We talk a lot about perfectionism at Brave Women at Work, and how it can truly cripple us in achieving our goals and dreams. As Brené says, there is no perfection. I often tell my daughters, “Do your best and leave the rest.” I say this so I can hopefully break the cycle of perfectionism in my family. What about you? How has perfectionism affected you, your life, or your work?
I met my guest, L’Oreal Thompson Payton, in an interesting way. L’Oreal is a freelance writer and an author, so I stumbled on one of her freelance pieces and was enthralled by it. I connected with her on LinkedIn and asked her if she wanted to be on the show. It just so happened that her book, Stop Waiting for Perfect, was coming out soon, so she agreed. How about that for coincidence! On top of that, L’Oreal is a Chicagoan just like me. The synergies are crazy!
During my chat with L’Oreal, we discussed:
- What drove L’Oreal to write her book Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and into Your Power?
- How was this book her own personal lesson in not being perfect?
- What’s a success junkie and how can this book help them?
- Where does our lack of self-trust come from? How can we trust our dopeness?
- How black and other women of color face different societal and cultural expectations and how we can help them succeed in all places and spaces.
- How we can step out of our comfort zone and take our power back.
- And what black girl magic means to L’Oreal! I’ve seen it on memes and hashtags, but I wanted to hear it firsthand from someone truly creating black girl magic!
Listen to the podcast here
Stop Waiting For Perfect: Embrace Imperfection And Trust Your Dopeness With L’Oreal Thompson Payton
How are you doing out there? In this episode, we’re going to talk about something that we talked about before but it’s always worthy of talking about again. It’s perfectionism. Let’s start with a quote. “Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because there’s no such thing as perfect. Perfectionism is an unattainable goal.” It’s by the lovely Brené Brown.
We talk a lot about perfectionism here at the show. Also, how it can truly cripple us in achieving our goals and dreams. As Brené says, there is no perfection. I struggle with this. Many of you out there struggle with it too. I want to break this cycle so I tell my daughters, “Do your best and leave the rest.” I did that. An example is my older daughter, Charlotte, who was trying out for the poms team. There is nothing crazy. It’s the middle school poms but the perfectionism was rearing its head because I wanted her to make it.
I was feeling like it was me wanting to overcompensate and have her practice more. I had to stand down and allow her to go through this herself. There were so many girls that were trying out and there were a few spots. I was nervous for her but I also felt perfectionism coming up, bubbling up from the surface. I had to talk myself down but I am pleased to report that she did make the team. It was such a blessing. It was so cool to see the fruits of her labor coming to fruition.
However, we have to be able to do our best and leave the rest. We have to see the results fall where they may. I say this phrase to my kids because I want to break that cycle of perfectionism in my family, my daughter, and hopefully myself. What about you? How has perfectionism affected you, your life, and/or your work?
I met my guest L’Oreal Thompson Payton in such an interesting way. She is a freelance writer along with being an author. I research every week. I try to put out some powerful content on social media. I tried to give you things that motivate and inspire you. If you don’t follow me on social media, it’d be great to follow me on Instagram. I’m very active on LinkedIn. You could follow me there. You also can join the Brave Woman at Work private Facebook community to get some good stuff that’s special to that group as well.
I found some great social media content in a blog that L’Oreal had written. I was like, “She is such a powerful writer.” I looked her up and started doing research on her. I stumbled on the fact that she’s also got a book coming out at the time, Stop Waiting for Perfect. I was like, “This is so cool.” I reached out to her on LinkedIn. I asked her if she wanted to be on the show and she was so gracious to say, “Absolutely.” She agreed to come on.
How about that for coincidences? I followed the trail of the breadcrumbs with her blog and freelance piece. I found out she had a book. On top of that, she is also a fellow Chicagoan like me. The synergies are crazy. It was such a fun conversation. During my chat with L’Oreal, we discussed what drove her to write her book, Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power.
The title of that book resonated with me because I’m always talking to my clients about how can step into their power more. We don’t know how much we give away our power. As I was thinking about this show, and that might be an entirely different show I do for you all in that, what are those power leaks? How are we letting our power seep out if we don’t even know it? How can we get it back?
We also touch on how her book was her lesson in not being perfect. What is a success junkie? I asked her to define that for me. How this book can help any of the success junkies out there, me included? I’m sure many of you will resonate with that as well. A real key and a new topic is where our lack of self-trust comes from. That hit hard for me. I’ve had many periods where I didn’t trust myself. How can we trust our inner dopeness?
We dove into how Black and other women of color face different societal and cultural expectations. Also, how we can help them succeed in all places and spaces. How we can step out of our comfort zone and take that power back? Lastly, I asked L’Oreal what #BlackGirlMagic meant to her. I’ve seen it on memes and hashtags but I wanted to hear it firsthand from someone truly creating #BlackGirlMagic.
Here’s more about L’Oreal. She is the author of the book Stop Waiting for Perfect and a freelance writer. Her words have also appeared in outlets such as Bustle, SELF, Shondaland, and Well + Good, among many others. Originally from Maryland, L’Oreal lives outside of Chicago with her very patient husband and daughter whose laugh lights up her whole world. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @LTInTheCity and subscribe to her weekly motivational newsletter at LTInTheCity.com.
