On this International Women’s Day, as women of 2013, we have journeyed far but still have farther to journey as we strive to overcome stereotypes, gender equality, violence, education and health issues.
This is my message to my teenage self:
Hey Young Woman:
As you start taking the first steps on your journey through life, know this:
You are a unique individual. You have talents and gifts that will be a guiding path on your journey. Have courage to be who you are. Fight for your rights and values. Dream. Build an armor of tenacity, determination and persistence. Learn well what your strengths are and hone those skills. As women we are all different. Acknowledge these differences. Recognize your weaknesses. Know you cannot and will not do everything well. Aspire to do your very best, that is enough.
Education – never stop learning. Read. Learn something new every day. You can fulfill your dreams. And you will have many, many dreams. With hard work and persistence you can make all of those dreams come to fruition. Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Always be reaching. Overcoming fear and failure will produce a strong, courageous woman.
Look after your health. Be picky about what goes into and on your body. You only have one body. It must last for another sixty plus years. Watch your diet, alcohol consumption and sun exposure. Move – exercise, dance, walk, run. Looking after yourself now, will reap benefits years later. And sleep. Sleep while you can now because, if you become a parent and much, much older, (like over sixty) you will crave sleep.
Stand up for your uniqueness – it is not important what your peers think (although right now you may think this is the most important) about your appearance. You do not need to look or act like anyone other than yourself.
Stand up against any type of violence: from bullying, cyber, verbal, emotional and sexual. Be strong. Do not allow anyone to crush your spirit. Walk away. You will be a better woman.
Stand up to gender inequality. Do not be judged or defined by any man. No one owns you.
Have a willingness for change. Let go of expectations. Roll with the ebb and flow of the journey. There will indeed be deep dark valleys but know that around the next corner is a view that will take your breath away.
Don’t ever lose your wonder, awe and curiosity. Be amazed by something every day. It will make your soul sing.
Above all else, forgive yourself, and then those who have hurt you. You cannot change the other individual, only how you react. Bitterness and resentment harden the heart.
Develop compassion and empathy. Your journey will be your own but you can remember that a hug, a smile or a random act of kindness is always welcome and may be most appreciated by someone who is struggling on their pathway.
Cherish your friendships. Know the difference between an acquaintance and a friend. A friend is someone who will walk by your side supporting, crying, nurturing and listening when you need them the most and celebrating and partying when you accomplish a dream.
Choose happiness. Find joy in every day. Some days you may have to search very hard but joy can be found. Laugh at yourself and with others. It will brighten your day.
Build up other girls and women. Through empowerment, change can be made.
Ah, young woman, remember this world is a big, big, big place. Stretch your mind and imagination, expand your horizons, look beyond where your teenage self is right now. I can guarantee, that whatever crisis you think is so important today – forty years into your life’s journey, you will look back in laughter and, maybe awe, that the then crisis is just a blip along the pathway.
Enjoy your journey!