“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” ― Virginia Woolf,
I am writing this to you; to all of you, to each and every single one of you that is a woman, a girl, a lady, female gender.
How far have you come in achieving your dreams? How are you doing in attaining what you want? When was the last time you were fully satisfied with your life? with yourself? with what you do and what you have?
I am writing this to you for many reasons. From being a woman myself to observing other women to seeing women’s role portrayed on television, films, books and in society, there seems to be a pattern that women play time and time again. In very few exceptions have I seen women who don’t fit in or follow the norm, who do not wish to conform and stand out. And these are the few women who get what they want. Of course, this differs throughout the world, however, overall I see women or young girls who are so afraid or intimidated to be who they really are and/ or go after what they really want. Why?
Why are you settling? Why are you choosing for average when you can have anything you want? Why do you place so much emphasis on looking beautiful that you forget to be beautiful? Why is it that for so many a “life goal” is to find a husband? or to marry? Why is it that a life goal is to have kids? Is that the only reason you were born to exist? Do you not think that as a human being that is something we can all achieve?
“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ― Nora Ephron
Did you know that there are 1,826 billionaires in the world? And out of these 1,826 billionaires, only 197 are women. That is only a mere 10%! Out of the richest women in the world, the majority inherited their fortune from their father or husband and are not self-made. Isn’t it time that we change this?
In a world, where women have so much “freedom” and “opportunity”, why are we holding ourselves back? Why are we not pursuing our dreams? Why are we so afraid of failure? of success? to dream bigger? to do better? to be better? Where are our priorities?
This is my call to all of you conformists, who are too afraid to dare, to dream, to do. It is time to change this mentality that keeps holding us back. It is time to change how we see ourselves and our role in society.
A study by Harvard Business Review showed that women don’t apply for jobs unless they are 100 percent qualified. Part of the reason is because, as young girls, we are taught that following the rules is ‘good’ and we get rewarded for this behaviour, to not misbehave and always do what is right. But who says that we have been taught is what is right? Clearly, this mentality is what is holding us back in the real world and the workplace. Why are we so stuck on following the rules and guidelines that we can’t think or be out of the box? Being rewarded for our “good” behaviour as young girls has only restrained our success. We grow up and realize that in the real world, this does not work; it is only the hungry and those who do not follow the rules or those who think out of the box who make it and get what they want. If you aren’t hungry, prepare to sit in the back and starve, or be dependent upon someone to feed you. So if you want anything, you have to go and grab it. Men and women alike.
Women, do not let anyone dictate how you should live your life. Not your religion, not society, not a man, not your mother, father, sister, brother, no one. Think for yourself. “Is this the best way to lead my life?”, “Is this how I want to live my life?”. Remember, in the end, you need to be happy with yourself and your choices. Are you doing the best you can to create a better world? to live a fulfilled? a happy life? I am not telling you to be selfish and to think only about yourself but do not think about everyone that you forget about yourself either. You can listen to advise, but at the end of the day, ensure that your actions are your choice based on what you think is best. No one will live the consequences of your actions and choices but you, so you might as well be the one responsible for them.
You are the director of your life and you choose what you can or can’t achieve. You set your bar. You chose whether to succeed or to fail at life. Do not let others define how you as a woman need to be or put you in a box. Who is anyone to define what a woman should be like?
“A woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it.”