Before we get started, if you’re enjoying this show, please make sure to leave a rating and review in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your shows. If you’ve already left a rating and a review, I thank you. I’m giving you a hug out there virtually. It means the world. Many of you may not know but there are so many podcasts you could choose from. I appreciate the time that you spend with me and you sharing this with friends, family members, and colleagues to get the word out there. Thank you.
One more reminder. If you are interested in one-on-one coaching, I have a few spots available before the end of the year. That could be scary like, “Do I want to do coaching? Is this the right fit for me?” I have a button on my website Book Your Discovery Call. That Discovery Call is 30 minutes. It’s free. We can see if coaching is a fit for you. Some of the things I work with my clients on are negotiation and asking for what you want outside of the negotiation timeframe.
I also help people with hard conversations. I personalize scripts for them so they feel authentic in the conversation and that they’re standing in their power. I also help women build their confidence and work on managing Imposter syndrome. If you have any interest in individual coaching, let’s see if it’s a fit for you. You simply book a discovery call. Let’s welcome L’Oreal to the show.
L’Oreal, welcome to the show. How are you?
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for having me.
I’m excited to talk to you, L’Oreal. Thank you again for being here.
Thank you so much.
I like to know all the things about my people. Why don’t you tell us about your backstory and how you’ve gotten to where you are?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. There’s a picture in my book Stop Waiting for Perfect of me and my sister on the sofa at our parents’ house. She’s about 6 months old and I’m probably 4. There’s this spiral-bound notebook in my lap and a pen in my hand. I have no idea what I’m writing about. It didn’t matter because I was writing. I loved it. It was a natural extension of my love for reading.
I write stories all the time. I wrote a story about dinosaurs and outer space. I illustrated it too. I love that story in particular because that summer, I was about six years old maybe. I did the summer reading challenge at the library. When my dad came to pick me and my sister up from our grandparents’ house, he asked what we did that day. I showed him my book. He said, “You should add it to the list of books that you read.” I was like, “This isn’t a real book. I’m just a kid. I’m not a real author.”
His reasoning was if you wrote it, then you read it. That was my first experience as an author and a writer of having an adult believe in me in something that interests me which later grew to become a career. It’s special. I told that story at the library in my hometown. I was there for the book launch event and my dad was in the audience. It was special to share that moment with everyone. I don’t even know if he remembered it but it left such a lasting impression on me and was the start of my career as a writer.
When I got to high school, I was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. I always had a dream of being an editor-in-chief of a teen magazine. I was obsessed with them when I was younger like YM, Teen People, and all the ones that don’t exist anymore but I love it. This was the Britney Spears era and Christina Aguilera. What I didn’t see was myself represented in those pages. I didn’t see Black girls.
Keep in mind that it was before Beyoncé was Beyoncé. She was still in Destiny’s Child. It was before Michelle was our first lady. It was before #BlackGirlMagic was a hashtag and Black Lives Matter was a movement. There wasn’t that representation that you see now. Back then, I was like, “I enjoy writing. I’ve always been a journaler.” I kept a diary when I was little. When I got to high school and I was writing columns for our student newspaper, I realized that my words could also help people as well. It can help them feel less alone. It can help them feel empowered, more confident, and courageous.
That’s when I started to put two and two together. I was like, “I could maybe make a living out of this writing and telling stories but stories that also help empower people, especially women and girls, and me in particular, Black women and girls.” That was the start of it. I wrote for my hometown newspaper for a few years before moving to the magazine division back in Baltimore. I moved to Chicago for a boy who’s now my husband. We have a lovely daughter together. It has a good ending.
I spent some time in nonprofit PR and communications when I got burnt out from being in the newsroom and journalism. I went back to the newsroom because that was my first love. Journalism is my heart. It makes me happy. It’s what I love doing. That then brings us to the present day where I’m a full-time author and freelance writer.
Kudos to your dad. It’s almost like my daughter. She’s changing her dreams and stuff like that. We’re all allowed to change our dreams at any point whether we’re 11, 23, or 80. It doesn’t matter but I love the fact that he encouraged and nurtured that dream. Even me included, as a parent, you get worried like, “Can they make a living,” but you don’t know you’re squashing the dream. If he would have responded in a different way, who knows where you end up?
We probably wouldn’t be sitting here. That point is very valid. I love my mom dearly because she’s my mom but I feel like she is probably the proudest of me. She did tell me she was proud of me after the book events. I worked for about six months in the local school system’s Communications Department when I was transitioning from journalism to PR and communications.
I feel like that was the “good government job” with benefits that she always wanted for me but I wasn’t happy there. I wasn’t thriving. I wasn’t doing my best work. I left after six months. It was also shocking like, “How could you,” to go to a nonprofit for girls that I ended up loving. The whole department got laid off a few months after that anyway. It went to show that the good government job isn’t as stable as it may once was.
In this episode, we’re going to talk a lot about your book which is called Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power, which I talked about all the time here and with my clients. Writing and journalism are your passion but what’s the genesis of this book? What’s the story behind the story of this book?
