“Stop Being Such a Girl!”

The Birth of Venus, Botticelli. http://www.ancient.eu

 

On my many outdoor adventures I come across a variety of people and often hear snippets of conversations that I sometimes wish that I could ‘un-hear.’

At the weekend, I heard someone exclaim: “Oh for goodness sake! Stop being such a girl!” to a very young girl who was in tears. I had no idea what had happened or went on, but it’s something that has stayed in the back of my mind since.

Despite this phrase sounding rather outdated, it’s one that I hear being casually thrown around a lot more than I would like it to be. I have a massive problem with this phrase; it’s not just said to girls but to boys as well. This phrase basically tells us that the worst thing that anyone could be is a girl. With this in mind, is it any wonder that women and girls across the world are continually disrespected, abandoned and abused?

Upon hearing this, the little girl immediately made an attempt to silence her sobs, dry her tears and look extremely embarrassed as she walked out of the park with her mum and siblings. It made me feel really sad because I remember being told this when I was younger, especially if I became upset or angry at something. I was often met with the words of: “Ladies don’t behave like this!” “Ladies don’t get angry or shout, control yourself.”

It confused me and if I’m honest it still confuses me; especially if someone says it to my face today. If I get angry, does that mean I’m not a lady? If I feel like crying, does that mean I’m not a lady? If one of my cousins – girl or boy – is feeling emotional, I let them work through it before it becomes a scar which affects their self esteem and well being. Being emotional, or having emotions, doesn’t make you less of a man (whatever that means) or a girl. It makes you a human being.

What many seem to forget is this: we are products shaped by our environments. It should come as no surprise that these little girls grow up to become women who feel insecure, unhappy, helpless and lack confidence in ourselves. We all talk about wanting to create a change, but in all honesty, it starts with how we treat ourselves and those around us.

I love this painting by Sandro Botticelli; it’s called The Birth of Venus and depicts the Goddess of love emerging from the sea as a nude adult woman. Everything about this painting celebrates the connotations of female sexuality and identity despite it being painted in an era where nude women in art were hardly portrayed. Regardless of this, Botticelli still went ahead and created one of the world’s most famous paintings.

Fast forward to now and we can’t seem to get enough of nude women in advertising. Despite a large scale subconscious dislike of women, many of us look at Botticelli’s painting and admire his craft. In fact, I’m certain that many of us admire the way that women have been painted and documented throughout the ages. Although Venus is standing demurely and attempts to cover herself shyly with her hair and right hand, her head is held high and coquettishly tilted to one side. There is an outward sense of power and pride in herself as a woman.

Can you imagine someone telling Venus to ‘stop being such a girl’ the second she stepped off her shell? I for one can’t and this type of behaviour is something that needs to be called out more.

As I like to end on a happy note, the next day I was at home when a couple of cousins visited. One of them (she’s only four bless her) was having a moment where she was feeling overwhelmed and decided to openly express it. She was met with the rather cruel words of: “Stop being such a girl” by an older male member of my family. Before the words left my mouth, she had silenced him with the cry of: “But I AM a girl!”

When I saw and heard her say this, I couldn’t help but smile to myself and think: ‘There’s hope. Tons and tons of it.’

The Power of Quiet People

Quiet by Susan Cain Photo (c) AvidScribbler

Quiet by Susan Cain
Photo (c) AvidScribbler

Yesterday I attended a programme where part of the process included an assessment day for budding entrepreneurs. It ended up becoming one of those days where I questioned myself as an entrepreneur and began to doubt my ability to succeed in a business world that is becoming increasingly louder, crowded and noisier than ever before.

Following several remarks made by the CEO of the programme, which largely focused on my quiet-working nature, I was left feeling very mixed and ended up doing a lot of soul searching afterwards in a cafe. I genuinely felt like something was wrong with me and I began wondering if it was possible for quiet people to succeed in the business world and as entrepreneurs.

I want to discuss the nature of introverts and whether or not they have the capability to become successful change makers and create long term sustainable solutions to many global problems. In a nutshell: “Can quiet people be powerful entrepreneurs?”

There are thousands upon thousands of advice articles which discuss how becoming an entrepreneur is an amazing thing to do and why more of us should do it. Despite this plethora of literature, there are not that many articles which succinctly talk about introverted entrepreneurs in a detailed and analytical manner.

Firstly, I am genuinely shocked that many still view quiet people as individuals who lack power, presence, passion and ambition. This is a mini story that my grandmother regularly told me throughout my childhood:

“There were once two dogs who wanted to capture a mystical creature in the woods. One was a guard dog; he would bark and yelp at anything and everything that moved. The second was a beagle; he was quiet, observant, calculating and could catch any animal. Together they searched high and low for many years to try and find the animal. But they never found it.”

At the end of the story, she would always pause and ask: “Why do you think that the dogs never found the magical creature?” This is something that I leave for you to consider.

