Your relationships, your career, your life—you are the common denominator.
So, do you know yourself? Do you walk in confidence? Do you advocate for your values, goals, and desires?
We talked about how to be your true self and let your light shine with Reneé Brown on episode 13 of Unlocking the Club podcast. This episode was particularly special to me because Reneé is a close friend and mentor who accelerated my career in the sports industry and walked alongside me during personal times of grief and sorrow.
And, beyond that, Reneé doesn’t do a lot of podcast interviews, so I am grateful she joined us to share her wisdom.
Reneé is a powerhouse in the sports industry. She spent 20 years pioneering the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) before pivoting to where she is today as the principal CEO of Reneé M. Brown Inc., a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultancy.
We had a rich conversation on many topics related to mentorship, women empowering women, confidence, building a career in sports, and many other topics. The common thread? Know yourself. And let your true self SHINE.
Don’t Give Your Confidence Away
We started our conversation by talking about Reneé’s mother who spoke confidence into her life from a young age. She was encouraged to always let her light shine and live authentically.
This has been challenged over the years by people who try to dim that light. But Reneé’s biggest lesson she learned is that people can’t take your confidence away—only you can give it away. So you need to protect it carefully and ensure that you’re not giving it away to people who want to undermine you.
Here are a few of Reneé’s reflections on confidence:
- Confidence is knowing you are visible. There are many times when we, especially as black women, feel invisible to others. Microaggressions and small things add up over time and can leave you feeling unseen or invisible. Reneé flips it around… She knows she’s visible—it’s the other person who can’t see. From this place of power, you can make yourself known with confidence.
- Surround yourself with the right people. Think back in your life to times when other people—family, friends, mentors—lifted you up. Maybe they helped you during a hard time or sponsored your new position. Whatever they did, they filled you up with confidence by believing in you. Remember those people, prioritize them in your life, and let them speak confidence over you.
- Understand where lack of confidence comes from. When other people try to tear you down, it’s their own lack of confidence and their own insecurities. Don’t make those things about you when it’s their inner work that needs to be done.
- Your negative self-talk might be diminishing your confidence. Watch how you speak to yourself, because it impacts your confidence. High-achieving career women are often moving so fast that they don’t slow down to listen to their thoughts and emotions. So, take time to understand what you’re saying to yourself and ensure your self-narrative is positive and encouraging. Reneé mentioned a book, Expect to Win, that has proven strategies for career success, all starting from a mindset that you can and should win in your career.
Your confidence is something you’ll take with you throughout your career, relationships, and life. It’s something that will push you towards goals and new opportunities.
Remember that your confidence can’t be taken from you, but you can give it away, so be careful to guard it.
Why Do You Want to Get in the Club?
Unlocking the Club podcast is dedicated to amplifying black women’s stories and understanding how they’ve navigated through life, career, and the clubs they are in or want to be in.
For Reneé, her club was the executive level in the sports industry. Your club may be your workplace, a friend group, a hobby, new relationship—it’s somewhere you want to be. A lot of black women are shut out of the club, either in reality because of the system they’re in, or through their own self-limiting beliefs and actions.
There are many real barriers for black professionals that make getting into the club feel like an impossible task.
But Reneé asks a very important question: why do you want to be in the club?
We often raise people up on a pedestal because of their qualifications or expertise. They’re part of the club and, because of where we placed them, they’re untouchable.
Reneé reminds us that people are people, and they may not deserve that pedestal. Keeping this in mind allows you to focus on yourself, not others. You can get back in touch with who you are, your values and priorities, and if you’re showing up authentically.
When you’re striving and pushing and holding parts of yourself just to fit in… Stop. Pause. Ask yourself: is this a club I want to be in? Does it align with who I am?
Always look inward and ensure you are letting your light shine. Because it is from this place of power that you can stand up for yourself powerfully and go after the career that you want.
Tips for Navigating Your Career
Reneé’s had a successful career in one of the most high-powered industries. The sports industry, like a lot of corporate America, attracts ambitious individuals all looking for success.
So, what is success in your career? How do you get there?
At this point, you might not be surprised to hear that Reneé believes success starts and ends with being yourself. If you are not authentic to who you are, your values, and your beliefs, then any level of achievement won’t matter.
Once you have that solid foundation of who you are, though, you can start to navigate the twists and turns of a career. Here’s some of Reneé’s advice on how to do it:
- Keep relationships at the center. Having strong relationships matters to build a successful career. You need to constantly go back to what is the right thing to do and the right way to treat people. As you do that, you build trust and loyalty which will open many professional opportunities.
- Don’t box yourself in. Reneé loves basketball and loves the WNBA. But she reflected on how she kept herself in that box for a long time. It took years for her to understand that she had skills and abilities that could transfer anywhere—she wasn’t just good at basketball… there was more to her than that. So, look at where you might be holding yourself back and get out of the box.
- Be objective. When you’re feeling looked down on, held back, or if there are no opportunities available to you—is that the truth? Or are you telling yourself a story? Try to remain objective and see a situation for what it is.
- Step away from ego and ask for help. Reneé shared a time in her life when she was going through some tough medical issues and even had surgery—all without letting friends and colleagues know. Years later she realized this was out of shame, and shame comes from ego. We all need people, in the good times and the bad. Surround yourself with those people and invite them into all parts of your life. This is part of caring for yourself, which ultimately benefits your career too.
You’ll have many twists and turns in your career. It’s inevitable that there will be big decisions to make and necessary pivots. Remember that you don’t have to navigate it on your own. Bring trusted people around you to advise, support, and encourage you. We talked about so much more with Reneé on the podcast. Make sure you go listen to episode 13 to hear more about her career and our relationship over the years. You can also keep up with Reneé on LinkedIn.