“Get your head out of the clouds.”
“You need to come back to reality.”
“Good luck with that!”
“That kind of stuff only happens in the movies.”
These were only some of the messages I got as a kid. When I was little, I had a big imagination, big dreams and big visions for my life and the world. But I was also very tiny for my age, so the comment I usually got from the adults was, “Oh, she’s so cute”, usually accompanied by a chuckle. To me, that meant that my ideas were just laughable and cute, not be taken seriously.
It’s no wonder I was shy and quiet in school. I was afraid to speak my mind, to share my ideas because obviously they weren’t important anyway. So, I just shut up. I didn’t volunteer to raise my hand, even though I knew the answer. Yet, when the teacher did call on me, I would freeze, afraid to say the answer because maybe, just maybe it would be wrong and I would get laughed at.
I had zero self-esteem. I was a smart enough kid, getting A’s and B’s on my report cards, but I never felt smart. I was convinced that other people knew more than I did, that other people had better ideas than I did and that my silly thoughts were nothing but fantasy. I only had a couple of friends when I was young. It’s not that the kids picked on me or anything like that. I just was very, very cautious of who I let into my life. And even then, I didn’t really share my inner, deep thoughts with my friends.
By the time I got to the middle of high school, I had had enough of being shy. I decided that summer going into grade 11 that I would consciously open up more and not be afraid to talk to people anymore. And I did make some serious headway over the next few years. I made more friends, started dating, had fun on school trips. But I still had this vision of a bigger life, of doing incredible things in the world, of travelling and being financially successful.
At the time (which was in the mid-80’s), the idea was that you graduated from high school, went to university, got your degree in something, got a job that you stayed at for 40 years and then retired with a gold watch and a pat on the back from your employer for exemplary service. I knew that I didn’t want to be stuck somewhere for the next 40 years, but it was ingrained in me that I needed to go to university.
When I went the guidance counsellor’s office in grade 12 to find out about college and university programs, I had to try and explain my vision for my future to a male guidance counsellor who was ready to retire. He definitely was of the thought process that women were to become teachers, nurses or secretaries… that’s it. The idea of me becoming anything else wasn’t an option. A CEO?? Not a chance. Women didn’t do that. I left there feeling so frustrated because I did not know how to fulfill my vision for my life.
So, like the good girl that I was, I went to college, got a job, worked my way up into various management levels within the retail industry and was outwardly successful. And yet, I always knew there was more out there for me. In 2010, I had my a-ha moment. It suddenly hit me that for my entire life I had been living my life based on other people’s expectations, that I had pushed down my own vision for my life because “that stuff is not reality”. The thing I have learned is that for all those years, it wasn’t my voice telling me not to do these things. I let other people’s voices drown out my own. I have now learned how to make the opposite happen where I now drown out those other voices by making mine loud and clear.
I have done that by:
1. Getting really clear on what I want to do to make an impact on the world, which is to empower other aspiring female leaders to create a brand name for themselves that allows them to achieve whatever they want in the world.
2. Why this is so important to me. I strongly believe that everyone on this planet is their own unique name brand and they need to own who they are and make shit happen, despite what anyone else says.
3. Learning to trust people. I have come to realize that more people are inspired by my passion than they are critical. And I have learned that the critical ones are actually envious that I have the guts to go for something bigger.
So, trust your gut. Do what makes you happy. Build a name for yourself that is built on authenticity and openness. You never know who you will inspire to do the same.