The Labyrinth of self worth – A Journey from Hardship to Covergirl!

The year of Cyclone Tracey in Darwin, and a year that Brisbane experienced extreme floods, I was born in Perth, Australia. For a long time in my life it seemed that axis of bad luck overshadowed me. This week I am the cover girl for the second anniversary release of a women’s empowerment magazine, “the thinking woman’s”, magazine as it markets itself. YMag. It’s been a process.

I never had much belief that other people would see me in this way. I had a long journey through self-worth, confidence and I required a massive amount of resilience to overcome the circumstances of my early childhood to gracing a front page of anything!

I’ve worked in the construction industry for about 30 years now and that is a tough gig. Not because I am a woman, although that provides a few challenges to some of the men, but because it is a harsh industry. Extreme conditions, tight deadlines, limited budget and long hours. I feel like I’ve worked three jobs for my whole life – it is usually 13 hour days, it can be 7 days a week, and it is relentless. Buildings, roads, rail, your water supply – these things don’t happen by magic, they happen because of the sweat, the effort, and the talents of many people. I am one of those people.

It took me years to see that my ability to solve problems, manage and encourage people, understand legislation and interpret technical data are incredible talents. It took me forever to acknowledge to myself that I was not just good at what I do, I’m great at it. You don’t get positive feedback in the construction industry. Or, as one boss put it when I was seeking some form of input as to my capabilities, if you are still working, if you are employed and not told to “get out” you are doing your job well enough. And that’s the extent of the positive feedback.

Times are changing, slowly and somewhat reluctantly, but that idea that if you still have a job you are doing okay, still pervades the industry. It is why I am a respected project manager, because I re!ember all the things I struggled with, and I make sure my team doesn’t. I communicate, engage and provide positive feedback. Because I never had it and I would have been even more motivated to work harder. If that was possible, because I am an all-or- nothing kind of person already.

There is no fence-sitting for me. I make decisions decisively, which is an attribute that has flowed over into my personal life. In fact I project manage my own life just as much, if not better, than I manage my construction projects. The skills I fought so hard to learn in my career have been invaluable in my personal life and have caused me to be determined, to never give up, to just make it work, and to not waste time on regret, chagrin, beating myself up over errors or waste emotions on things I cannot change.

It has caused me to win awards, to be recognised as delivering quality, to be known as something who just gets things done. I never let anyone see how alone, how solitary and how disconnected I was from the view of others. That imposter syndrome that no matter what feedback I did get, it was highly unlikely to me that it was true.

It is only since taking on mentoring females in the industry about 15 years ago now, seeing this support and knowledge I can provide to them, their reliance on my input and relief that there is someone who gets it, who has been there, who can reassure them that they “got this” that I realise that I didn’t have that. There was no one, as I developed my career, who could provide that for me, because there were no other women around who had been there and done what I had. There were so few of us in the industry at my level, that we didn’t even know of each other, let alone support each other. It is dark and lonely in the oubliette. This relates to trades as well an engineer’s and project managers.

It is changing now and so many more women are making their mark in such brilliant ways, but not 30 years ago. It is why I do what I do, because I experienced what it took to make it through that journey. The Labyrinth of self respect, self regard and self worth. But it wasn’t until I had this experience reflected back at me through coaching and me tiring others, that I understood just how tough, how remarkable, how resilient, how confident I had to be in order to get to where I did. So it was time to own it. To stop seeking validation externally and start providing it internally. I never knew how confident I actually was until I started showing someone else how to be confident.

So when the chance to really showcase myself was presented, I took it. I didn’t doubt, or worry about what others would think, about whether I was the right type of person, or even if anyone else would get it. I just did it. Like I have my entire career, I just backed myself and leapt. I held onto my self-worth and my self-belief and said to my imposter syndrome – you have no power over me. I said yes. Yes to showing the world that I have come from a land so distant to me now it’s just a fairy tale of my childhood, through hardships untold and dangers unnumbered, I have powered my way to this cover girl, to take my place on the cover of this powerful magazine. For my will is as strong as it ever was, and my abilities greater than I could ever see while I was developing them.

It is another milestone, another achievement, one that I am very proud of, but I won’t be stopping any time soon. There are more adventures to be had. Join me if you dare to realise your greatness too.

resilience

Competition is NOT a Dirty Word

I see so many women hate on the word “competition”.

An Aussie woman, Ashleigh Barty, just won the French Open… Do you think she shies away from a little competition?  Congrats Ashleigh, while I am here, you are amazing! Pretty sure Ms Barty competed her ass off to win this award!