It’s a funny story because it came about in the bathroom stall at that government job that I quit after six months. I have this idea for a book. The title then was The Millennial Manual. This was back in the summer of 2015. I had switched careers. I had a side hustle. I was doing all these things that I wanted to share lessons with other people and other ambitious Millennials. I started a Google doc and left it there.
It sat in drafts for years until 2017 when I purchased Jen Sincero ‘s How to Write a Non-fiction Book Proposal Course for my birthday as a gift to myself. I also procrastinated with that because I’m a perfectionist. What I have learned is that procrastination is a form of perfectionism because you can’t get started unless it’s perfect. It’s never going to be perfect so you never get started. I sat on that for a while as well.Procrastination is a form of perfectionism because you can't get started unless it's perfect and it's never going to be perfect. Click To Tweet
By then, the title had evolved to Trust Your Dopeness, inspired by a good friend of mine Melissa Kimble, the Founder of #blkcreatives. It’s an online community for Black people who are in different creative fields. Right before the Twitter chat, she had invited me to be on with another panelist who was an executive editor of a nonprofit for girls. I was feeling so much Imposter syndrome because I was like, “I’m not in charge of a nonprofit for girls. I only have my experience that I can speak to but is that enough?” The underlying question with that is, “Am I enough?”
Melissa assured me that I was. She inspired me to trust my dopeness, gifts, talents, and voice. She assured me that someone needed to hear my story as I experienced it. That was the genesis of that iteration. The book was very much about overcoming Imposter syndrome, at a time when I felt like a lot of people weren’t talking about Imposter syndrome.
Now, it’s super trendy. Everyone’s having a conversation about it. There’s debate on whether it’s even real or we are doing a disservice to people especially those who come from underrepresented identities to blame Imposter syndrome when there are a lot of systemic issues at hand as well. I believe that it’s both. I know for myself as a high achiever that I have experienced Imposter syndrome. I also know that racism, sexism, and all those other isms play a role as well. It’s like they’re both and/and.
Fast forward to 2018, I’m querying the book because, for nonfiction, you have to go to traditional publishing at least. You have to query literary agents before you sign with the publisher. I was getting a lot of rejection. In nonfiction, in particular, it tends to be a little bit of a popularity game. I had one agent tell me, “Come back when you have 20,000 followers.” At the time, I had maybe 5 or 6 across platforms. It was discouraging. I felt like giving up at many turns along the way but kept persisting.
Eventually, I signed with the agent that I’m working with in the summer of 2020. As we all know, there was a lot going on that summer. Publishing especially had this racial reckoning where they realized the lack of diversity in authors. It’s very interesting because I know that I’m talented and the book would resonate with people. It was also this moment in time when people and publishing especially were a little bit more open to hearing from authors like me.
We got the deal in 2021 but I had to change the title because we found out that another global conglomerate owns the copyright to it. It worked out though. I was very sad at first when I found out. I was like, “What do you mean I can’t use Trust Your Dopeness? I’ve been using this for years in my newsletters, articles that I’ve written, and everything like that. Also, the keynotes that I’ve done.” With this iteration of it, the book essentially evolved from when I first hit it in 2015 and I wrote the first proposal in 2017 to what it is now.
I am very much being of this moment where we’re dealing with a lot of perfectionism in the world. They’re still Imposter syndrome, self-doubt, and all of these things but I realize I had to go through a lot more life and learn a few more lessons to write this version of the book, which is very of the moment. It all worked out the way it was supposed to even if it was very unclear to me at the time.
You said when we talked before that you’re the poster child for not waiting for perfect. You’ve learned firsthand through this process because you said it took you eight years to get it out in the world. I’m assuming with your next book, you’re like, “I’m going to go. I’ve learned. I know.” Any other comments on the idea of not waiting for perfect with this book?
The whole book was a masterclass in unlearning perfection. Especially with the first draft, I wanted it to be perfect. I want my editor and my agent to be proud of me like, “Look at this wonderful masterpiece of a manuscript that we have.” By doing that, I was doing a disservice to myself. I was so afraid to get started even because I knew what this meant. It’s not just about me and my book deal but I want to make sure that other Black women authors get the same opportunity or better opportunity so I have to do a good job.
It’s something that Shonda Rhimes talks about a lot in her memoir, Year of Yes, being that first only different when you’re the first one to do something. I’m not the first Black woman to have a book deal but among my peers and some of my friends, I realized when you’re in situations like Shonda, me, Stacey Abrams, and other Black women in different positions, it’s like, “People are taking a chance on us. We have to make sure that we knock it out of the park or else, our friends, peers, and colleagues aren’t going to get the same chances because they’ll be like, “We tried. Look at what happened?”
That’s another external pressure that I put on myself but I saw a tweet at a coffee shop when I was working on the first draft. It said, “You can edit bad but you can’t edit nothing.” That gave me permission to put words on the page. At the end of the day, my job was to put words on the page. My editor will make it better. My copy editor will fix the things that are wrong.
