A quote I think I got from the Jack’s Winning Words blog was my inspiration this morning (as often happens) – “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.” (Mae Jemison)
Jack went on to write – Mae Jemison — who in 1992 became the first Black woman to travel into space — was forced to contend with people’s limited imaginations throughout her pioneering career. I’ll leave that to your imagination; although it is not hard to imagine.
One’s imagination can be limited or influenced by many things – ignorance and prejudice are two. In the case of Mae Jemison it was probable a combination of the two for most people who could not “see” her as an astronaut. A similar story was made into the film Hidden Figures.
Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder. It is loosely based on the 2016 non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about African American female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race. (Wikipedia)
In both cases the imaginations of many to see the black women as mathematicians or as an astronaut was limited or redirected by ignorance and prejudice. Also, in both cases, the women involved did not let that stop them from being or becoming what they imagined themselves to be.
While the majority of us may never feel the limitations and sting of prejudice, we do sometimes let the imaginations (or lack thereof) of others hold us back. Being told that you are not smart enough, or strong enough, or brave enough to do something or that “you can’t do that” for reasons never fully explained, serves to set artificial boundaries in our lives…unless challenged.
Sometimes the limited imagination is shown through oversight or being ignored. Nobody expected greatness when Tom Brady was selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL draft. I can imagine that Brady sat there through round after round of the 2000 NFL draft wondering why no one could see the potential greatness that he could imagine in himself.
The similarity of those two very different situations is that both Jemison and Brady believed in themselves. They could both imagine themselves in the roles that they were being denied in the imaginations of others. They also combined that with a hard work ethic that helped them never to give up on their dream or imagination about themselves.
There is no way to avoid the limited imaginations of others about you, whether it is driven by ignorance, indifference, or prejudice. The key is not to let what others think of you influence what you think of yourself. Keep your goals out in front of you and keep imagining yourself achieving those goals. Let that imagined achievement motivate you to put in the hard work that may be needed to get to that goal.
Remember that The little engine that could in the book you read as a child achieved his goal; of reaching the top of the hill because he did not believe those who said that he could not. His mantra was, “I think I can, I think I can.” He continued thinking that until he did. You can, too. Like Mae Jemison, don’t let yourself be limited by other people’s imagination of what you can accomplish. Just keep imagining “I think I can” and you will.