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  • Writer's pictureAyris T. Scales

Newly Defined Pinnacles of Success

We live in a society in which “having it all” represents the pinnacle of success. The challenge with that pinnacle, is that it’s an ever-moving goal post, an undefined peak and most of all, subject to interpretation based on so many factors such as culture, region, religion, socio-economic status and more - that having it all ultimately looks different for each of us. And while we know this to be true, we still put ourselves on the never-ending pursuit of grinding away to achieve our inevitable perfect vision of a western standard of success and achievements. More unnerving is that we live in a world where women and other marginalized populations either have to fight harder to achieve said pinnacles, make significant compromises, or contort ourselves altogether in an effort to fit a mold that’s been defined for us, but not by us.

Like many, I have struggled throughout my professional and personal development to meet others' expectations of how I should show up only to navigate the resentment and disconnect of others, who struggled to box me as my authentic self. It was these moments of being bruised along my path to self-enlightenment and personal peace that I ultimately realized the dreams I harbored as a little starry-eyed Black girl, were often different from the world beyond me and many times even different from the world around me; and today I realize that is totally ok. I was blessed to have a father who encouraged my radical individualism and a mother who set me on a path to financial independence; both which undoubtedly molded me into the hybrid of the person that I am today.

I also recognize that I too believed the false narrative that all I needed was to work hard and the rest of my life would seamlessly fall into place. I over compensated what I initially saw as shortcomings and setbacks with titles, positions, education, and professional affiliations. My determination allowed me to have an amazing career, unlocking major opportunities for communities across the country. I served on boards and advisory councils, including Wells Fargo's Where We Live and as the chartering President of the Metropolitan DC Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women for six years. When organizations were in a make it or break it dilemma, I was often the go-to woman to turn things around. Jokingly, I called myself the “Clean up woman;” the one that comes into a struggling organization, cleans it up, activates a new path forward and puts it on track to a profitable status. It all reads so nicely, but in reality, it doesn’t, when it’s at the cost of your livelihood. I was exhausted and found myself in the same situation, time and time again.

If only we could all be so free and bold to defy the mold. I have learned that your life doesn't have to be compartmentalized. It's about not seeking balance but infusing both your personal and professional needs to create a harmonious synergy not driven by insecurity, ego or others’ illusions. I place value on my acumen. I determine how and when I show up. When I take up space, I do so to be the catalyst of change, creating a legacy that empowers us in the moments we are forced to compromise.


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