Today is International Women’s Day. A day every year where we celebrate women’s achievements, raising awareness against gender bias and promoting action for equality, across the globe.
Whilst you don’t yet experience it through your own eyes, gender inequality exists in many different guises across the world, and so we use this day to promote a future where difference is valued and celebrated.
Whilst I know you champion the belief that you’re just as capable, strong, and determined as any of the boys in your class at school and strenuously object to any special treatment based on your sex – a position that will remain with you throughout your life and career – one day you’ll realise that your experiences and privileges aren’t shared commonly or equally among women across the world.
However, you’ll also come to recognise there’s rich learning and opportunity that comes from sharing our personal experiences and listening to those of others. We must also engage men in the conversation so that they recognise the impact of their biases, use our voices to influence and effect change, and be the ally that women need us to be.
One day you’ll also have the delightful honour to lead in an organisation that’s gender balanced at every level and where you feel the palpable benefits of equality, inclusion, and diversity. Until that day, here are some of my learnings from the past 30 years, which I hope you’ll hold tight along the way.
First things first, you’re going to make it through – through this, through everything.
No matter how terrible things seem, it’s not the end of everything. Trauma creates change you don’t choose, but when you come out the other side and start to heal, then you’ll be able to create the chances you do choose. This is the ultimate test of your character. You must do your own believing, your own forgiving, your own living. Everything you want is on the other side.
Create the life you want to live. Make decisions you can feel good about. Do this for yourselves. There’s never a wrong time to give yourself what you need. Keep fighting for what you believe in. One day you’ll realise how much strength it takes to lean on others, how being vulnerable means being real, and how forgiveness heals. Nobody else is going to do it for you. Nobody else can think, can love, or can live in your space.
Learn to see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth
Embrace everything you experience, even the things that don’t feel good. Because when you do that, you learn so much more about yourself. You don’t have to apologise for figuring yourself out. You don’t have to be like everyone else or be liked by everyone else. You have your own place in the world, your own worth. You’ll also come to realise that you learn just as much from the assholes as you do your advocates.
Come alive with every tear and thrill. You’ll grow and you’ll trip over your own feet long after you thought you had it all figured out. That’s okay, you’re in good company!
But don’t take yourself too seriously, either, because nobody has it all figured out, even the ones who think they do and especially the ones who say they do. Everybody is afraid of something and wants more than anything to belong.
When you’re afraid to ask for help, go ahead and ask anyway.
There’s no wrong path. Truly, there isn’t.
There are only paths we had not known we were meant to walk and why would you want to walk the same path as everyone else anyway?
Whichever path you take remember that “the path to success is to take massive, determined action”. Pick a path and work hard because luck looks a heck of a lot like hard work. Whatever you choose to do, show up and do it to the very best of your ability, every day. Become famous for whatever it is you do. Do it proudly and do it well.
When you decide, the time has come to change paths, do so purposefully and choose carefully when opportunities present themselves, and they will!
Remember too that further education is no substitute for hard work and experience. It only complements it. Do it now, do it later in life, don’t do it at all. You’ll learn more on a job than you will from a book. A degree only demonstrates commitment to an employer, unless of course you’re following a vocational path. Qualifications can give you the additional credibility you need to perform a role, but alone they’re worthless. Organisations want to hire people with the experience, drive and determination to deliver exceptional results. Period.
Should this land in the hands of someone else, I hope you too will read this and realise:
- It’s never too late to be the person you needed when you were younger
- It’s never a wrong time to give yourself what you need
- If what you need is forgiveness for past wrongs or acceptance of who you are today or appreciation for how far you’ve come, this letter is yours to read.