If I were to say the word “business person” the first image that comes to mind is someone extremely confident, loud, shark-like and is openly equipped with sky high levels of ambition to reach the top. In TV shows such as, The Apprentice and most reality shows, almost all of the characters are gregarious, boisterous, aggressive and super loud. And why not? After all, such characters are a great source of entertainment and end up making lucrative careers out of having outrageous opinions.

At a glance, many say that “it’s only TV” but what happens is that we subconsciously start to associate loudness with ambition, success and power. We automatically look down – and ignore – quiet people because we begin to confuse quietness for being passive and weak.

Loudness does not necessarily equate to being knowledgeable and having reason

Unfortunately, this image of an aggressively loud business-man is one that has began to subconsciously stick in our minds; regardless of our level of education, background and industry experience. This image also puts a lot of people off from deciding to set up their own businesses or join a start-up.

When I began my start-up, I vividly remember being told – by a ‘friend’ – that I was too “weak” and “quiet” to do that. I remember feeling like a failure (before I had even started) and that I, as a quiet person, couldn’t ever take bold steps or make big decisions that only loud people could make. What made me actually create my start-up, ignore the comments and sustain it was a deep passion that simply would not go away. I knew that in my heart, I had to give it a go and try see if it would work. If it did: Excellent. If not: failure is normal and at least I gave it a go.

We simply do not associate quieter people with positions of power, despite the fact that some of the world’s most influential minds are naturally quiet people. I’m talking about people like Bill Gates, Emma Watson and JK Rowling – quiet people who wield tremendous power, are influential and have created a change for the better in our world. These individuals are shining examples – and beacons of hope for introverts everywhere – that quiet people can be confident and powerful in a world that is constantly talking over each other.

So while many people say that introverts cannot hope to become successful entrepreneurs or change makers in the ever changing modern world of work consider this: “In a gentle way you can shake the world” ~ Mahatma Gandhi.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empower

(c) photo taken by Anila Dhami

(c) photo taken by Anila Dhami

Last night I had the immense privilege of appearing on Zee Companion, with my mentor Mandy Sanghera and presenter Anila Dhami, to talk about International Women’s Day, Feminism and general girl power.

The topics discussed ranged from domestic violence, forced marriages, empowerment and Feminism to the women who inspired us on a daily basis. It led me to think about empowerment; what does it mean and how can we go empowering ourselves?

~ (a) To give authority or power to (b) to give strength and confidence to

Empowerment has become a bit of a buzzword which many of us talk about and use on a daily basis. We use this word whenever we speak about the problems that women face, yet it all becomes incredibly vague when it comes to creating solutions for these problems.

I usually hate those Instagram pictures with a philosophical quote, but I came across one which said: “Happiness is an inside job” and made me think. Empowerment, in a nutshell, is directly linked to self confidence and self-worth which increases self esteem. So on an individual basis, empowerment is rooted in the way that we view ourselves. The issue with this is that many of us are quite cruel and hard on ourselves (including me). It ranges from obvious things like: comparing yourself to others and fat talk to having chronic low levels of confidence. It could also be linked to your family and the atmosphere that you were raised in. After all, we are products of our environment and the effect that this has upon us is profound.

There’s many reasons why the vast majority of women find it hard to be kind to themselves and feel better about themselves which makes it difficult for us to feel empowered. It took me a long time to feel good about myself and comfortable with who I am; it started with changing the way that I viewed myself. It began with baby steps: writing a list of five things I liked about myself (physical and non-physical), saying something nice about myself and I’m aware that this all sounds very cheesy, but you know what? It worked and has been a good platform to continue to empower myself.

Another way that we can begin to feel empowered is to be mindful of ourselves and others. Practising mindfulness often results in us becoming very self aware of our words and actions to ourselves and those around us. It makes us more intuitive, kinder and compassionate as well. These are tools that we can apply to ourselves in helping us to become more empowered. Mindfulness is basically taking a few minutes to really appreciate and savour the present moment for what it really is. For example: enjoying the feeling of the sun on your face or how good a morning cup of tea tastes. It’s a rare opportunity to unplug from a fast world and connect with ourselves.

Finally, having a good support system and network is also a great way to begin feeling empowered. Think about how good you feel when you’re around a good friend or your favourite cousins. Amplify that feeling by 100 and that’s the closest I get to describing what empowerment feels like.

“But how do I find these networks?” Social media and technology has made this part slightly easier. It’s easier to connect with people in cyberspace and build up friendships than to meet new people in real life. The best bit of advice I could give to anyone feeling apprehensive about networking is this. When meeting a new person (or someone whose work inspires you) say this to yourself: “They have two eyes, a stomach and a bum” and then go speak to them. There’s a variety of professional networks that you can join – online and offline – as well as various websites like Meetup where you decide what kinds of events you want to attend.

One of the best mantras I tell myself is this: “Just show up and meet five new people” which has been a building block into creating a network. After all, if you don’t show up you ultimately miss out and the world does not see you for the wonderful person that you are.