When I started the personal development reading culture, I read books like ‘Think and Grow Rich, ‘The Power of Positive Thinking, ‘How to Influence People, ‘The Secret’, etc. These books created for me role models like Napoleon Hill, Thomas Edison, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, Toni Robinson, etc. I learned in these books that I have the power to change my own life and if I believe and work towards whatever I wanted then I could have it. The influence of these books contributed to the motivation and work ethic that probably allowed me a level of success that I have achieved and I am grateful.
However, these books also wounded my self-esteem. The – ‘you can achieve all that you want if you put your mind to it, look at Thomas Edison or Dale Carnegie, they built America’ – dream left some important facts out of the conversation. What was left out was the privilege that came with whiteness. The cheap labour built American and American enterprises due to slavery and racial oppression. It left out the challenges that I would face as a Black woman because of bias and lack of resources. The internalization of failures that I have experienced caused me not to believe in myself enough and not trust that I am working hard enough which was taught by motivation theory. When in reality, those so ‘failures’ were a result of the absence of a privileged background.
This crystallises the fact that the motivation culture and like many other dominant worldviews come from ‘whiteness’ as a universal perspective. The truth is, there are different obstacles to life that one could face because they are black, or female, or even both. Those experiences are not often as identical as they seem. Adopting that worldview leads to us judge our achievements or lack thereof, using a flawed standard. A standard that omits the lived experiences of those who do not have that privilege.