This was a speech I did for my club and area contest in March 2017. I was thinking back on this as I write my introduction to the Personal Leadership Plan in preparation for the Community Solutions Program. I thought it would be nice to share this now
I’ve noticed in the past couple of months, articles like “What I wish I knew in my 20s” or “What I Wish I could Tell My 18 Year Old Self” are very popular on my Facebook feed. I think it would be really interesting to be able to to do so, to talk to my 18 year old self, but realistically, we can’t change the past, but we could shape the future. And in the future, I mean our kids.
My daughter, my first born, just turned 18 about 2 weeks ago. It made me reflect about my own turning point starting from the age of 18. The age when you are legally an adult. There’s so much new to experience, and a lot of the times you get lost in discovering who you are.
No one is probably better to speak of this, because I have experienced almost the worst of everything. It all started when I was 18, out in the world for the first time after living a very sheltered life. By the age of 19, I was a young mother, and I was trapped in an abusive marriage that I stayed in for over 7 years before I finally had the courage to move on.
Here are the three top life lessons that I would share with my daughter, that I felt would have been helpful to me when I was her age.
Number One: Only your opinion of YOU really matters.
As far as I can remember, I’ve always had the innate desire to please others. I prided myself in being the epitome of a “good girl” – soft spoken, gentle, can sew, can cook. I was the ultimate catch! I thought to myself. “And one day I will get myself prince charming who will save me.” And then the unfortunate happened. People talked behind my back about how being a “good girl” was just a facade. And in trying to uphold this image of what it means to be a perfect wife, a perfect mother I was willing to live a life in an abusive household. To be the perfect wife while what I really wanted to was to build a career and make something of myself.
People can say whatever they want to say, but only you know yourself best.
If I never started thinking more of my abilities, and having faith that what I believe myself to be is true, I don’t think I would have left and started a new life for myself. Just know that you are enough. You are smart enough and you are pretty enough to do anything you set your mind to do.
Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential, according to Sheryl Sandberg.
Number Two: Do what is right for YOU not what everyone thinks you’re capable of or should do.
Deep down inside, I know I was interested in big issues related to the environment, loved writing, but I never pursued my interests. Instead I chose the “smart option”, to study about making money. I realised now that I aced my subjects because I loved the writing assignments and the research that comes with it. I struggled for many years trying to understand why I hated my job so much, and why I just felt out of place. It didn’t help that back home, things were volatile. Home wasn’t safe. I felt like a failure as I jumped from job to job, trying to find my dream job.
Until one day, I decided enough was enough. It took many tries, and many failed attempts before I was back on the career path that I felt was right for me.
Of course I still have my regrets. That I didn’t realise things sooner, that I lost a great part of my youth finding myself and losing opportunities to make it big. I am too old now, but that brings me to number 3.
Number Three: Life is NOT a competition or a race to see who finishes first.
We all run by different clocks. Just because you see someone as a success first doesn’t mean you’ve lost. Our prize at the end of the line may be better and more meaningful to us. We don’t know what is the story behind their success.
Everyone has their own story.
I see a lot of myself in my daughter, though less of the naivety. My daughter has still the chance to be the better version of me. But whatever happens, I won’t judge because I’ve faced the worst of it. My speech is not only for my daughter but for the woman who has ever had their worth questioned. All the strength you need is inside yourself.