I need to stop trying to do all of their jobs because, A) I’m not getting paid for that but then, B) Let me stay in my lane. I’m the writer. That’s my lane and specialty. That’s what I’m good at. That’s what they’re paying me for. I need to focus on that and let everyone else. Trust them to do their jobs and show up. I did and we made magic
I tell even my team members at work, and this is from Brené Brown, “Write your SFD like when we write proposals.” It’s called S***Ty First Draft for everyone. Get it out on the page and stop judging it. Get it out there because you might lose those ideas. There’s another book I love called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert where she talks about when those inspirations hit. You don’t want to be criticizing them. Her perspective is those ideas can flutter away and onto someone else. It’s like a butterfly tapping the shoulder of someone else. Get it down on paper and do your SFD.
I reread Big Magic at the beginning of every year because it’s so inspirational, especially for creatives and writers who have those ideas. Also, to that point exactly about the ideas coming at the most random times. If I had it my way, I would have sat down and written this book in the coffee shop with my latte and lo-fi hip-hop playing in the background. That happened.
I can count on one hand the number of times I made it to the coffee shop. A bulk of this book was written in the Notes app at 2:00 in the morning or 4:00 in the morning when I was breastfeeding my daughter in those very early newborn stages. It was like, “If I had waited for the ‘perfect moment,’ then I would have been waiting forever. We wouldn’t be sitting here talking about the book.”
That should give women the permission, motivation, and inspiration to do it themselves even if it’s messy. Kudos to you. What an amazing feat. You’re breastfeeding your newborn, you’re a new mom, and you’re writing a book. You knew. You had a vision and a dream. You said, “I’m going to do a couple of words or paragraphs.” It motivates me. I’m like, “I got to do something like that.”
You mentioned the book is for success junkies. I’ve never heard that term. I’ve heard an achievement junkie. It’s the same but I relate. That was one of the reasons I was attracted to your work. I’m like, “She gets me.” What are your thoughts on being a fellow success junkie? How do we know if we’re a success junkie?
A few years ago, I learned about the Enneagram and it helped a lot. For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s essentially a personality test. It’s very similar to Myers-Briggs and some other ones that are out there. There are nine personality types and I happen to be a Type 3 achiever with wing too. The wing is your second most popular one or the one that resonates with you the most. That’s helped. It’s like, “Not only do I like achieving but I enjoy helping others achieve as well,” which makes for a good self-help author in my opinion.
I love achieving. I am very much motivated to achieve. It’s like success or bust. That’s the goal. It’s always the top. I have to do my best. It’s not good enough for me to get an A. It has to be an A+ which I saw when I was doing Peloton. I still do it but I was obsessed when I first got it in early 2020 right before the pandemic and before we started with multiple IVF cycles. Through therapy, I can look back and realize, “This was a thing that I could do and control at a time with so much around me. The world was chaos and falling apart.”
I put a lot of stock in that. Every day or every time you do a workout on Peloton, the app, the bike, or whatever it is you’re doing, you earn a blue dot. It’s like gold stars for adults. It’s what it essentially became. I went to great lengths to keep my blue dot streak. It was 600-something days when I lost it. I’m not even proud of that because of what I did to get it, you shouldn’t do that. We were in the car on the way to the hospital the morning of the C-section birth of my daughter. I was listening to one of the guided meditations so I could keep my streak.
When we were in the hospital and the doctor gave me the all-clear to walk around the hospital halls, I was listening to one of their guided walks. That wasn’t healthy. It’s like that obsession with the streak. When I lost it and I realized at 12:01 AM the day after, it was some non-descript Tuesday in November. We had taken our doctor’s appointments. We are running around. I was still in that newborn postpartum fog. I cried real tears.
I was like, “All of my hard work,” but what I realized, thanks to the therapy, was that I was putting so much of my self-worth into my achievements. What I realized after I lost this 685-day streak was, “I’m still L’Oreal. I’m still the same person. I’m still worthy of love and every good thing that’s out there. My self-worth is not a blue dot.” That gave me some permission to be like, “The world didn’t stop and came to a scratching halt. It’s okay. You can go easier yourself. You don’t have to push through all the time.”You can go easy on yourself. You don't have to push through all the time. Click To Tweet
That’s why I say that this book is for those success junkies and my fellow Pelotonics who are obsessed with the blue dot and whatever it is in your life. Even my Bible app has this steak on it and I ignore it. It’s not healthy Duolingo or whatever it is that’s out there. It’s all gamification. It doesn’t matter and says nothing about who you are as a person.
For everyone reading, I have three shows for everybody on the Enneagram because I’m also obsessed. L’Oreal, thank you for mentioning that. You can go find them in the big library. I’m Type 1. I’m a wing or a secondary 2. I’m a perfectionist/reformer. It’s interesting because I thought I was a Type 3 but I’m a true Type 1. Even still, I resonate with what you said about achievement.
I used to be a runner and then got injured. It was like the world ended because I couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t going to be able to find another exercise that was going to be the same. It’s that extreme thinking and/or achievement that can mess this up and get us in sorts. You’ve given us a guide to say, “No more blue dots.”
You can have joy and not think, “Did I do all of the 50 things on my list today?” Speaking of that, you had mentioned in the book that we have one big problem and I’m still working on that. The problem that I ascertain is that we don’t trust ourselves. That one hit me so hard. Many of us who are ambitious and perfectionists, where do you think that the lack of self-trust is coming from?