― D.H. Lawrence,
I am aware that some (men and women alike) will read this and disagree or think that it is rather rebellious or that I am a feminist, man hater, blah blah blah, but if I don’t question the way that we have been raised as women and what we have been taught, how are we to ever progress? If no one ever questioned all the things that happened in the past, we would probably still be living as we did during the middle ages or worse, being dictated, enslaved or oppressed; with no rights to anything. But never mind that, because in different places of the world, we still are! Now you can say that this doesn’t affect you, but shouldn’t you, a human being, be free everywhere you go? Whether it is in Europe, South America, North America, Asia, Middle East, or anywhere in the world? It is only as of recently that women in Saudi Arabia are allowed to vote or run for office for the first time. While this is progress, there are still things women cannot do simply because of being a woman. Why should we or anyone ever be restricted because of gender? This is why I say do not let anyone oppress you, not religion, not society, not your parents or family or anyone.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” ― Charlotte Brontë,
In some parts of the world, women still need to learn to be financially independent and in almost every part of the world, they still need to learn emotional independence (although, I can say the same for men). But as women, you need to learn to take care of yourself, so that if you ever decide to have children, you can take care of someone who cannot take care of themselves. If you decide to be with a partner, it is because you chose this person to spend your life with, not because you need a person to be with (this advice could also be given to men). However, I write this article specifically for women, because we are lacking behind and it is time to stop being so afraid of stepping into the playing field – myself included. Go for what you want. Many women already are playing the game and are succeeding! Look at great examples, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, Jenn Scalia, a woman who went from $0 to $500K in two years after having hit rock bottom due to her mentality of “it is a man’s duty to provide for the family”, and Stacey Ferreira, a 23-year old entrepreneur who at the age of 18 borrowed $4,000 to see Richard Branson, who would then invest $1M in her and her brother’s company.
Therefore, there are women making it and doing what they want to achieve. Why aren’t the rest of us?
Young Girls, stop focusing so much on looks and boys and start focusing on creating something of your own. Focus on your future. Looks will fade, however, an intelligent mind will get you anywhere you want. I am not telling you not to worry about how you present yourself as this is very important in being successful, as well as your health and well-being; I am saying to make sure that your focus in not on the wrong things that do not add value to your life in the long term. In addition to that, stop being afraid to put yourself out there and going for what you want. Do not be intimated or held back by yourself or your beliefs or by what society or your parents or teachers or anyone tells you to be like or what ‘a woman’ should be like. You get to make that choice for yourself.
When I was a little girl, I was very timid, quiet and shy. When I moved countries, my teacher once told me ‘I was very bold’. I never understood what she meant then, however, I now know she meant that I was opinionated and always expressed my truth – which until this day I still do. However, I see that probably as a very young girl, I was never truly comfortable expressing myself, until I moved and was able to be more open and comfortable. I guess this has to do with freedom and the amount we are given as young girls. The less freedom we are given, the more we fear. I see it in myself that on the rare occasions that I do feel intimidated, I return to being that young, quiet, timid girl until I snap back out of it. Therefore, I understand what it is like to be a bystander and see everyone “play on the field” while you watch on the sidelines, however, I now know that “playing on the field” is also a great experience and more women need to be and put themselves out there and stop being afraid to play the game of life! Myself included on the things that frighten me. So go out there and do what it is that you want to do! Do not be afraid to be labeled anyhow, labels will always be there, and no matter how we behave, we will always be judged! So go out there and make a name for yourself. In the words of Laurel Thatcher, “Well-behaved women seldom make history”.
Women in action
Times are changing, especially among the younger generation and we see this in millennials. Women are taking charge, putting themselves out there, opening their own businesses, creating their own opportunities, products and taking charge of their future as well as becoming more entrepreneurial and independent. However, we still do not have enough women in power. See Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted talk on women, leadership and the workplace.
Therefore, my point you women is… do not be limited by the beliefs that you’ve been indoctrinated to believe in as a young girl. What is it that you want to do for yourself? What do you want to achieve? What are your goals? What are you going to do to get where you want to be? What are your plans? What actions and steps are you going to take to get there? What have you so done so far? Make a plan of action and execute it. Do not be afraid. If you never fail, you will never learn. Do not let that mindset that raised you as a kid dictate the success and outcome of your life. No one ever has it right the first time and if you don’t screw up, you will never learn.
Do not fall into the trap of conventional beliefs of what you can and cannot do or are allowed to do. Be a woman with a mind. Educate yourself, read, do.
Dare to break the rules and be different. Be yourself and if you screw up, learn from it and then do better.
I hope with this article I have triggered your thoughts as a woman and take your stand on what it is you want to do. If you want to do anything, let it be that it is your choice, with thoughtful consideration and go and make it happen.
Are you being a front runner or lagging behind?
Women, I want you to think. What role are you playing in society? What are you telling your fellow girls and women to be like? Are you inspiring their dreams or are you placing them in boxes of what women should be like?
Teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings – Stacey Ferreira
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