by Chengetai Chikadaya
I had to discover my true identity to build an authentic business.
Hi, my name is Chengetai, and I am a multi-passionate Brand Writer.
Imagine laying face up on a plush couch in your beautiful corner office. Your heart is racing, and you’re struggling to breathe. You hear a knock – the friendly woman who cleans your office peeps in. “Is anything wrong?” she asks. Robotically, you smile and whisper, “I’m fine, thank you”, knowing full well that ‘everything was wrong’.
The woman on the coach was me a few years ago. I was chasing myself up the career ladder – Executive Director of a regional, Non-Profit Organization, attending national conferences, and smiling through my red lipstick. I was overworked and underpaid, but my signature finally meant something. My office was located at a prestigious university where I was finalizing my Ph.D. proposal; ironically, my research was about finding a voice within marginalized spaces.
But, it was after leaving a Ph.D. group meeting abruptly that I found myself on this couch having a panic attack. My racing heart and sweaty palms were all indicating something I couldn’t hide any longer – I had lost my voice.
Some people call it a mid-career crisis, and others call it imposter syndrome. I believe I was having a career identity crisis. I didn’t feel stuck in my career, but combining the heavy, dutiful work of Development and the sterile, intellectual work of Academia – I was weighed down by ideas and beliefs that were not mine and not serving me any longer. I had never over-identified with any kind of group, and I didn’t realize how much labels were impacting me. Identity markers of – Black, Woman, African, and Intellectual, mixed in with the virtuosity of unpaid emotional labour.
So many times, I found I was unable to be honest with myself.
I felt and thought so many things that contradicted the space and was unable to express this. I was not connecting with my authentic self – the essence of my being at the core level, so my body responded.
Two years later, I am a multi-passionate Brand Writer. Amongst other things, I offer Brand Strategy & Messaging for business owners looking to get clarity, scale, uncover their brand story and shape how that story is told.
On my journey to self-discovery, I embraced three fundamental, life-changing truths:
- I don’t need to find myself; I simply need to evolve into who I am, starting by letting go of my identity facade
- Behaviour is fluid, and my true self is somewhere between my imagined self and outside my comfort zone
- Who I am is a set of narratives that I can choose to rewrite, replay or re-imagine at any time for content and coaching clients.
I started having conversations with like-minded women and honoured my multiple passions while re-discovering my marketable skills – writing & coaching. I believe these were the first steps to discovering my true identity within my work. Next, I did everything my identity markers would probably cringe at; this Black, African, Intellectual, Woman, quit her job, quit her Ph.D., got married, and started a business with her gorgeous husband. Together, we have built an enterprise that reflects our family’s true values, a multi-service company called Concept Afrika. We work with businesses, foundations, and academics across the world developing content and coaching clients.
One of our core values is rusununguko, meaning freedom because I believe that I am finally free.
I listen, I write, I become.
Chengetai Chikadaya is a multi-passionate Brand Writer & founder of Concept Afrika. A communications consultancy that’s in the business of content development that empowers.