I finally watched Hidden Figures the other night (yeah I know, about ten years after everybody else). For those of you who don’t know the story, it follows the careers of three Black American women in the 1960s who work for NASA, and play key roles in the ‘space race’ (below are the photos of the women that these characters were based on).
Obviously, they face some pretty big external obstacles. Not only do they have to deal with segregation laws, but they also have to work within a society where being a woman means you’re seen as less capable than a man.
But they find ways around problems, challenge the rules, and take initiative to prove their own worth. They take action, and if one of them falls into passive-complaining-mode, the other women help them out of it.
Watching this, as a brown-skinned woman in the 21st century, I felt that in some ways I couldn’t relate. Although I have certainly experienced social racism (and sexism), and I’m still learning that I can be a woman AND be strong, neither my sex nor my race have actually held me back from any opportunity.
My culture isn’t limited to my sex or the colour of my skin – in fact, these are some of the things I least identify with. I am a member of many groups; I have many identities. Were there prejudices there?
The more I thought about it, the more the realisation grew that the biggest obstacle I face is my own self-worth – or rather, my lack thereof. Sure, there are stigmas – I’m a self-published author, which means I get looked down on by some traditional publishing folk; I make colouring books, so I’m not a real artist; I’m a middle-class ‘privileged’ person with mental health issues (the question ‘what do you have to be depressed about?’ springs to mind here); I’m young (in author years) so I can’t be a good writer yet; I write children’s books, which aren’t real books, obviously; I’m not rich and famous, ergo I’m not successful; I don’t have a Fine Arts or Creative Writing degree, so what do I know? #rantover
But stigmas aren’t obstacles. Literally none of the above actually prevent me from doing what I want to do – the only actual obstacle is me believing that they do.
How about that for a reality check?
I don’t think that anything will change overnight for me, but it’s about ten steps forward in my efforts to shift my mindset and build my self-worth.