It’s a lot of different places. It’s society. It’s how we were raised. It’s our inner critic. How many times do we crowdsource different opinions for something that we know what we want to do? We know what our instinct and gut is telling us. We know what our true deepest desire is. Whether that be quitting a job, leaving a relationship, starting a podcast, writing a book, starting a blog, or whatever it may be, you know what it is that you want to do.
You have your reasons for wanting to do it and it matters to you. It’s important to you. You want to do the thing. You then start to ask your partner, friend, mom, cousin, Twitter even or social media. You get everyone else’s opinion to tell you something that you already know what you want to do. You don’t trust that inner voice that’s inside of you, your gut, and your instinct. It’s because we’ve been conditioned not to, especially as women.
This is historic. It goes back centuries of not believing women because they’re hysterical. They’re this and that. We’ve been conditioned to not believe our voice even though that’s the one we were born with and the one that we hear every day all day. Everyone else knows better than we do. That’s simply not true but that’s what we’ve been told to believe. It starts at a very young age.
I write in the book about this phenomenon called camouflaging. I see it even in my daughter who is very much vivacious and fearless. I love that for her. I want her to stay that way. My friend’s daughter, and I don’t know how we got on the subject but I was asking her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said in this order, “The first girl president, an Olympic gymnast, and a ballerina.” I was like, “Yes. Keep that same energy.”
What happens is as we get older, we get to middle school and high school. Puberty happens. There’s peer influence and pressure, everything like that. What happens a lot of times to young women is you start to camouflage and get quieter. Instead of raising your hand confidently because you know the answer, you wait for everyone else to say what’s on their mind. You let someone else speak first and you start to make yourself smaller. You start to shrink yourself and blend in. You don’t want to stand out.
That’s what I think when we first get that first dose of we should listen to ourselves and not trust ourselves because everyone else must know better than we do. We get back to the author who talked about that. It describes it as a 30-year-power outage where it’s middle school, high school, and college. Eventually, you get to the boardroom and start to regain that confidence but all of those years have already gone by. If you’re lucky, you get it back and regain that confidence.
What I want for young women, girls, and even older women is that power outage and camouflaging never happens. You listen to yourself and have the confidence of a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. You keep that same energy throughout your life. Always believe in yourself and trust your voice. It takes a lot, especially with social media.
I feel like you have to get quiet and steal away those moments to meditate, journal, and tune out the noise both literally and figuratively to hear that voice. It takes a lot of practice and discernment but it is so worth it when you do, when you get back in touch with that inner child and the dreams that you had when you were younger.
I love the metaphor of a power outage. It makes me wonder. I’m into Liz Gilbert and Brené Brown. I talk a lot about them on the show and things like that. One of the things that Liz Gilbert talks about is tribal shame. Our families are our tribes or friends. You said crowdsourcing the opinion of, “I want to do this thing.”
Let’s say in your past, it’s like, “Everyone, I want to write this book called Trust Your Dopeness, the original, and right now, Stop Waiting for Perfect.” People are like, “Do you want to do that? Do you think you’re going to have an opportunity?” However, when you turn back online and turn that power back on, people probably get irritated because they don’t recognize you anymore.
They’re fearful. I write about it in the book as well. There’s your inner critic but sometimes that voice belongs to someone else. I encourage people to figure out whose fear it is. Is it yours or is it your parent who is afraid of you failing? Is it someone else? There may be no other entrepreneurs in your family and you’re going to be the first one. It’s maybe the optimist in me who likes to believe the good in people but they do want to keep you safe. They want to keep you in that comfort zone away from failure where you know what you can do.
However, the thing is the magic doesn’t happen in the comfort zone. It’s comfortable for a reason and it feels very cozy like wearing your favorite pair of sweatpants. After a while, it’s not challenging anymore. That’s where I’ve tried to redefine my relationship with Imposter syndrome to be like, “This is a good thing because it means that I’m leveling up and stepping outside of my comfort zone. I’m feeling challenged.” That’s where that feeling of being an Imposter is coming up but if I stayed in the comfort zone, then I would never grow, evolve, or do the big scary things that I dream of doing.Magic doesn't happen in the comfort zone. Click To Tweet
I have to share this because we’re talking about your book and highlighting it. People might be like, “How can I trust myself? L’Oreal wrote a book. I can’t write a book.” You can start small and I’ll give you an example or an anecdote. God blessed me with two daughters. Not only do I run this show but I’m running two daughters and making sure that they’re strong and brave. It’s such a blessing and an honor to be able to do that.
We were getting mom-daughter pedicures. My older daughter, Charlotte, wanted a manicure. She came to me after. I’m still working on the pedicure while enjoying myself. She’s like, “I’m done.” I could tell on her face she was super disappointed. There was bubbling in her nail polish. It was blatantly wrong where she was like, “It’s fine.” I’m like, “No. It’s not fine.” I said to her, “Use your voice. I’m not going to solve this for you. You’re going to go and give them feedback in a positive and respectful way like, ‘This isn’t right and I’d like it fixed,’” even little things like that.
Was she your older daughter?
