In her groundbreaking memoir, Elaine Welteroth takes the reader behind the scenes of her journey to success. She reveals that this path is rife with struggle, pain, and often, failure. However, she emphasizes that these obstacles were crucial in allowing her to grow into the strong and powerful woman that she is today. As a young woman of color myself, much of Welteroth’s story resonated with me; there were moments when I furiously scribbled in the margins, moments where I felt too overwhelmed by the similarity of our experiences to continue reading. This book reinforces the idea that, despite our individual differences, we share many of the same struggles. If we allow these stories of struggle to remain hidden behind facades of happiness, or behind curated images on social media, we do the world — and ourselves — a disservice. However, if we find the courage to share our pain, to reveal the stories that shaped us, then we may find ourselves thriving in ways that we had never imagined to be possible.
“There is so much wisdom locked up in the stories women never tell.” — Elaine Welteroth, More Than Enough: Claiming Space for Who You Are (No Matter What They Say)
Here are three valuable insights from Welteroth’s book:
1. Society often seeks to make ambitious women and people of color feel inadequate, as though there is something wrong with us for wanting to rise to our full potential. Stay authentic to yourself and your ambitions.
As Welteroth put it, “The world doesn’t prepare girls—especially little brown girls—to see the bigness of their dreams. It doesn’t train us to embrace the expansiveness of our own possibilities.”
Having been a little brown girl myself not too long ago, I can fully attest to the fact that the world of young women of color is full of obstacles. We are told to stick to the status quo, to be aware of the invisible boundaries set by society. All too often, women and/or people of color find themselves facing certain obstacles that others may be unaware even exist — the constant pressure to disprove stereotypes about one’s race or ethnicity, the stifling of one’s voice in a room where you are the clear minority — and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
As Welteroth reveals, “From all of my closed-door talks over the years with successful people of color, female leaders, young innovators, and especially Black female bosses, it seems there is a universality to some of the challenges we face in the workplace. We all come up in a world that is set up to make us feel that we are not enough—so we strive even harder to earn respect, we put in the overtime, we bend
history, and we stretch ourselves thin to reach and exceed the expectations of the powers that be. We rise to every occasion. We strive for excellence.” She highlights an example of a colleague and friend who made her feel inadequate in her success, despite having earned every bit of it. Her friend had assumed that she received recognition for her work in Teen Vogue only because of her skin color, rather than the effort she had put into her work. Microaggressions like these are demeaning and insulting, to say the least, yet they continue to plague the work environment of many minority people. So why subject yourself to all of it?
As someone who has found herself to be the only person wearing a hijab on several occasions — at cross-country and track meets, in European history classes, as a store employee— this is a question I myself have pondered.
Why keep being the solo female and/or person of color in a world where you have to fight harder than the rest?
Because it pays off.
As Welteroth illustrates, if you can find a way to turn those adversities to your advantage, and if you can manage to stay authentic and true to yourself despite the world’s resistance, you will find success. This is something Welteroth embodies when she is promoted in Teen Vogue despite the numerous barriers that she had encountered in her journey. She states of her success: “We take what we can get, and we make magic. We make lemonade.”
Welteroth’s success is a testament to the fact that, when driven by a strong sense of purpose, hard work and commitment truly pay off.
So don’t shrink yourself to fit others’ expectations .
Don’t allow others to dictate your dreams.
Be authentically you.
Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done.
Fortunately, Welteroth offers a solution to the dilemma faced by girls and women of color:
2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, rather than tear you down.
Welteroth explains that “seeing our full potential isn’t work we can do alone. We need the other women in our tribe. Friends. Sisters. Mothers. Professors. When women affirm women, it unlocks our power.”
In her book, Welteroth describes a time when she was in elementary school, and her mother made Elaine redo a family collage that wasn’t representative of her Black family. Her mother was adamant about being proud of her black roots.
Just as Welteroth’s mother instilled in her a strong sense of pride in her race, my own parents raised me to be proud of my identity. As a Pakistani Muslim born and raised in the United States, I was often the only person of color who as also wearing a Hijab (scarf). While this could have been a deterrent for me to pursue certain activities or interests, I had an incredible support system that allowed me to withstand the challenges that came with being a minority. This was also the case for Welteroth, whose family’s support demonstrated that a loving and nurturing environment leaves a lasting positive impact. Similar to the way that Welteroth’s mother encouraged her to push the boundaries set by society, my parents also pushed me to strive to fulfill my full potential, and to defy standards and stereotypes along the way. They wanted me to fulfill my ambitions to become a scientist, to pursue a career in a field largely dominated by white males.
They taught me to design my own dreams, rather than strive for the ones defined for me.
So, treasure your family and/or loved ones, because they are the ones who know exactly what you need, exactly when you need it.
They push you to be better, to do better, because they see potential in you that you are often unaware of yourself.
And, as Welteroth later highlights, your support system is vital in keeping you grounded:
3. The key to maintaining success is balance; a sense of harmony between hard work and personal health is crucial.
For many of us, it is hard to juggle work with our health and personal lives. And for the workaholics among us, it is extremely difficult — but it must be prioritized. When Welteroth described the effects of allowing her physical health to fall by the wayside due to the demands of her work, I was reminded of my own issues with balance and health. There was a time in my life where I made the dangerous mistake of allowing myself to survive on not much beyond caffeine and cortisol. I was so stressed out with work and school that I sacrificed sleep, food, and social activities, resulting in massive burnout . . . and even a hospital stay. Needless to say, my life was very much out of balance, and it was my family who I leaned on for support. Just as Welterworth’s own mother helped her recognize the importance of taking care of herself, my parents’ wisdom was crucial in allowing me to see my own shortcomings when it came to work-life balance. They helped me understand that neglecting your own body’s physical needs, as well as your mental and emotional needs, is not a sign of strength, despite what our modern-day hustle culture would have us believe. As Welteroth reminds us: “There is no glory in a grind that literally grinds you down to dust.”
In conclusion, Elaine Welteroth’s memoir is more than just a story of her own success; it is a book full of practical guidance and loving advice. Welteroth’s experiences reveal that passion and a strong sense of purpose, combined with unwavering resilience, are essential on the path to achieving one’s dreams. She demonstrates the incredible power of a young Black woman who is willing to fight for her place in this world. Although this world can make us feel like we have to ‘shrink’ ourselves in order to fit a certain societal standard, Elaine Welteroth’s journey proves that staying true to oneself is a critical part of the path to success.
My name is Maryam Idris, and I am a writer, runner, and bibliophile (book-lover)!
I am also a biochemistry student at San Jose State University, where I work as a neuroscience research assistant. My passion for learning knows no bounds, and I especially love learning about the brain and its effect on human behavior. I write a lot about mental health, racism, and neuroscience; more of my writing can be found at: https://maryam-i.medium.com/.