“People become really quite remarkable when they start thinking that they can do things. When they believe in themselves, they have the first secret to success.” by Norman Vincent Peale
A while back I had an idea.
A light bulb went on in my head and wanted to do something about it but I had the “Who am I to do this?” question wasn’t helping me at all. I finally decided to share my idea with a friend to see what he would have to say. He is a very successful business man who had been involved in the business world for many years; I knew that I could trust him to get the most honest feedback that I could possibly ask for. At that time I felt that I needed someone’s approval to move forward with my ideas. I got the approval I needed. It was now the time to go forward with creating a plan and brainstorm around the next steps.
Yes, it took me a year, a few focus groups, a few meetings with some of the people that I admire … it was time to take ACTION and just do it.
Throughout the year, I still felt that I needed approval from the outside world and found myself asking for permission to move forward because I was not sure of myself.
Let me explain what this is all about …
As a woman, born and raised in a society that expected me to be who I am not, it thought me that being born a woman it is by default that I have to refrain myself from indulging in my full potential and that, in order to move forward in this world, I have to ask for permission. I did stand up to it all and did what I had to do, but that didn’t always come easy, to say the least.
As a child I dreamed of becoming a teacher or a lawyer. I wanted to change the next generation’s lives by exposing them to the confidence that I was not exposed to. I never knew about what type of law I wanted to get into back then, but what I knew for sure is that I liked to negotiate and argue about things until I will arguably make others see my point. Having to find myself in the professional world has been the most difficult thing I have had to go through. Before, I even finished High School I was told to go into some form of trades and I became a hairdresser. I worked in the industry for 10 years and, although glamorous, it wasn’t my calling. When my hairdressing career was at its peak, I decided to change my focus and work with kids. I really saw myself around curious minds while I would be that person that will be able to guide them towards critical thinking as they were able to make their own informed decisions in life. After I saw that I could do more than just ‘babysit’ kids during my unpredictable hours of work while I was away from my own daughter, I decided to go back to school and get an education. This was meant to help me go beyond just ‘playing’ with the kids and learn more about their development all while I would learn about why is it that this society puts women at a second degree level of importance. Here is where I have learned a lot about why women do not have it easy and it all started to make sense why I was raised to think that I will never be successful and a career of choice would simply be too much to ask for. Working in the nonprofit sector while wearing many professional hats, so to speak, had prepared me for what’s to come next. After seven years of developing programs, outreach, counselling, being the buddy aka a shoulder to cry on for many women and their children, planning events, running informational sessions, researching, fundraising and establishing relationships with the community to name a few, I decided to call it quits. I had this overwhelming feeling that I was still not good enough. Having to be a single mom and working full time at a job that was stressful was too hard to handle, yet I knew I was capable of doing more. I quit my job and made up my mind to open my own business. I started fresh. I knew nothing of this business only that I could teach myself what I needed to move forward. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and just do things that I wouldn’t normally do and not just do them because others thought I was not going to succeed. Once opening my business, I realized that although brave, I did need to know more about the talent that I was supposed to have and to make a living out of it so I saw it fit to take on some courses to improve my skills. There is nothing wrong with having more knowledge, is when and where you apply it that matters. I thought myself how to build websites and to develop strategies for Social Media Marketing. I started this business with a $250 investment and no money in the bank. I decided to take a risk because at this point in my life, although I was advised by the people around me to play it safe, taking risks was something I needed to do.
So, here I am, many years later and a few careers under my belt I have finally found the nerve to believe in myself and just go for what I want to do without apologizing for my actions. Seeing how far I could go and having the unfortunate opportunity to be exposed to a few negative circumstances in my business I started thinking that there is more out there. It did not scare me. The unfortunate circumstances had showed me that we still live in a society that believes that women are not necessarily good enough when it comes to them being on top. While networking I recognized that women in the room were so few that sometimes it was intimidating to show up for another networking event. Other times, once I would exchange business cards with a few people in the room, three out of five times male business owners would start connecting with me only to realize that they were more interested in me to be their date rather than to do business together. At one point, a woman that was in the business of developing and coding websites way before WordPress had become a phenomenon, was asking me to inquire the crowd which was formed of 95% men. I was puzzled because I had no idea what I was asking. It got me thinking: ” How can a professional woman, who has worked in the tech field for over twenty years, not have the confidence to question an audience formed of male colleagues?”Not too long after, while trying to make my prospects my long life clients, I have had a few male clients who have been blunt with me and simply said: “I see that you have talent but I cannot work with women” – I immediately walked out of the room trying to keep it all together and not make a scene. I wanted to quit, I wanted to go back to my nine to five job but instead I pulled out one of my social worker’s hat and started researching about the tech industry and women who work in it. It was then I realized that women are treated unfairly. This fact alone didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me eventually was the low number of women and the high pay that men in this industry are rewarded with. Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it and more particularly, why aren’t women in this industry standing up?
To get back to my original story, it took me a long time to get this idea out of my head. I mean, I must be crazy, my business is starting to strengthen where my steady clientele is paying my bills and now I have to start a crazy venture once again? But why me? I am not ready. I am not good enough. I am not even in the industry. But wait, I am in the industry. It does affect me just as much as it affects the other women that I read about in articles and research reports. If I do not do something then who else will, right? After a few months of preparation and research I have decided it is time to believe in myself once again and move forward with my dream. With the support and encouragement of my friend who is now my adviser, I was certain that it was my calling to do this. Focus groups, brainstorming sessions and many sleepless nights later hEr VOLUTION was born. Although new, and according to some folks I should take it slow, hEr VOLUTION made immense progress and it’s becoming more established than what others originally thought. There is no such thing as slowly but surely when it comes to the development of hEr VOLUTION but I do feel like I am on a roller coaster and that the success of it will only happen if I keep my gear in speed mode.
Success is not something that is declared by a bunch of people who are paid a huge amount of money to tell us what that is. We declare our success. We all have it in us. Whilst success does not come easy yet with proper preparation it will take us as far as our dreams go. Today I consider myself successful. Some people may not agree with me. Although I did not become a lawyer or a teacher the waves of my professional career had prepared me for where I am today. My hairdressing job had thought me to listen to the people that had given me their time and trust to transform their looks in order to feel better about themselves. ( Did you know that there are a lot of Math and Science skills required to become a hairdresser?). My childcare job had exposed me to patience that is much needed when working with kids. I was also blown away by their young minds and what they are capable of comprehending. ( We need to give kids more credit and when it is said that ”age ain’t nothing but a number” it sure is true in this case). Working as a social worker had made me realize that there is still so much work to do in realizing gender equality and my time on my business had proven that. Now I feel successful because I have had the guts to stand up and do something about the next generation of women to feel confident and powerful in claiming success for themselves.
How are you successful?