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Guiding The Caribbean-American Daughters In Authoritarian Workspaces

By Ann Dillard, LMFT

As a Caribbean-American daughter, stepping into an authoritarian workplace might feel like stepping back in time. The familiar ring of your childhood, defined by uncompromising rules and an expectation of absolute obedience, might resonate again. The unmistakable footprints of authoritative leadership might remind you of the stern parenting you grew up with. But by recognizing these similarities and arming yourself with the right strategies, you can set yourself on a course for a more positive professional experience.

Stirring Past Shadows: Those "my way or the highway" moments with bosses can reawaken memories from your childhood, churning a whirlpool of emotions.

Reminders from Home: The Caribbean upbringing emphasized an unwavering respect for elders and authority figures. This ingrained respect might sometimes leave you second-guessing yourself, hesitant to question or counter workplace authorities, fearing backlash or disapproval.

Always On Guard: Your childhood, defined by many rules, could have trained your nervous system to be constantly alert. In your workspace, this might manifest as an ever-present apprehension, over-analysis of colleagues' words, or a constant readiness for potential criticism.

The Looming Shadow of Failure: Growing up with sky-high expectations, the dread of not measuring up, especially under strict leadership, can feel paralyzing.

Seeking a Nod of Approval: Beneath your strive for perfection might lie a deeper yearning for validation. A stern word or even a cold glance from a superior can cut deeper than they might realize, echoing those feelings of never being quite good enough.

Perfectionism as a Shield: Your Caribbean upbringing, with its rigorous standards, may have shaped you into a relentless perfectionist. This can lead to spiraling stress and an inability to trust your colleagues.

Paving Your Way Forward:

  • Seek Out Support: Therapy, mentorship, or joining a community group can provide a comforting space to unpack and navigate these intricate emotions.

  • Practice Self-Compassion: Embracing that everyone, including you, has off days can significantly help in soothing workplace anxieties.

  • Draw the Line: Learning to set and maintain boundaries, from managing workload to interactions with colleagues, is imperative.

  • Turn Inwards and Reflect: Continuously introspect, identify what pushes your buttons, and craft strategies to deal with them.

  • Raise Your Voice and Advocate: Cultivate the power of self-advocacy. Understanding your worth and learning to voice out can transform challenging workplace situations, empowering you to stand firm yet respectful.

While the specters of a strict Caribbean upbringing might cast long shadows over your professional life, with self-awareness, the right kind of support, and honed advocacy skills, you can turn challenges into valuable lessons, weaving a brighter tapestry for your career.

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