My best friend, interestingly enough, we’re both the older daughters in our families. There’s something too to that eldest daughter. We are the people pleaser. We don’t want to rock the boat. We keep the order. We don’t want to disappoint. I still have a hard time speaking up in the nail salon. What a gift you gave to your daughter to trust herself and her voice. Also, to encourage her to speak up in that moment. That’s served her so well. Kudos to both of you.
Thank you. Rounding this out, the idea of self-trust or trusting your dopeness comes to trusting your intuition, not getting necessarily a committee of people, speaking up, using your voice, and not waiting. Are there any other tips you would say on that self-trust?
We pretty much covered it. It’s the same as, “What are some ways to start,” and it’s exactly that. It’s starting small like speaking up at the nail salon or you get a service that you’re not 100% satisfied with. Even as small as ordering something new off the menu, getting a different drink at Starbucks, taking a new route home, or reading a book in a different genre than you’re used to. Those small moments that push you outside of your comfort zone will make it easier when the big moments come along because you’ve had some practice. Courage and confidence are muscles. The more you use it, the easier it’ll get.Courage is a muscle. Confidence is a muscle. The more you use it, the easier it'll get. Click To Tweet
I want to shift. If anyone has seen the cover art for my show, I’m a White woman. I always can learn. I want to hear from you as a Black woman. It’s so amazing that you wrote this book but you’re also setting the example for your sisterhood and all women. It doesn’t matter what color their skin is but you said that lack of trust and self-doubt can be even more crippling with people of different races, ethnic backgrounds, and things like that. If you’re willing to share any experience with that, this is something I can learn from. Why don’t you share?
I had another one where someone asked, “Who is this book for? Is this book for women?” I was like, “Yes. This is for anyone who’s experienced Imposter syndrome, perfectionism, and self-doubt.” Given my life experiences, I wrote it specifically for Black women and girls because we are held to even higher standards. Let’s look at Coco Gauff. I’m not a huge fan but I follow along, especially for all the Black girls.
I’m like, “If it had been her who was smashing her tennis racket after losing a match, we would be having a very different conversation.” It reminds me of the scene in Scandal that I write about in the book as well where Olivia’s dad is saying, “You have to work twice as hard to get half as much.” What’s implied there is you as a Black woman need to work twice as hard as your White counterparts to get half as far in the world, your career, and your life even.
It’s a fictitious show but that is so much the real experience of Black people in this country. I remember vividly. I was interviewing for the summer camp at this college that I wanted to go to. I ended up going to it and I graduated from Loyola in Maryland but they had a summer camp called Loyola Leaders and Scholars when I was younger. I went when I was in middle school.
First of all, there was an interview process. For the summer camp, we had the do an essay and we have this application. When we went to campus for the interview, my mom had me dressed up in my Sunday best, my Easter finest. I had this lilac dress on and pantyhose, which I hated in the middle of Baltimore summer. It’s humid too and hot. It’s all-around unpleasant. I was showing up as perfect because I needed this White man to look at me. First impressions matter. Also, for him to see that I am professional and smart. I’m this and that.
I came with a little portfolio as a fifth grader to this interview. It was like a job interview almost before a summer camp. That was the first introduction that I had. My parents never explicitly said, “Twice as hard to get half as much,” but it was certainly implied. As I’ve gotten older and I’ve gone through my career with the different organizations that I worked with, I’ve experienced that as well where the bar is always a little bit higher.
In writing the book too, we’re not given the grace to fail, be human, and make mistakes like some other people like Adam Neumann of WeWork who ran this company into the ground and then was awarded millions more dollars to start another company. A Black woman would never have that chance because we can’t fail. There’s too much riding on it. People are coming up after us and we have to be perfect.
That pressure can get to you. The stress and exhaustion of it all can cause heart problems. This is the love letter. What’s been great at a lot of these book events is the intergenerational love. I’ve had moms who have come with their daughters and they get copies for them and also, copies for their moms, aunts, and cousins. This has been passed down from generation to generation on how to be a Black woman. Black Woman 101 is to be perfect and that’s just too much pressure.
I saw my mom strive for that. I saw the implications of it. I know what I’ve experienced in my life and I want it different for my daughter. I don’t want her to constantly strive, push herself through exhaustion, and always feel like she has to be twice as good. I want her to have the freedom to be her. That’s a societal issue as well. I can’t fight the world but I can create this little pocket of it at least where she is safe to try, fail, and make mistakes.
She doesn’t feel this pressure to be perfect but to show her that example, I have to live it out as well. It’s been a good lesson. She’s the best accountability partner in that because she’s watching. She’s a toddler but they pick up on everything. It holds me accountable as well to make sure that I’m being kind to myself in this process as well.
I’m very much learning from this. There is something in this for every woman and Black woman. You’re doing such an amazing service for your daughter because you’re breaking familial and cultural patterns. If you can teach her, then she can teach her daughter, her daughter, and so on, or even her son to be like, “This is not okay.” I’m hoping there are people who read this book so they can do it for their kids too.
That’s the hope and the goal. That’s the legacy I want to leave behind. 1 page, 1 book, and 1 word at a time.