Our Olympic winners, do you think that they don’t compete?  Every day they compete with themselves and their personal best, to be just a little better than before.  We celebrate them, and if we don’t, we certainly should.  

So that is okay, so maybe it is just when women compete.. what… with each other?  That’s what Olympians do also. There is a first, second, third, and all the others.  Sometimes the others get a mention, like when they just keep going no matter what, but do we remember them?  Nope. But we celebrate the Gold Medallist don’t we? 

We join clubs and point systems and rewards than give us “Gold class” versus “Diamond” or “Platinum” levels.  Isn’t that a form of competition? Who has the higher level? These systems are designed to make sure we compete to get to that higher, glossier, more “privileged” level, aren’t they?  But that seems to be okay. Maybe that is competition with the “corporations” because we believe we are getting more out them than most, or maybe that is a competition with ourselves, to “level up”.

So why don’t we women “compete”, when quite clearly, we do, and we do it well in certain areas?

Is it because we compete against other women, and there is already enough out there telling us that we are too fat, too thin, too blonde, too shy, too prosaic, too plain, too pretty, TOO MUCH?  Is it that we are just joining the party and using the “women don’t compete line” to actually drag another women down because she wants to be a winner? Because maybe, we, ourselves, can’t compete, so we perpetuate a myth than means we don’t have to strive, to animate, to be better than yesterday, knowing we will better again tomorrow? What is wrong with wanting to win? 

I don’t think that is it, I see plenty of women getting their game on, hustling, entrepreneuring, creating, making, fulfilling, being out there in the world.  

I saw an article recently that stated :

“leadership has been a predominantly male arena and as a result, typically “masculine” qualities such as decisiveness, resilience and confidence, have been viewed as paramount.”

Erm, they are paramount and they aren’t “masculine”.  It is not a gendered word. I am sick of being “masculine”, “feminine” or some other category that I did not sign up to, but someone else thinks that I must be “this way” because of some daft gendered suggestion.  I am not masculine because I am resilient, because I can make decisions, because I am confident.

I am these things because I created myself this way, because I chose it, because I wanted it.  And I am a woman, heaven forbid! But I rose through the ranks of the construction industry as a female, and I will be damned if I reduce myself in any of these areas because some article designed to sell something suggests I am and have “masculine characteristics”   And if I do, what is the big deal with that?

Women raise the children, predominantly, and this is changing, but it is still mostly true for most families.  So when you are raising that child each day making decisions, you aren’t being decisive? Of course you are, whether you see it that way or not.  Making bad decisions is not less than decisive, it just means you like learning by experience.  

Experiencing breast cancer and over-coming the every day struggle that it is to just keep going, have faith, believe that there is hope and recovery – that is resilience even if you don’t have the energy to say the word. 

Being on stage and presenting requires a great deal of confidence and we see women more and more taking that stage.  Are they really women because they are confident? Or have they embraced being a man, being “masculine”.

Of course not, the suggestion is ridiculous. 

And so is the suggestion that these things are masculine in their intent, context and delivery.  I really get sick of women creating this divide and then wondering why they can’t be taken seriously in the world arena.  If anything, the suggestion of these traits as masculine or feminine are perpetuating the belief that there is one way to be if you are a man and one way to be if you are a women.  And that is simply not true. It also perpetuates the myth that men are less than women because they have these traits, and I think that is a pile of bullshit too.

And that denies the rights of women that have been fought over for years, the ability for our ladies to be in the defence force, fly planes, vote, own property, you know, “manly things”.  

The entire concept that confidence is masculine is absurd.  Confidence is defined as: full trust; trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance

Are we still in an era where we don’t want that for our daughters?  That our sons aren’t as good as our daughters if they have these traits.  When you break that statement down like this, it is entirely ridiculous.

I compete every day.  I compete with myself to be better, more intelligent, know more, be greater, achieve higher.  I compete in my role because I represent a company and I need to be the best I can be for that role, it is what I am paid to do.

I reject the idea that competition is masculine and has no place in a woman.  I reject the mythology that surrounds the “feminine” and the “masculine” and that they are somehow less than or worse than the other.

What I embrace is that we can all, both male, female, and non-gendered, non-binary and nonsensical if that is how you roll, is that we can all have these traits if we choose to.  We need to stop vilifying words in the attempt to one up the scale and continue the gender divide. And to sell from a platform that perpetuates this divide.

I embrace my resilience, I am confident enough to say it and I won’t be changing my decisiveness to do so any time soon.  Join me if that doesn’t make you afraid of being the best version of you, because that is the competition I am in. 

Empowering resilience