Episode 26 - Is It Because of My Skin Colour?Oct 06, 2021
Do you ever feel like the world is treating you unfairly or discriminating against you?
That everywhere around you, people are casting horrible judgements on you for being female, a solo parent, still single, LGBTQ+, a certain ethnicity or religion, having a funny accent or whatever else they choose to pick up on first.
This can really hurt. It can make you feel afraid, isolated and anxious. It affects your self-esteem, can destroy your self-confidence and can even make you feel ashamed of who you are.
And although we have come a long way when it comes to discrimination and racism, we’re definitely not even close yet.
It still happens every single day across the world. It happens to me.
But unlike before, we’re not willing to accept this. We’ve learned to stand up, protect ourselves and fight for what we deserve. It isn’t easy, but the experience makes us stronger than ever.
That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about in this episode. I’ll be sharing stories with you about the discrimination I’ve faced throughout my life as a black woman, including why a company’s culture made me decide to start working on my own. I’ll also explain the key role that boundaries play when learning to respect others.
If you’re also someone who wants to step out of their comfort zone, follow their dreams, and start their own business, you’re going to love this episode.
- I want you to realize that the journey has been hard. It really has been hard, but it has also been fun.
- Sometimes we need to stop putting the blinkers on and pretend that it's not happening because that is part of the problem, and we should be trying to grow together.
- Diversity is everything. It teaches me to be a better person, grow, keep me curious, and enjoy other cultures.
- If they can’t respect me, then they can’t be a part of my life or work because having respect is very important.
- I was always confident in my own skin until somebody made it uncomfortable.
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About the show:
The Eleshia Show is an exciting new podcast that helps empower female business owners to put their well-being first whilst building their businesses. Tune in every Wednesday as my inspiring guests and I discuss strategies, share stories and experiences and dive into how you can build your business whilst trying to navigate real life. The host, Eleshia Harris is here and ready to share her decades of project management and wellness experience to help you start saying ‘Yes!’ to your business and life.
Eleshia Harris: I feel really grateful that I do have that, that I do have that diversity in my friends and my family because it teaches me. It makes me a better person. It helps with my growth. It keeps me curious. And that for me, is everything. It is everything.
Hi, I'm Eleshia Harris and I am your host of The Eleshia Show. I am also the founder of eleshialifestyle.com, and I'm so excited that you're here with me and I am here with you. I'm also really appreciative. Each week, I'll be sharing strategies and stories, and insights to help you enhance your wellbeing and to build your business while still navigating life. Because sometimes we often try and separate the two, and let's face it, if you are not well, you have no business. So let's try and work with these two things combined because we can, to enhance your lifestyle. Again, I'm really excited to have you here. I have wanted to put together a podcast for over two years, and so here I am ready to share. Let's get into this week's episode.
Welcome, welcome, welcome back to The Eleshia Show. I'm excited to get into this episode with you. I really want to share with you more of the reasons why I decided that it was really time to work on my own. A couple of weeks ago, I was with a girlfriend and we were talking. And she said to me, Eleshia, do you realize how powerful you are? And I smiled. And she's like, why do you not always stand in your power? Why do you deem yourself sometimes? And I looked at her and I stopped. I said to her, well, I just pointed to the colour of my arm. And she looked at me and she was like, oh, I get it. Although she said those words, I don't think she really did get it. And it's because of a lot of the experiences that I've had during my lifetime. Not just in work, but just as being a black woman. And I'm just wanting to sit down here and give you a little insight into my journey to becoming my own business owner, and some of the things that I had to enjoy and I had to be really resilient about in order to get to a place that I wanted to get to and to be in some of the spaces that I was in. So grab a tea. I'm going to grab some water and let's talk about it. Let's talk about my journey through corporate.
One of the roles where I really saw how people didn't think before they talked was when I worked before a company in the west end. And I really enjoyed working for this company at the beginning. It was a young company at heart. We socialized a lot. And from what I was seeing and what I thought I was seeing, I fit in. It was a really nice environment to be in. I was the only person of colour there. It became more apparent when we got together with different departments for Christmas parties, I was actually the only black person in the whole company. So that was really interesting to manoeuvre. I was always confident in my own skin until somebody made it uncomfortable. And I remember, I was going on holiday and I was really excited about going on holiday. So I went on a holiday, and I came back. I found out that prior to me coming back to the office, there had been a barbecue that I hadn't been invited to. And that really hurt because at first, I thought it was just a coincidence. But then I was told that it wasn't a coincidence. So you can imagine how that made me feel. And I realized that that was really the beginning of the end for my role there because I just started to feel really uncomfortable. And then I started to realize that there were other things that were happening that I may have been turning a blind eye to that were now in my face.
When I was leaving, I was still quite sad because I enjoyed my role but I had to move on. I remember the director saying to me, Eleshia, I really don't want you to leave. And we had an open and frank conversation, and I said, these are the reasons why. You know the reasons why, and there's nothing that you can do about your company culture right now. So I have to make that decision for myself, and I did. Not knowing that this was going to be repeated in every role that I took. And this behaviour hasn't just happened in the workplace, it happened where I've gone to workshops and being the only person of colour, and been snickered out because of my body shape or my movement. It's happened at mommy and baby classes where Elessandra has been made to feel like she is the aggressor.