I’ve seen #BlackGirlMagic and you’ve mentioned it a couple of times. For my learning and edification, what does #BlackGirlMagic mean to you?
It’s everything. It’s the summary of how we show up in the world. For better or worse because of the circumstances, sometimes we are dealt the cards that were dealt in finding a way to persevere and thrive despite that. It’s a little bit complicated. Jesse Williams, the actor gave a speech at the BET Awards a few years ago and said, “Just because we’re magic doesn’t mean we’re not real.” With #BlackGirlMagic comes this, “Black women will save us.” We have the Superwoman cape on. You look at Stacey Abrams saving Georgia and all of those things. It shouldn’t come down to that because we’re human and real people too.
We don’t want to be strong all the time. We want to be soft and rest. We want to have the permission, space, and freedom to be. As a whole, I love it, #BlackGirlMagic all day all night. We also want people to know that we’re still people and human beings. It’s magic but it’s not mythical. We’re still people too. That’s what I take from it. There are both sides to it as well.
For my learning, I have been fortunate enough to get to a senior VP title. You don’t have to. You can be a manager or a director. You can be an individual contributor but I am not going to kid myself. You’ve made it very clear and I’ve experienced it firsthand that Caucasian women have privileges that Black women don’t. I wanted to get your opinion on how I and my fellow Caucasian women, the White women, support Black women more at work.
I appreciate you asking that because it does take everyone to make these situations better. The first thing that comes to mind is listening. Listen to us and believe what it is we’re saying. Go back for us. Speak up for us in the rooms that we’re not in. Oftentimes, it is on the manager, the director, or the people above you to make the case for a promotion of, “She should have this opportunity. This person said that thing and that’s not right. Here’s why.”
Everyone has privilege. That’s the thing. There’s so much privilege in the world. I’m operating as a cisgender heterosexual woman and that has privilege. It’s not a dirty word. It’s how you use it that matters and using that privilege, the space that you have, the rooms that you’re in, and the conversations with other people who are in those decision-making places to advocate for those of us who aren’t in the room who may not have the same opportunities. That’s something I believe that everyone no matter your privilege and where you sit has something that someone else does not. Using your privilege to speak up for someone else is what we should all be doing.Everyone has some kind of privilege. It's not a dirty word. It's how you use it that matters. Click To Tweet
Thank you for that. I appreciate you counseling me and White women like, “How can we help Black women to get to the places and the spaces that you deserve and that I know that you work hard for?” Pivoting a little bit, you’d mentioned at the front that you have all these jobs. You are a freelance writer. You’ve launched this beautiful book.
I love the cover. I’m obsessed with the cover of this book. Everybody, go and buy it. I ogle at the cover. It’s beautiful. You have your child. I’m always fascinated by this. People ask me, “How do you have a show, a full-time job, and kids?” I want to ask you the same. “How are you making all of these roles work together? How is it all working for you?”
It certainly takes a village and everyone says it takes a village to raise a child. I’m a firm believer that the same applies to a mom. I don’t like the phrase working mom because it’s all work. Parenting is a labor of love. I don’t work outside the house because I work from home. You have other job duties outside of your household and familial responsibilities. I’ve learned in these very short and long two years. It depends on the day you ask me, whether they’ve gone by fast or it’s been long.
I was leaning on that community and asking for help. I love my daughter’s daycare teachers. I included them in the acknowledgment section because, without them, this book wouldn’t have been possible. I wouldn’t have had the time and energy to focus on my projects. I can do that because I know that she’s being taken care of, she’s having fun, and they’re pouring love into her. That gives me peace of mind to do what it is that I need to do.
Also, speaking up and asking. I’m getting better at the asking. The first part was accepting help. There was a moment where I felt like the crap hit the fan and everything came crumbling down where I was having a hard time putting the baby to sleep. My husband who usually does it was at an event and he came back. He found both of us crying. I was texting one of my mom’s friends after he took over and I was like, “Dory, I don’t know that I’m cut out for this mom life.” She was like, A) It’s too late, and B) Yes, you are.”
She stayed on the phone with me for a good 30 minutes. She gave me a good pep talk. I’m such a Millennial so I went on Instagram the next day and was sharing how hard parenting can be especially when you’re still in those early years. I’m still in the thick of it. I had friends immediately reach out like, “What do you need? Do you need me to come over and watch the baby? When do you need to go out for a date night? I can babysit.” They came to my aid which is amazing. I’m so grateful.
I had to get out of my way. I had to stop trying to be the perfect mom and the good mom who doesn’t need help where she has everything under control. I need to admit that I need help and that’s not a sign of weakness. I don’t remember ever seeing my mom ask for help. That was not something that you did. To ask for help is to admit weakness and be vulnerable. There’s so much strength and beauty in that. That’s what I have had to learn. People want to help but they’re not my readers.There's so much strength and beauty in being vulnerable. Click To Tweet
You have to reach out and admit, “I am struggling. I could use another set of hands. I don’t have to wait for things to get bad before asking for help. I can be proactive in doing that.” That’s what has helped them. My husband’s like, “I need to go to the spa for a day or do this workout.” Prioritize that unapologetically because there is so much mom guilt that’s out there.
