When I was a young tomboy I didn’t think much about being a girl. I enjoyed kicking the ball as far as any boy. Until my sister asked, “When are you going to start being a girl?” I thought, “I am a girl. What are you talking about?” She told me girls do stuff like curl their hair, and I began thinking about how being a girl is so different from being a boy.
The pressure for girls to be pretty starts so young. It seemed that boys had a lot more fun. The unfairness of it struck me and my passion to empower women began to form.
I didn’t want to be the girl who gets married and has children. I wanted to be a career woman. Of course there were other plans. I got married and had one daughter after another. That’s when it became my mission and passion to find my voice so I could help my daughters — and every other woman — find hers.
It worries me when women don’t assume authority or sit at the table or make their voices heard. I’ve concluded that uncovering your true self allows you to pursue your passion and make life-changing social connections with other women. Here are five ways you can uncover the real you and live out loud:
- Know your mission.
In the ’60s, I thought being the real me meant burning my bra and carrying a large club, but that didn’t get me far. I went to school and earned three degrees, ending with a doctorate. In the process I discovered what I really care about: strategy, education and exploring ways to help women succeed in this world. My daughters and all women need to know they can pursue any opportunity and overcome every obstacle.
- Empower other women through your actions.
My daughters watched me work to become a psychologist and improve my community. They saw me help with teen pregnancy, child advocacy and domestic violence prevention. I always said my mission aloud to my daughters: “I want to empower other women.” All my decisions and choices have stemmed from my deeply help belief that the hand that rocks the cradle rocks the world.
- Get a mentor and be a mentor.
Mentors can help you know your true self because they see you with fresh eyes. They can identify skills and talents that you take for granted, but that lie close to the core of your being. Their feedback helps you live in sync with your deepest values and beliefs. On the flip side, mentoring others lets you give back and feels great.
- When you see a woman living as a positive role model, thank her.
Women need to hear, “Wow, what you’re doing is fantastic. You inspire me.” Instead of praise, women often get asked, “What about your family? Who is taking care of your children?” Those questions carry unsupportive, not-so-subtle criticism. When we know who we are and why we’re here, we can “tend and befriend” other women, creating real connections.
- Join forces with other women.
Of course there will be times when women compete against each other, and competition itself is not bad. It’s in our natures, so we can learn to use it to our advantage. But most of the time, I think it’s better to find ways to play on the same team. We all have strengths and abilities, and when we share those, everyone benefits.
I get so much in return by sharing my gifts and expertise with someone else. I love feeling part of a powerful community of like-minded women; it elevates all of us.
It’s not really a stretch for most of us to support other women. We don’t need to complicate things. This life is about relationships, collaboration, connection and lending support. When we give, we always get more back than we ever expected. It takes courage to be who you are. Let your voice be heard. When you live your purpose, you connect naturally, and feel grateful for your fulfilling life.
Tomboy photo available from Shutterstock