It happens. So when people say, does it really happen? Is it really that bad? I didn't realize that it was that bad. I'm here to tell you that, yes, sometimes it can be. And we need to stop putting the blinkers on and pretending that it's not happening because that is part of the problem. I'm happy to be able to share stories, give my insight, and reflect. And not from a place of feeling resentful, but from a place of knowing that we should be trying to grow together. This is the reason why this year I've had to set real hard boundaries because I need to respect myself enough. And if you are not going to respect me, then you can't be part of my life or we can't work together because respect is really important to me at this time in my life. It's really important.
Fast forward to my second role in investment banking, I met a really dear friend of mine here and she was so open and honest. She told me her rate, and I was astonished to know that they were paying me half of what she was getting paid. It really opened my eyes. And that was when I really started to work on my own self-development. That's when I really got very clear that I was going to get the qualifications that were required for me to be able to be paid the same as other people for the same roles. And it was just another interesting time. One of the things that really stands out is when I was moved out of the role to make space for some of these friends who they were bringing into the business, and being told that the only job that was available was for a demanding boss who nobody wanted to work for. And I took it on. One, I saw it as a challenge, and two, I didn't want to be out of a job. To this day, I will always say that he was one of the best bosses I've ever worked for. He gave me opportunities to learn. He was like a mentor to me. We really just bonded and yes, he was demanding. But I knew how to handle that. He likes that I wasn't frightened of him and that we could get the projects done. So I made him look and he helped me. He ensured that the team respected what I was doing. He ensured that I was able to get the pay raises that he knew I deserved.
And again, I will always be grateful for him because he put me on the right path. Although the job was really a demanding one, and afterwards I took eight months off of work to just re-settle and just really get ready for my next contract. It was an amazing opportunity to work with this boss. It just felt like an awkward struggle. Each contract that I took, it felt like it was, here we go again. And it's hard. It's really hard being in that position where you're a black female and you are a senior. People don't want to take you seriously. It's really hard. I've had some not-so-good bosses, but I've also had some really good ones. But equally, I know it's because I worked my ass off in the roles that I did. I worked really hard. I knew that I was able to get results, and I really worked hard for it. But again and again and again, I used to always have to fight for my worth. And it just got to a point when I decided that I'm not going to do this anymore. I'm not going to fight for my worth. I know what I'm worth.
And so, the last role that I left was the last role that I had before I had Elessandra. I had already made sure that I had savings in the bank. And I already had a plan of action as to what I was going to do. However, I did not realize that it was going to happen so quickly. So from previous episodes, I've shared with you that I had fertility issues. After I had a miscarriage in June, I left my corporate role in December of that year. And by March, I was pregnant. So then I took it easy throughout my pregnancy because, one, I was anxious about the pregnancy. But two, I was so excited that I was finally getting my dream that I just wanted to enjoy it. I didn't want to put the pressure on-off, then trying to build my business also. And then after that, I took a year off. It wasn't until September of the next year that I decided to look at where I could go with regards to how to build out my business.
And so realistically, I started to really scope my business back at the beginning of 2020, and we all know how that went. However, I will also say that it was one of the best years for me because it made me get really focused. And I really doubled down to really work out what I wanted and also, how I was going to achieve that. This is the reason why I wanted to share that journey because I have been able to achieve a lot in a time where we had a lot of external pressure. I've done that by listening to my intuition, building a community around me, and making sure that I am held accountable, making sure that I am well, making sure that my family is well but trusting mostly in myself that this can happen.
And I wanted to share that because I really want to make it understood that although I came up against so many challenges, I knew that I wanted to ensure that I had the finances when I was able to start a family. I knew that I wanted to have the finances to own a home. And even that was hard in itself because I remember when I came to see the property that I bought, firstly, the estate agent scoffed at me. Are you able to afford this? And then I remember going to the bank, and the bank clerk questioning me how I made my money and if my father was giving me the money for my deposit. Sometimes, as human beings, we can be really flippant with our words or our actions. The reason why I'm sharing this is that I really want you to realize that the journey has been hard. And it also showed me, not for anybody else, definitely not for anybody else. It showed me how much resilience and how proud I should be of myself. And that's important for me to say out loud because it's hard. And sometimes, yes, I did have imposter syndrome. And sometimes, yes, I did ask if is it really worth putting yourself in these positions? Is it really worth somebody challenging your name and arguing with you that your name seems too English for you? Is it really worth taking your daughter to clubs where she may be the only person of colour there? And yes, it's worth it because we should be there. We should be there. It's a boring life if everybody looks like you, or everybody acts the same way. We all need variety in our lives. We do, and this is what I love about my family. Our family is big and it's diverse. And we have different cultures. We've learned all about that.
I just want everybody to have a little bit of what I have. I feel really grateful that I do have that, that I do have that diversity in my friends and my family because it teaches me. It makes me a better person. It helps with my growth. It keeps me curious. And that for me, is everything. It is everything. And that is what I'm here to teach Elessandra. You need to be curious. You need to enjoy different cultures. You need to enjoy different places.
So yes, I should be everywhere that I want to go, and I will continue to do so. Thank you for listening. As always, I want to continue to have these frank and open conversations about what is on my heart. I hope that you enjoyed this episode. And I hope it gives you some food for thought about maybe your life. Enjoy the rest of your week. And I look forward to speaking to you again next week. Take care for now. Bye.
Thank you so much for listening to this week's episode of The Eleshia Show. If you know somebody who needs to hear the conversations that we are having, please share it. Take a screenshot and send it to them. Also, I would really love for you to rate and review the podcast as this really helps, and I'd love to read your comments. Lastly, remember, you need to invest in yourself first because you are important and amazing. Take care. Until next time. Bye-bye.