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Kelly Lee Phipps

This month, apropos of Women’s History Month, our World Changer of the Month, Dr. Alexa Canday, is a woman who constantly broke down barriers that were put in place by others, as well as her own internal mental barriers. Despite becoming the first African American and first female pediatric neurosurgeon in the United States, Dr. Canady has openly acknowledged her struggles with imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a real phenomenon that disproportionately plagues women and people of color. And for those of us who have dealt with it, its most challenging aspect is that it tends to resurface repeatedly over the course of our lives. Each time we face a new challenge professionally, academically or otherwise, we are at risk of falling back into the familiar cycle of self-doubt.

As a person who has personally struggled with imposter syndrome, I can speak from experience. I know the truth about myself: I am intelligent, capable, talented, and can accomplish any task set before me. Whatever it is, I can and will get it done. However, I believe what makes imposter syndrome the mental behemoth that it is, is that despite knowing the truth about ourselves, we’re constantly plagued by negative external messaging and signaling from others. As we progress through life, the “others'' can take different forms. Sometimes the others are our peers. Sometimes they are our teachers and instructors. Other times, our supervisors. Sometimes the “others'' are people who call themselves our friends. These others, whether motivated by a misplaced superiority complex, their own insecurity and self-doubt, or just plain animus, plant seeds of negativity in an effort to make us doubt ourselves and impose limits on what we can achieve. They fan the flames of self-doubt that can turn into a raging fire that will consume our joy, self-confidence and ambition; and ultimately, cause us to self-select out of opportunities.

The factors that exist that create fertile ground for the lies that feed imposter syndrome to grow are mental. The imposter syndrome battle is fought wholly in our mind. We can win the battle by refusing to internalize the lies and by choosing to believe the truth about ourselves.

How do we keep the truth about who we are at the forefront of our minds?

First, we must remind ourselves of the facts about who we are, our qualifications and what we have accomplished. We are not where we are today by some fluke or stroke of luck. We worked hard, likely harder than most, to accomplish our goals.

Next, we must be intentional about the company we keep. We must guard our hearts and our minds, and one of the best ways to do so is by truly vetting our friends and keeping around us a genuinely supportive group of trusted advisers who encourage us, exhort us and are honest with us.

Finally, we must ultimately choose who will get to decide what course our lives will take. Will we believe the lies promulgated by those who are not acting in our best interests, thereby empowering them to decide for us, or will we decide for ourselves?

I don’t know about you, but I choose the latter.

  • Kimberley Guillemet

Lauryn Hill

I remember when I first heard the song “Everything is Everything.” I was a junior in college and one of my classmates had the new Lauryn Hill album playing on her car stereo as she drove me to my dorm. I remember that even after she had pulled into a parking spot and put the car in park, I couldn’t bring myself to get out of the car until the song was over. Its genius struck me as much then as it does today. There is tremendous truth in this simple statement. Everything is literally connected to everything else. Despite living in a day and age where we find ourselves more separated and polarized than ever, with folks digging their heels in deeper and deeper as they defend their various ideological stances, it’s more imperative than ever to remember that we are all connected. As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to recognize that cultural pride should not occur in a vacuum; nor does it need to take place to the exclusion of inclusivity. This is true for celebrations of pride for all groups. We can celebrate our achievements in a way that both pays homage to the hard-fought accomplishments of our people, while concurrently acknowledging that we need and rely upon each other as fellow citizens of humanity, regardless of our ethnicity, creed, or background. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the most prolific leaders of our time, who is widely celebrated during Black History Month, understood this truth all too well. Though often lauded for the work he did to advance the cause of equal rights for African Americans, Dr. King was a staunch advocate for equal access and justice for all people. He believed in the interconnectedness of humanity and that none of us are free until all of us are free.He once shared that he told his children, “I don’t ever want you to forget that there are millions of God’s children who will not and cannot get a good education, and I don’t want you feeling that you are better than they are. For you will never be what you ought to be until they are what they ought to be.” As Dr. King understood, what happens to the least of us, impacts all of us. We must remember the context of humanity in which we exist. We do not thrive in a vacuum. Everything truly is everything. All of our actions impact the actions and experiences of other people in an often a cyclical and unintentionally symbiotic manner. Everyone truly is connected to everyone else. The way we move, live, and breathe in the world impacts

our fellow humans, for better or for worse. We rely on each other. We need each other. And we should care about each other.

Lauryn Noelle Hill was born on May 26, 1975, to parents Valerie Hill, an English teacher, and Mal Hill, a computer and management consultant. She grew up in South Orange, New Jersey. From an early age, Hill was fascinated by music. At age 13, she appeared as a contestant on Showtime at the Apollo. With the support of her parents, she pursued singing and acting professionally in her early teens, appearing on local television and auditioning for film roles in nearby New York City.

In high school, she formed the hip hop group The Fugees with Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean. While serving as a songwriter, lead vocalist and rapper for the group, Hill continued to pursue her acting career. At age 17, she played a recurring role on the daytime television drama As the World Turns. The following year, she appeared in a prominent singing role in the feature film Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit. Hill excelled academically and earned admission to Columbia University. In her freshman year after The Fugees signed a record contract, Hill left Columbia to concentrate on her performing career.

The Fugees released their first album in 1994, and their second, The Score, in 1996, which was an immediate sensation upon release, shooting to the top of the Billboard 200 and the R&B charts. The album included three hit singles; the biggest was Lauryn Hill’s version of “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” a ballad made famous in the 1970s by singer Roberta Flack. The song went to Number 2 on the U.S. Singles chart (Number 1 in Britain), and brought the group a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance of the Year. In its first year of release, The Score sold six million copies.

In 1998, Hill produced and released her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart for four weeks and the Billboard R&B Album charts for six weeks, ultimately selling 19 million copies. Of the five singles released from the album, “Doo Wop (That Thing)” debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard charts. At the 1999 Grammy Awards, Hill broke a number of records, becoming the first woman to be nominated in ten categories in a single year, and the first woman to win five trophies in one night: Album of the Year, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and Best New Artist.

By the end of 1999, two years into her solo career, her record sales and touring had earned her an estimated $25 million. In addition to her own performing schedule, she served as co-producer of Carlos Santana’s Supernatural, and won a second Grammy Award for Album of the Year. She is the only female artist to win the Album of the Year award in two consecutive years.

At the height of her success, Lauryn Hill surprised the music world with her decision to withdraw from performing and seclude herself with her growing family.

Outside of her performance career, Hill is a dedicated activist. She founded an organization dedicated to serving underprivileged urban youth called the Refugee Camp Youth Project. The organization raises money to send children from Hill's native New Jersey to summer camp.

In 2012, Hill faced personal and professional tumult which resulted in criminal charges being filed against her. These past challenges notwithstanding, Hill has displayed tremendous grace and resilience. She is often regarded as one of the most influential musicians of her generation. In 2021, she was among the inaugural nominees for the Black Music & Entertainment Walk of Fame.

This text is excerpted from:,, and

Monthly Words of Encouragement

World Changers of the Month Archive

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