What Instagram and social media society will constantly tell you is you’re not doing this or that right. Have those people in your life who assure you that you are. One time, we ended up taking my daughter to urgent care. She had a fever and it’s fine. She has an ear infection but it wasn’t COVID or RSV. I was feeling Mom’s guilt. I was like, “I should have caught it sooner. I should have known.” Mind you, this is her first ear infection. How would I know what was going on?
My friend Pam who I love and I write about in the book as well is like, “She is loved and cared for. You’re providing so many memories for her. You are a good mom.” Have those people who give you those reminders and also check on you as a human as their friend, not always like, “Violet’s mom.” Everyone asks about the baby and having the people surround you who care about you as a person without all the other titles and everything associated with your name helps ground me and gives me perspective. It reminds me that I’m loved and not alone in this.
You aren’t asking but I was going to offer a little bit of support. It was when my first daughter, Charlotte, was born. This was so wrong. This is a PSA for anyone who might be struggling with this. This was a few years ago. They weren’t talking as much about postpartum depression, especially not anxiety. I had postpartum anxiety. As a perfectionist, I decided to go at it on my own. Don’t do it. I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t know.
Here’s the thing about Charlotte I want to share with you. I don’t even how many my little one had but she had maybe 25 to 30 ear infections in her first 2 years of life. She had RC and pneumonia. She wasn’t eating and all this kind of stuff. I felt so bad about myself because I was like, “What am I doing wrong that my kid is so sick?” What ended up happening was that she had enlarged tonsils and problems with her adenoids. It was probably from all the illnesses that they had to go.
After we went through that surgery, which was terrifying, my kid was a different person. We’ve been on a better playing field ever since. I want to let you know that you can do this. Even when you go to the ER or there’s something that needs to be done, it’s amazing how women are warriors. I want you to know that you can do this.
Thank you. I do appreciate it. I talk openly about postpartum depression, anxiety, and all these things that I went through, changing therapists even because I was like, “They need someone who specializes in this.” That was the scene that I described where Jeff was gone and I was trying to get the baby down. At that point, she was a year old and I thought that postpartum depression expires after a year. You should be over it. That’s not how it works.
I had to give myself a lot of grace in that as well and also, advocate to say, “I’ve been working with my former therapist for a while but in this season of life, my needs are different so I need something different. I need someone different who can speak to this.” I’m grateful that I was able to find that help. Asking for it, being proactive, and being unapologetic about what I need is necessary.
What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe women can be braver at work?
It goes back to what you said before with your daughter at the nail salon. It applies to the workplace as well. Speak up, say no, and advocate for yourself, and your needs, as well as other people, especially other women who don’t have the same privilege and resources that you have. It’s asking your boss and telling them, “I need more time to complete this project. I can have it by this date. Does that work for you?” Be proactive about it.
Speak up. We talked about the power outage and how we put other people’s needs ahead of our own. Do that and be unapologetic about it. Whether you have kids of your own or not, there’s always someone who’s looking up to you and aspiring to be where you are. It’s on all of us to show them that it’s possible. Even if it’s scary and it can be uncomfortable to speak up if you’re not used to it.There's always someone who's looking up to you and aspiring to be where you are, so it's on all of us to show them that it's possible. Click To Tweet
Start small like at the coffee shop, at the nail salon, or when your order is not right at the restaurant, whatever that is. Practice using your voice so when those big moments come up, you’re not as uncomfortable. It’s still going to be a little uncomfortable but that’s where the magic happens. That’s where you grow as a person so there’s only good that can come from that.
L’Oreal’s book is Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power. I love the title. How can women find the book? Is it everywhere? Tell me about where they can find the book and your work online.
The book is sold everywhere books are sold. There’s also an audiobook version which I narrate. You can learn more about me. Subscribe to my weekly motivational newsletter at LTInTheCity.com. You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @LTInTheCity.
L’Oreal, this was so fun. I’m so glad that I found you and that you responded. You were like, “She’s not too weird. This will work out.”
You had me at Brave Women at Work. It’s my love language so I was like, “Yes. She gets it.”
I was like, “She’s my people. I got to have her on the show.” Thank you again for being here. It was an absolute pleasure.
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.
That does it for my discussion with L’Oreal. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here are a few questions to consider until next time whether journaling or just thinking through. How can you trust your inner dopeness? What does that even mean? What does that mean to you? Your inner dopeness. What step or steps do you need to take to get out of your comfort zone? If you’re hanging tight in your comfort zone and it feels comfy for a reason, what opportunities are you missing by staying there?
Finally, where may you have some of those power leaks I talked about? How can you get your power back? As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other show platform you enjoy. Until next time. Show up, stop waiting for perfect, and be brave.
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About L’Oreal Thompson Payton
L’Oreal Thompson Payton is the author of the forthcoming book, Stop Waiting for Perfect, and a health and wellness reporter at Fortune. Her words have also appeared in outlets such as Bitch, Bustle, SELF, Shondaland and Well + Good, among others. Originally from Maryland, L’Oreal lives just outside of Chicago with her very patient husband and daughter whose laugh lights up her world. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @LTintheCity and subscribe to her weekly motivational newsletter at LTintheCity.com.