It’s International Women’s Day, and like every other human being on the planet, my story involves overcoming adversity and challenges. But today, my heart is full of appreciation, vigor and gratitude, to the women who made me.
To the people who told me I couldn’t start my own business, or that it was a ‘stupid idea’ to turn my passion for community management and marketing into a part-time and then full-time income opportunity; thank you. I let you plant seeds of doubt in me for a time, because I wanted to be liked by you. I thought I wanted to be like you in fact, more worried about buying purses and high-heels, or celebrity gossip rags than embracing my innate nerdiness. Thank you for making me feel like I didn’t fit in with you, and that I would never be part of your tribe. Your rejection and mockery of my dreams, my ideas and the work I was willing to put into building a business drove me to accomplishing my goals. Because you said I couldn’t do it, I set out to prove to myself that I could.
And now I can buy those bags and shoes too (except I prefer to spend it on kids and a cat I dislike liking, and four tiny dogs with attitudes). They are the best co-workers ever.
To the people who told me…
…that I wasn’t good looking enough to have a successful marriage, thank you. I am grateful for my partner, but understand that I will always be the kind of person that is more than capable of making it on my own. Because I am strong, and I am smart and resourceful. Because I am honest and hardworking, and I don’t back down from a challenge when life presents them. Thank you for making me realize that I am more than my physical appearance. Thank you for helping me understand that the best and most important parts of me, are never visible to the naked eye. My self-esteem does not require Botox, breast enhancements, or liposuction, and never will.
But when I nail the last fifty pounds and hit my fitness goal… you’ll be the first people I send a bikini shot to. It’s not for you I’m getting healthy; it’s all about loving me.
To the men throughout my life…
…who told me that I should just be happy being married to a man that could provide for me. Sitting home, trying to figure out how to be smaller, so that I fit into the role of ‘wife’ that my culture painted for me. That society wanted me to adopt. Some women are happy in that role and deserve to architect a life that makes sense to them. Know that I never fit in that box a single day of my life. I believed you when you said I wasn’t worth much, because the world prefers a man, or that you ‘always wanted a son’. I stopped diminishing myself after my divorce and realized there was one love I had to master first… loving myself. Sink or swim, I am unafraid to try new things or challenge myself, because the worst that can happen is failure (which no longer scares me). The coolest people in the world are those that fail upward… and learn. The most tragic people in the world are those that insulate themselves and risk nothing; that’s not living.
I’ve managed to make my mark and make myself (and those that love me) proud, without ever mastering the ability to make scrambled eggs or babies. I’m cool with it.
To the parents who told me I didn’t matter…
…the wounds you inflicted on my heart never really go away. But in your cruelty and abuse, I found the strength to be a deep, and loving human being. Someone who values relationships (even if I am a little picky about who I choose to have them with). I spent the first half of my life trying to matter to you, and somehow win the approval I realize now, that you are incapable of providing. You don’t really approve of your own life, your choices and mistakes, and you fail to learn or become better people through inflection. You can’t take any more bites out of me now. You’d chip your tooth on the woman I’ve become, and I owe that to you. Thank you for making me strong.
I watch from a distance as you become aged and vulnerable, and wish you had made different choices. I would have been there for you, but your violence, abuse and toxicity have made it impossible to be the good daughter I always wanted to be for you. You own that. I own a happier, less complicated life without you. You broke my heart, but you didn’t break ME.
…thank you for seeing me. For being patient with me, and pointing out the bad habits and things that needed to change. For being loving and loyal enough to walk through life with me.
For your encouragement, your faith and your ability to confront me with the less flattering things so that I grew into a better person. YOU MADE ME someone I am proud to be. Because you taught me what friendship and family really was. I am your friend for life, your cousin and your niece. How quickly I would have given up, without your mentoring, advice and friendship when I needed it the most.
I’m not sure how I can repay you, but I think about it all the time, and thank God for placing you in my path. You mean so much to me, and I love you. I’m a better person because of you.
To the women who are reading this… know that nothing in your life, or path is absolute. Every day is a new chance to start building the life you want, chasing your dreams, and living out loud. It happens when you stop caring about what other people think (and this is something I struggle with every day of my life). On the days I manage it, I can see my life with gratitude and appreciation, and each step that is leading me to the things that I value and want in my world.
Enough “smalling up” of ourselves. The world needs more strong, confident, whole women who are willing to work with other women, and support growth. Be a dream maker, a mentor, or just listen and be a shoulder to another woman who needs help. I can tell you that those that light a candle in the darkness are the ones that you will never forget, and the ones that you will do anything for.
Express yourself. Try everything once. Fall flat on your face and fail when you try something you’re completely sure you cannot do. The juice in life is in the dusting off and the victories in equal measure. Be bold and fearless, because no one can give you back the days or years you lose, living in the shadow of the person you really are, or want to be. Shine, and if they must talk, give them something amazing to talk about.
Happy International Women’s Day! – xo – Lori