That’s it. That’s the post.
Ah ok, maybe it’s too brief, so let me explain.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to a ladies’ lunch last week, and what a bunch of impressive ladies they were. Senior execs, start-up founders, coaches, an ex-politician – so much success and achievement crammed into one table. And yet…
So much humility. Nobody talked about their endeavours until prompted. Everybody asked about everybody else’s lives.
Then we took a moment to go around the table and ask everyone “what’s one thing you learnt this year, and what will you do more of next year?”.
And despite the diversity of backgrounds, careers and life stages, one of the themes that kept bubbling to the surface was this: “I had forgotten how bad-arse I was, but now I’m remembering. And I’m going to take that energy into 2022”.
I don’t know why it happens, but there seem to be periods in women’s lives where we lose our confidence. Sometimes it’s a career issue, a toxic boss, or a garden-variety existential crisis. More often than not, there’s a man involved.
I’m constantly surprised how many outwardly successful women confess that a relationship has knocked them for six. I think there’s a spectrum from ‘selfish and manipulative’ through to outright ’emotionally and financially abusive’, but the prevalence of it is breath-taking.
And unfortunately, what we achieve outwardly has no bearing on what we believe about ourselves when this happens. I remember one of our country’s most beloved TV hosts telling me that her past marriage had destroyed her confidence. She’s had to rebuild it, piece by piece, in her middle years (and is kicking butt again).
Anyway, enough ranting. What I love to see is that when this doom spiral happens, women have a way of pulling themselves up out of it. At some point, we burst through the surface of the water, gulp in breaths of fresh air, and think ‘I’m back, baby!’.
Maybe that metaphor is misleading – I don’t think it happens in an instant. I would say it took me more than five years after my divorce to rebuild my identity.
That wasn’t just because of the relationship – it was what happens when you have built a life for yourself, torn it down and had to reshape your vision for yourself – all in the context of a world where being a woman is complex and challenging and dogged by internalised misogyny.
And it never ends. We are all trying to navigate this world where our identities are pushed and pulled by the many roles we take on: career-woman, mother, wife, life partner etc. And then we have to balance it against what society tells us: be sexy, be chaste, be thin, be athletic, be maternal, be career-focused, be popular, don’t worry about what people think, don’t be shallow, don’t age but don’t get botox etc etc.
Many of us do the internal work to get beyond these expectations. But it never ends, and there are always new challenges. Like yes, I have done a lot of work not to define myself by my weight – but damn, I still fucking care about it. I care less these days, but I suspect there will never be a time when I don’t care at all.
As women in the world, our confidence is always going to ebb and flow – from moment to moment and life-stage to life-stage.
Sometimes we can put on a fantastic new dress and a great pair of earrings and think ‘hell yeah, I’ve still got it’. We can also go through periods where we’re killing it at work or home and think ‘hell yeah, I’ve worked this life business out’.
Then something happens, and life kicks our arse.
So, if your arse has been kicked by life and/or two years of living in a pandemic, I’m here to remind you: you’re amazing. More amazing than you know. The people around you know it. They love and admire you. They want you to love and admire yourself more … as much as they do!
So, here’s to you, and to us, and to all the amazing women we know and love. Sure the last couple of years have been a dumpster fire, but let’s close out the year remembering who we are and what we have achieved and what we do every day to be fierce and fantastic.
Photo credit: Amy Pearson Photography