, reconnected with old friends and dated better men. And when I pursued my true professional passions, doors began to swing open: I found a fellowship to study writing in another country; got accepted into a master’s program in creative writing, began freelancing for various magazines and Web sites; and got a terrific job at one of my favorite magazines. My career was born! I have an amazing life now, and what’s really cool is that I can honestly say that I created it for myself. Of course, I’ve had mentors and great examples to follow, but I’ve created every one of my opportunities by staying true to my passions and by expecting success. I don’t let anyone tell me what to do. I work very hard and with a positive attitude. I stay open to new possibilities, and I’m not afraid to take risks if I think I’ll be happier in the long run. What you put out comes back to you.

Your confident energy—and your positive impact—will be returned to you in work, love and happiness. And if you expect to succeed, you will. So make decisions and establish goals based on what makes you feel good. Walk with assurance, speak with authority, be open to opportunity and, above all, know that you can achieve anything in this life.

E-mail me amy@ebony.com or hit me up on Twitter @amydbarnett to let me know how you are making your own power moves.