When life's greatest obstacles present themselves, Diversity & Inclusion Strategist Kimberly S. Reed says that in many ways, optimism will help to determine your outcome. Reed learned this lesson from her own mother after witnessing her battle with leukemia and had to quickly put those teachings to the test when she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer just three months after her mother's passing.
Doctors would later learn that Reed's stage two cancer was actually stage four after an anatomy scan revealed cancer on the tip of her liver. "We do not go through life untested," Reed tells EBONY. "We do not become the best version of who we are by going untested."
When faced with one of the biggest tests of her life, Reed first tapped into the power of her lived experiences. Particularly, her mother's cancer journey.
"The power of your rear view is so critical to our perspective healing and growth," says Reed. "I watched my mother gracefully walk to and through this disease with unyeilding faith. Indescribable faith. She never took her eye off God. Even when I knew she didn't feel well."
Her mother's experience provided her with a wealth of knowledge that would leave her well-equipped in her own cancer journey. "We did a lot of research around food when my mom was diagnosed. Everything that was cancer-centric I knew," explains Reed. In addition to using her mother's faith as a model for how she would carry herself throughout her own illness, Reed did not discuss the fact that she was going through chemotherapy with those outside of her immediate circle and she turned to wigs to hide the hair loss caused by treatment.
"Optimism, attitude, and how we view our circumstances is so important to our healing and how we tell our stories," she explains. "It's not the strongest people who survive or the most intelligent. It's the people who respond most to change."
The experience inspired Reed to pen self-help book, Optimists Always Win! Moving from Defeat to Life's C-Suite. On top of offering practical, actionable advice on combatting discouragement, 100 percent of proceeds from sales go to cancer charities.The golden nuggets offered by Reed address how to strike the delicate balance between resisting the urge to succumb to toxic positivity by being in denial about your reality while also paying close attention to the manner in which you discuss your circumstances.
"You can't be in denial about your current reality. You must address issues keeping you away from your healing," she advises. "Healing begins when you change the way you tell your story. There's a combination of optimism and realistic thinking that helps peole to navigate through life."
She also masterfully tears down lofty ideas about optimism while providing attainable steps about how we can all move forward in 2022 in a more optimistic way.
"Optimism helps us to view the world, other people and events in the most favorable light possible," she shares. "It's so closely linked to our resilience. Our inner voice can empower us or limit us. You learn optimism by finding purpose in your life. When you're filled with purpose, you're better equipped to see the glass half full."