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‘Be Inspired’ — Dr. Anne Sourbeer Morris encourages women

By Jill Osborn

Anne Sourbeer Morris got her doctorate at 63.

She ends any e-mail she sends by saying, “Be Inspired.”

Dr. Sourbeer Morris knows it is never too late in life to accomplish the dreams you are meant to fulfill. “I really believe in the power of you,” Dr. Sourbeer Morris says. She believes in empowering others and talks a lot about how other women are susceptible to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome occurs when a person believes they are not worthy of the accolades they receive. The term came to life in 1978 when clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes noticed patients were not internalizing their own worth despite their successes. “Many women are scared, but its amazing how hard it is for some to realize they are valuable and you do have a voice.”

It took Dr. Sourbeer Morris some time to find her own self-worth. Notwithstanding, she was always a very positive person, even as young girl. “My mother was brilliant. She taught herself Russian at 70-something. Her mother, my grandmother, loved me unconditionally and sheltered me in a way. She was a safe haven. My grandmother was a stay-at-home mom and so was mom. My grandmother went to college. But I knew what not to do as a parent.” Her mother was an alcoholic and suffering from depression. However, in those days, depression was not frequently diagnosed.

Even when they were, treatments were not as advanced as they are today. Once Dr. Sourbeer Morris became an adult, she married and did what she thought she was supposed to do: She put her husband on a pedestal. Although the two did not have children immediately; Sourbeer Morris became a counselor to young children while living in Pennsylvania. “As a counselor, we are touching all these kids who are touching all these students. The bottom line is we would help children realize their dreams. Doing that gave me the skills to use my voice.” Her skills as a counselor were quickly noticed. She was the Director of Counseling at two different schools throughout her career. “I remember someone telling me I was taking a man’s job.” But in reality, Dr. Sourbeer Morris was seeing the results of her own self-worth. Upon retiring from the school system after 35 years of work, Dr. Sourbeer Morris was looking forward to traveling with her husband. “I thought we were going to go to Paris and all these things, but my husband made some bad decisions and so we got a divorce.”

It was hard for Dr. Sourbeer Morris. She made the choice, nonetheless, to be strong for her two daughters. “I realized I have to model class and dignity for my children so if they have adversity in their life, they know they can handle it. Not that I didn’t have anger,” Dr. Sourbeer Morris admits.

So how did she channel that anger? By going back to school. “I began my doctorate program in leadership. One of the kids was in NC and the other was in Florida. My daughter said, ‘Hey come on down.’ I told them I would move to North Carolina but not Florida. Recently, the daughter in Florida moved here. I have four grand-babies.” One day, while spending time with family, Dr. Sourbeer Morris heard her daughter, who just won an award for Women of the Year, say, “I don’t know if I’m good enough to do this.”

Dr. Sourbeer Morris was flabbergasted as she recollected some of the stereotypes of the 60‘s — beliefs that embraced the notions that women were best suited for jobs as a teacher, secretary, or nurse. And ideas that women had less aptitude in math than their male counterparts. Dr. Sourbeer Morris knew many glass ceilings had been broken. Yet, here was her daughter, a strong woman, doubting herself. She realized her daughter had imposter syndrome and was shocked it still existed. Since that time, Dr. Sourbeer Morris has been a keynote speaker trying to raise up other women.

She is currently the first president for the Winston Salem chapter of the National Association of Professional Women among many other boards and groups encouraging women in the workforce. As a result of her numerous involvements, Dr. Sourbeer Morris recently published a book with a very appropriate theme: Unexpected Pathways: The Journeys of Women in the Workforce. “Men have very linear careers, where women zigzag because they have children and become mothers. But I started the premise of the book with the question of what challenges do women face? They all expected life to turn out well. They persevered with determination and resilience,” says Dr. Sourbeer Morris. “These 22 women are regular people who do extraordinary things. I have a couple of them who have faced great adversity and they have not given up. I have people read it and say, ‘Wow, she did it. I can do it, too.’”

Dr. Sourbeer Morris continues to push herself despite any odds. “I have so much to do, I have to live to be 102,” she laughs. “But I really believe if I take a breath, something will appear. The next door will open. Who knows where life will lead you?” We are just lucky it led her to be our North Carolina neighbor encouraging those around us to achieve their dreams.

“Your Neighbor” is a feature by Jill Osborn. If you have a neighbor everybody should know, reach Jill at jill.n.osborn@gmail.com. Also follow her blog on parenting at MuchAdoAboutMothering.com/