Journalism professor from Oklahoma presents tips for self-confidence

Lauren North

Students who braved the cold weather to attend Chaz Kyser’s presentation on “Overcoming Self-Doubt and Fear of Failure” the evening of Feb. 7 were rewarded with a couple hours of laughter, self-insight and sound career advice.

Kyser is a journalism professor at Langston University in Langston, Okla. At the age of 29 she has accomplished quite a bit, including writing and publishing a book, “Embracing the Real World: The Black Woman’s Guide to Life After College.” Her own experiences as a young writer and editor venturing out into the hectic streets of New York City have given her a unique insight on the many challenges and prejudices facing college-aged black women who try to penetrate the business world after graduation.

According to Kyser there are three main issues that young black women face in today’s world that cause self-doubt and fear of failure. The first of these is unconstructive criticism from family and friends. She said that often, well-intentioned people can bring others down without even realizing it. Recognizing who those people are and what effect they have on one’s life is a step that can be taken to change negative thoughts.

The next challenging issue is that of media images. Kyser believes that the self-esteems of young black women are hit especially hard by this challenge and they are often made to believe that the lighter a woman’s skin is, the more beautiful, successful and desirable she will be. Kyser said it is very difficult for some women to overcome this distorted idea of self-worth.

The final cause of self-doubt and fear of failure occurs when black women compare themselves to others. This applies not only to physical appearances but also to where a person may or may not live, how happy a person is perceived to be and how the quality of another’s life seems on the surface to be better than one’s own. These issues are all explored in detail in Kyser’s book.

“It’s the book I needed when I was in school,” said Kyser. “I wish I had felt more empowered. I had book smarts but I really wanted professional smarts. I wanted it to be gender- and race-specific to address certain issues that challenge only black women today; I wanted them to have the kind of information I didn’t have.”

Among the information she includes in her book is advice on how to deal with conflicts among coworkers, which Kyser feels is a vital skill to have.

Among the role models Kyser had as a young woman are her mother, who always worked hard for what she had, and Oprah Winfrey.

“She’s attained so much even though she’s not the way she’s ‘supposed’ to be,” said Kyser.

Kyser also credited her past instructors, namely her high school English teacher, Amy Love, who encouraged her to write and uplifted her when she needed inspiration.

Being a professor, Kyser thinks that there are many obstacles facing students today, both internally and externally, but there is one issue that she sees as a common thread among young people.

“Lack of perseverance and ambition is a problem because students may not always surround themselves with motivated people,” said Kyser.