Believe in You – 10 Self-Affirmations to Counter Microaggressions

More research suggests self-affirming is the beginning of success in the face of systematic discrimination. Self-affirmation has a powerfully positive effect on self - especially after a threat to self-esteem.

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It is well documented how blacks are underrepresented in leadership roles in corporate America. As a rising black professional, it can be discouraging, and you may even wonder if you stand a chance of advancing your career. Do not despair! In our work at The Executive Leadership Council (ELC) we know there are numerous black professionals and executives who, despite the headwinds they face – being the “only” in the room and numerous microaggressions – experience great success in corporate America. You can too.

Research shows that black professionals experience microaggressions at a significantly higher rate than other races in the workplace. The effect of microaggressions over time can impact self-confidence, cause anxiety, and reduce engagement at work.

More research suggests self-affirming is the beginning of success in the face of systematic discriminations. Self-affirmation has a powerfully positive effect on self – especially after a threat to self-esteem. Here are ten self-affirmations to help you in times when you encounter microaggressions at work.

Microagression: I must explain what it is like to live as a person of my race/ethnicity.

Self-Affirmation: I embrace my unique strengths and cultural resources. I bring new perspectives and ideas that have value and are specific to my experience.

Microagression: I am mistaken for someone else of the same racial background.

Self-Affirmation: I build a robust sense of self that strengthens me.

Microagression: Colleagues touch my hair without my permission.

Self-Affirmation: At times I question whether I must choose between my career success and my authentic self. I want to be able to wear my hair and clothes in a manner that I feel is professionally authentic, discuss my personal interests and commitments with my colleagues and supervisors, and honor my unique background and experiences. For the sake of my health, I make choices that promote my ability to be authentic at work — whether that is expressing myself through my appearance or my language — and I am accountable for those decisions. This is the paradox of authenticity. I embrace this with courage.

Microagression: I am told I’m “not like others” of my race/ethnicity.

Self-Affirmation: I face the same challenges as other leaders when it comes to fighting biases, ethical breaches, and abuses of power. At the same time, because of my race, I am held to higher standards and face greater scrutiny. I continue to uphold my integrity by being mindful of my decisions about how I lead, and I use my powers to uplift others.

Microagression: I am repeatedly told that I’m “articulate.”

Self-Affirmation: Sometimes, even when I am in a position of authority, my authority is challenged or contested. I choose to not let this make me feel less secure in my leadership. I learn from feedback and others’ perceptions, but I do not let them limit my leadership potential.

Microagression: Others regularly take credit for my ideas in meetings.

Self-Affirmation: The workplace is not perfect, and neither are my colleagues. At times, I experience painful bias, but I do not let these microaggressions limit my career. Instead of shutting down or quitting, I choose to seek the support of my colleagues in making my workplace more inclusive.

Microagression: I am excluded from meetings relevant to my job.

Self-Affirmation: I recognize that as my core strengths and talents increase, I can be a stronger contributor in my organization. I draw on these attributes to position myself for increased responsibility and greater visibility and impact.

Microagression: Others mischaracterize me as “angry.”

Self-Affirmation: I critically question and reject negative stereotypes and society’s lowered expectations of black leaders.

Microagression: I am excluded or passed over for growth opportunities.

Self-Affirmation: When the path forward isn’t obvious, I carve my own path. I have deep ingenuity and know I can build inclusive and high-performing organizations in which I can flourish.

Microagression: My manager meets one-on-one with others on my team, but not with me.

Self-Affirmation: I develop the credibility, networks, and capabilities to thrive by aligning my skills and my cultural resources — my connections and my background — with strategic opportunities for my company and career.

When doubtful moments about your leadership arise because of microaggressions at work, affirm YOU!

Self-affirmations courtesy of HBR. For additional affirmations, click here.

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