What drives you? What makes you who you are?
We are all driven and motivated by the stories we tell ourselves. Storytelling is an experience of empowerment, a way of honoring your journey and creating from it. We normally don’t take the time to look at the stories we tell ourselves and choose to be empowered by them. Too often, we repeat and replay the stories of the unfairness or disappointments in life and consequently, our lives are then run by these negative experiences.
This is about my journey towards honoring, claiming and learning to celebrate my authentic story and the power that we all have to change our lives by doing the same.
I’ve spent my whole life helping people tell their story.
At film school, I produced short films by directors I felt were really talented and ran organizations for artists of color. Later, as a studio executive at New Line Cinema, I championed films like Spike Lee’s BAMBOOZLED, about the difficult and touchy subject of racism in television and media (part of this championing involved a passionate plea on my part to my boss at the time in his office while an 8 foot replica of the original creature from ALIEN hung over me, 2nd jaw extended, ha!) .
As an independent producer, I made a film about the brutal and horrific 100 Day genocide in Rwanda called SOMETIMES IN APRIL. Most recently, through my producing deal at the film studio Focus Features, I created and ran as Executive Director one of the most successful filmmaker training programs for emerging African filmmakers called AFRICA FIRST. We had 30 filmmakers come through the program and make groundbreaking films that hit the world stage in a big way. It’s one of the works I’m most proud of.
Championing people telling their story is a great passion of mine. As you can perhaps tell from the examples above, the more difficult, the more marginalized the story might seem, the more aggressive and hell bent I was to find a way to get it told. Nothing got me worked up and out of my seat faster than someone saying that someone’s voice didn’t matter or wasn’t important or wasn’t “marketable”. “WHAT DID THEY SAY?” I would rant to myself, outraged. “Oh, we’ll see about that”. Half the time, I don’t even know how I managed to find a way to do some of the things I’ve done, but I know that had I stopped too long to think about how impossible it was, then none of it would have happened.
From the outside looking in, my life was a good one.
I started college at age 16. Not just any college, but NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. If there was an award for anything, your girl won it. My grandmother’s wall to this day is plastered with plagues, certificates, prizes, pictures and everything else from my exploits in the pursuit of perfection. Behind that however, was a never ending need to fill a void inside of me. My drug of choice wasn’t boys or babies like others around me. My drug of choice was approval.
Approval from teachers, elders, caregivers, anyone in a position of authority. I became really good at figuring out what people wanted from me, what behaviors they would find most pleasing, and delivering in spades. I worked, ran organizations, over-performed, faster, faster, faster and faster.
And for a long time, it worked. Really well. I graduated film school at 20 with honors. At New Line Cinema, before I became an exec I had worked my way up from the assistant ranks to become the youngest (and only person of color) on the development team. Then I went on to do the other things listed above.
But I felt like a fraud.
I was great at being a pleaser and a perfector. Got everything “right”, became an overachiever, but I was always, ALWAYS fighting the sensation that someone would look at me and find something wrong with me. No one knew that I spent my days wrestling and suffering from a deep feeling of unworthiness.
No one knew MY story.
It started off as just another ordinary day.
I don’t remember too many details of my young childhood. An event here, a party there. Bits and pieces of a young girls life growing up in Brooklyn. I remember me, my mother and sister moving around a lot. A day care place I used to stay at on Ocean and Caton next to the McDonalds. A bit here. A piece there.
What I didn’t remember was my father.
My mother and father were married before they had me, but some event (or events) — of course no one ever told me — split them apart and my sister and I (technically we were half-sisters and have different fathers, but we were never apart so understood no such separation back then) stayed with my mother. No one talked about my father much. I of course knew of his existence, but there were just the wedding pictures and a few scattered, grainy 1970’s style pictures of a tall, bald black man to identify him by.
Other than that, I just knew that he had basically vanished — no one knew where he was, and I wasn’t sure if I would ever see him in the flesh, but of course I desperately wanted to. I would often wonder at every man I saw fit this profile as I was out and about. In fact, for years I dreamed that Gordon on Sesame Street (the actor Roscoe Orman) was my Dad just because he fit the profile and seemed like such a good guy. What girl wouldn’t want him as a father, right?
Then, one day, one ordinary day changed everything.
My mother, sister and I were walking through the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I was about 5 years old, and we literally ran into my father. He was a security guard there at the Gardens. My mother and sister (she was older than me and had actual memories of growing up with my father when he was still with my mother) approached him excitedly, just happy to see him. Soon enough, they were both pointing at me saying “This is Kisha. It’s your daughter.”
I remember my breath caught in my throat. THIS was the moment I had been dreaming of. This is where he would tell me that it was wild horses that had kept him away from me. But now that he actually sees me, that could all change. Now, one look from me would break him down, bring him to his knees where he would beg for my forgiveness. He would hold me in his arms, tell me he would never leave me and from that moment, from that moment all would be well and right in the world. Surely he would look at me, SEE ME and scoop me up into his arms, hold me forever, keep me SAFE. Right?
