I’ve recently finished reading Dawn French’s Dear Fatty. I knew it would be funny and eye opening, but I had no idea just how much I would enjoy it, or how much it would speak to me.
I loved how she made jokes throughout; her ability to tell a story is amazing. I love how she describes her love for and the inner workings of the people she holds dearest. I love how she is so accepting of herself, of others and the world. She is so open and down to earth and doesn’t take anything for granted. This is a strong woman anyone and everyone could, and should, look up to.
I wasn’t going to write a post specifically about or for International Women’s Day – there are far more who can put ideas and actions into words much more effectively than I. But I’ve been itching to write and there is a resounding theme I’ve had stuck in my head that seems somewhat appropriate to write about today.
I’ve mentioned how when I was travelling, I was strong, independent and apparently empowering to women around me. I built myself up by building others up. I took on a maternal role with my African tour groups and ensured we all had fun. I tried to be inclusive of all and get to know everyone, trying to spend some private time with each of them. I apparently took this role quite seriously fairly early on, when I ‘trapped’ a few of my travelling ladies in the bathroom and screamed at them for a short period of time (an hour I’ve been told…. whatever) that we were ‘f*#^ing awesome’.
It ended up becoming quite the catch phrase and I’ve had requests for an empowerment speech numerous times since the tours ended. I’ve mentioned the lovely Anika before – my favourite little one. She was tearing herself apart for whatever reason and I just had to stop her. At only 19 I can certainly understand what she’s feeling – at that age I was exceptionally low in self-esteem and had no idea who I was or where I fitted into the world.
I immediately told her to stop it – to stop putting herself down. I said I’d done it myself which ended up ruining my 20’s. And I totally did. I had some incredible experiences in my 20’s, I started an amazing career, I met my beautiful bestie and I started independent travel. But I had no body confidence, no self-esteem and doubted myself at every single turn.
I do not want anyone else to go through that – we all talk about how 30 is the new 20. Why should it be? Why can’t we actually enjoy being 20 and going through this incredible part of our life? Why does it take ten years for it to all sink in?
I caught up with a friend last week, the first time I’d seen her since my miscarriage and I was honest with her. I felt like shit. I’d had a rough week and I really couldn’t see much positivity ahead of me. I was back to where I was over a year ago. I had effectively allowed two months to undo the good the last year had provided.
She scolded me (in her gentle-but-harsh-to-the-point-Mel way) and asked if I was truly going to let everything I’d gained and learnt last year just disappear. I said that perhaps I would. Today marks 5 weeks since my surgery and also what would have been my (almost) 13-week mark. Things are looking grim – I can’t see the light.
What has resounded in me since reading ‘Dear Fatty’, and more so since seeing Mel, were some powerful words that Dawn wrote. I actually took a photo of the page so as I could refer back to it.
She was talking about her own lack of confidence (Dawn French?!?!?) and how she was able to get things done. How when she was in a new environment, she reinvented herself: “These people didn’t know me, there was no shared history, so I could be anything or anyone I wanted to be.”
I feel like I’m the same – I am a different person around different people, I am a different person in different situations, I am a different person when I’m by myself, when I’m running, when I’m shopping, when I’m at home or out.
I was a different person when I was travelling. I had an empty slate and I could fill it in in any way I damn well pleased. When I get to know people, I mention that I’m actually quite shy – most don’t believe me. But in certain situations or around specific people, I know what needs to be done, so I set about making myself do it. I become the person required for that situation, for those people. Much like when I found out about my second miscarriage, I knew what needed to be done, so I set about doing it. When I was alone, I fell apart. When I was with friends, I held myself together.
When I was travelling, I knew we needed someone to help rally the troops, to help get the party started and to be the empowering woman constantly telling the other women that ‘we are f*#^ing awesome!’ So I did it. I’m not saying I’m not that person – I can only do something if I truly believe it myself – but I let those parts highlight me more than the self-doubting parts, the quiet reserved parts, the responsible, budget conscious and safety-aware parts. I had to be someone who was enjoying herself, so I was.
When I resigned from my last job, my HR Manager who knew what I’d been through was surprised when I told her I wasn’t coping with my miscarriage, that I needed to get away. She told me that I’d hidden my feelings and struggles quite well. My direct manager, who only found out when I told him as I resigned, was also surprised; he’d had no idea. I’m sure many others in the office had no idea either. I had to go to work and do my job – I had to set the team and I up for success. I couldn’t be the bumbling, grieving mess I was outside work to be the person I was at work.
The same happened when I had a job interview rescheduled a couple of weeks ago. It was a simple reschedule, nothing else. Yet I wanted to fall apart simply because I was able to. I didn’t have to be the perfect-for-the-job person that afternoon. I could just be the not-happy-with-life person I was at the time.
So, on this day of International Women, let’s not beat ourselves up. Let’s be who we are and not be ashamed of it – don’t hide away from others or yourself. If you want to have a cry, have a cry. If you want to have a drink and yell at those around you that you’re all f*#^ing awesome, do it. As the lovely Mrs French says: “It’s a process of having faith in the self you don’t quite know you are yet… Believing that you will find the strength, the means somehow, and trusting in that.”
I’m feeling happier today than I have in awhile – I’ll let that person shine through. I also know that when I need to, I’ll let the unhappy, grieving mother inside of me shine through. After all, we’re all f*#^ing awesome. Myself included.