The Myth of “Dreaming Big”


It’s January which means that our social feeds and news stories turn to mentions of New Year, New You and all the associated clichés. Those classic self-help clichés often ignore racial and social disparities – let’s rework them to empower you to approach 2021 so you can move through the year with intentionality. This month, through our blog and on our social media channels, we rewrite some of these clichés to use our own stories in celebrating diversity in the lived experiences of women and people of color. Our first reflection is from our CEO, Debbie Esparza, commenting on the cliché of Dream Big.

We’re often told to “Dream Big” or “If you can dream it, you can do it.” However for people living in the margins, or at the intersections of those margins, it usually takes more than just a dream.

When I was 15 years old, I wanted to be the President of the United States. No one could tell me any different. Dreaming big didn’t take into account the systemic barriers that would derail those plans. Clearly, I never made it to the Oval Office, but not becoming the President didn’t mean that I wasn’t powerful, but rather, my intersections and lived experience led me down a much different path.

Now, as CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix, these intersections are my superpowers. I know what it’s like to be one of a few women bankers, advocating for equal pay and responsibility with my male colleagues. I know what it’s like to live in the closet. I know what it’s like to be a brown face in a sea of white ones. I have the rewarding honor to mentor, serve, and teach other young people with varying intersections about what it means to lead in today’s world. Every day, I get to wake up and beat the odds that someone like me, an out Latina, would grow up to lead a 100+ year old nonprofit like YWCA.

Dreaming big alone didn’t bring me here, but I’m proud of who I am and what I’ve done. At the YWCA, we believe in getting up and doing the work to ensure folks in our community have opportunities to make their big dreams a reality too. Eliminating racism and empowering women is what we stand for, because no matter how big your dreams are, if you are a woman of color, making those dreams a reality will be more difficult. Unfortunately, that’s our truth today, but it doesn’t have to be our truth tomorrow. If you believe, as we do, that women and people of color are equal, powerful, and unstoppable, join our movement and check out the resources below.


Fresh Start for Women Foundation

Phoenix Dress for Success

Maricopa Community College

Statements on this blog reflect the author’s personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of YWCA Metropolitan Phoenix or YWCA USA. Blog entries are meant to spark individual reflection and community conversations on issues of racial justice and gender equality.