That’s how it was supposed to happen.
In real life, he would barely look at me. He just kept shaking his head. In real life, when he finally did look at me, he seemed to look right THROUGH me. Then he said to my mother, “Sorry, I’m not James Cameron. That’s not my daughter. You’ve mistaken me for someone else.”
My mother knew he was lying of course and kept pleading with him, but he insisted it wasn’t him. I remember my heart beating out of my chest. What was this horror scene playing before me? I can still feel myself resist it, deny that it was happening — THIS IS NOT HAPPENING. It’s not supposed to be like this. I couldn’t form the words, or utter anything. My body went numb, my mouth dry. I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I just sat there. Mute. Unbelieving.
You don’t matter. You are invisible. Your story doesn’t matter.
In my 5 year old mind, a very understandable, but sad and destructive thought took root: “You are not enough.” Not enough to make your father love you, not enough to get your parents back together, not enough to have someone you care about look at you and find you acceptable. If I was BETTER, I would fix it. If I was BETTER, it would all be OK, I told myself.
Then followed 33 years of trying to be BETTER. PLEASE. PERFORM. PERFECT. I lived in fear of just about everything. Fear of being seen, of being rejected, of having people not like me, of being exposed for not belonging. Fear that at my core, at my soul, at my heart, I was WRONG, destroyed and broken.
Years later, he came back into my life and admitted it was him, but the damage was done. No matter what I accomplished, it seemed that that 5 year old lived in my head, still holding on to idea of “not being enough”.
Then, I became a mother of twins.
The fear and shame of feeling I wasn’t a good parent came swiftly and cut me to the core of my being. Having children, thankfully I can say now, robbed me of my ability to use the same armor and devices I had always used to “fix” things. You can never get parenting “perfect”, but dear God, was I trying with all I had. The horror of continuously feeling like I was coming up short was devastating and overwhelming.
Then, I got a coach. A brilliant, amazing parenting expert named Elizabeth Floch.
I spent the next 8 months doing some of the most intense internal work of my life. Growing, changing, evolving. During that time, the company that I was working for went through a very public and dramatic change when the CEO was replaced literally overnight. All of a sudden, my relationship with the company and my beloved filmmaker training program were in jeopardy.
In the frantic midst of a 3am panic attack soon after, I attracted You Tube seminar from Abraham Hicks on the powerful Law of Attraction. Elizabeth had told me about Hicks before, but this was the first time I took the time to really hear it. Four hours later, for the first time in my life, I could FEEL worthiness in my spirit. Crying, I allowed it to wash over me, and let it into my heart to take root, grateful to God for the ability to feel fully in his presence.
I made a decision that day that I live by now: I would no longer accept my unworthiness as a fact. I could now stop being perfect and instead give MY personal best to everything I do, because I knew that my best was all I or God needed from me. I would NEVER again settle less than I can be, do, give, or create because I wasn’t enough. Since then, I started taking massive action to improve every aspect of my life — my emotional state, my intimate relationships, my parenting, career choices and spiritual lives have all undergone radical transformations. I took coach training at the prestigious Coaches Training Institute, and vowed to do the work with other creative professionals that I had done for myself.
I finally grew tired of a life and story dictated by “in spite of”. In spite of the fact that I didn’t have (X), I achieved (Y). That was my whole life. I’m sure it’s the same for some of you reading this. We fight and claw on every battlefield, trying to PROVE that in spite of what we had been through, we could be something.
It’s time for all of us to tell a new story. It’s time for all of us to understand that OUR VOICE MATTERS. We cannot achieve true success until we believe wholeheartedly in our own worthiness and belonging. Our story is important and we deserve to be SEEN, HEARD and ACKNOWLEDGED. It’s time for a story of “because of”. BECAUSE OF the fact that I believed the lie of my own unworthiness, and the fact that my voice didn’t matter, I am able to help others ignite and unleash their authentic, creative voice into the world. BECAUSE OF what I have seen and experienced, that makes me more than enough to do what I came to this planet to do.
I created my blog, Visionary Legacy Project as a way to share the very best of what I’ve learned with the world. My blog and videos are a vehicle for me to be able to reach as many people as possible, while actualizing my potential and reaching my goals in the process. Visionary Legacy Project is designed to show you how you can create a powerful vision for your life, and use readily accessible and powerful forces of the universe to master all aspects of that life, whether it be parenting, health, business, financial, emotional, relationships, spiritual, etc… to help you to be the best you can be and live the life of your dreams.
I hope to see you there soon, and hope that I can help you claim your story.
Kisha Dingle is an entrepreneur, master filmmaker trainer and life coach as well as the founder of Visionary Legacy Project, which champions creative professionals to maximize their full potential and create success by claiming their authentic story. Click here to subscribe to our mailing list.