Defining my true identity: Society’s assumptions vs my purpose
Deeply committed to the Christian tradition of spirituality, I define myself as an eternal, evolving spirit, having a purposeful, earthly experience.Camille N. Isaacs Morell
That said, I won’t deny that my earthly experience is shaped by my gender, ethnicity, and cultural heritage.
Having lived in Québec for over 27 years, I am classified as a Black anglophone immigrant woman, who was born and raised in Jamaica and now a citizen of Canada. These classifications assign me to at least four minority groups. This is how society expects me to define my identity.
According to the definitions of these classifications, many people assume that the odds were and still are against my ability to achieve my full potential.
By these definitions, it is assumed that I am constantly waging a war against the racists and the ‘old White boys’ network.’ It is assumed that I don’t have enough French to succeed in corporate Québec. Being born and raised in Jamaica it is assumed that I grew up poor, smoked marijuana and have been raised by a struggling mother in a single-parent home. It is also assumed it would be highly unlikely for me to succeed. I am poignantly aware that many people who don’t know me, and some who do, hold these assumptions and confidently assert them in my presence.
Why I choose to play big
None of these assumptions are true about me, and even if they were, I refuse to define myself according to society’s classifications and definitions. To do so would be to dwell in the confines of someone else’s assumptions and expectations, which let me play small. But I choose to play big.
Playing small confines me to a repetitive pattern of storytelling about how I found my way to success through the maze of social, economic, and cultural obstacles that ethnic minority, immigrant anglophone women will face in Québec.
Playing big means that I regard myself as a citizen of the world, basing my identity on the One who created me and the Universe. I call the creator God. As God is eternal, so am I. As the Universe unfolds and evolves through nature and knowledge, so do I.
Playing big also means that I continuously explore my understanding of the purpose for which God created me.
Defining my purpose in life
Paying careful attention to recurring patterns in my life has provided clarity on my purpose.
When I was 10, I was so bored with elementary school that my parents let me skip Grade 6. I remember it well because it was my very first step outside my comfort zone. I remember chafing against working on projects with the older kids, having to work hard to keep up, not having all the answers. But I also remember an insatiable curiosity to learn more, to do better and to make a difference in the world.
Some might say that my early experience set in motion a recurring pattern in all areas of my life:
Ease with verbal and written communication in foreign languages; developing cross-cultural connections without any difficulty; analysing challenging business problems; developing strategies and solutions that enable business growth and success; leading projects during periods of major change in the financial, healthcare, and non-profit sectors; mentoring and providing career advice to young women and men; serving homeless, abandoned, and imprisoned persons.
These recurring patterns have led me to conclude that helping people and businesses be better and do better is my life’s purpose.
To live purposefully, I make best use of opportunities to develop my talents so that I can serve effectively wherever I am placed.
A lifelong learner, I’ve been fortunate to serve others using my training in foreign languages, marketing, business administration, and certifications and ongoing professional development in financial services, digital marketing and governance. Throughout my career I’ve lead teams of amazing, multi-talented people in the global, financial, healthcare, and non-profit organizations in the Caribbean and North America. I’ve learned so much from my colleagues and attribute much of my success to teamwork.
Honoring my heritage
Defining myself as an eternal, evolving spirit, having a purposeful earthly experience, does not mean that I deny that I’ve shown up in this world as a woman, transplanted to another country in which the dominant culture, ethnic group and language are different from mine. I am deeply grateful for my ancestors and those who forged the path, even with their own blood, for me to be able to play big without the constraints of oppressive laws and limited social and economic opportunities.
Identity, purpose, and storytelling
I realize that I do need to tell my story of how I found my way to success through the maze of social, economic, and cultural obstacles that ethnic minority, immigrant anglophone women will face in Québec.
However, I do not want my story to be regarded as a badge of honour that I wear, tying me to assumptions about who society expected me to become. Whenever I tell my story, it will be evident that my life’s purpose is the basis of my true identity.
By helping people be better and do better, I will encourage them to see themselves as citizens of the world, with the right to become everything they desire. I will use my talents and the learnings from my life experience to mentor, advise and help prepare diverse groups of people to take leadership positions in business.
I will promote integration programs for marginalized and disadvantaged people.
I will challenge corporations to be socially responsible by embracing diversity and opening doors of opportunity so that people can become the best version of themselves at work and in every aspect of community life.
In this way, we all work together, making progress towards a truly just and equitable society, where we see ourselves as citizens of the world and where there is no longer the need to classify people and make disempowering assumptions about their potential.
See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.