As I sat here at the end of International Women’s Day, trying to reflect on what that means for me, I can’t seem to sum it up into one simple thought.
For me, International Women’s Day is about recognizing how far we’ve come as a gender. Just 100 years ago we weren’t allowed to vote. That’s not that long ago, that’s our grandparents’ generation. It’s about appreciating the women in our lives. It’s about applauding our successes and fighting for more opportunities. It’s acknowledging that we still have so much further to go, like pay equality and having an equal voice in the boardroom. We may have a seat at the table now, but we aren’t always heard.
The women who shaped me all came from various parts of my life, but have all contributed to the person I’m becoming. I know that the women who have surrounded me, from my mom to my grandmothers, my aunt, and cousins have all influenced who I have become. They’ve taught me to speak my mind, to have faith, and to believe in myself when others doubt me. They’ve shown me they’re the ones to always be there to catch me when I stumble or fall. I went to an all girls’ highschool, and I know the women that walked those halls with me, whether as students or teachers, are still to this day some of the most influential women in my life. As an adult, I’m actively involved in volunteer opportunities at my highschool, such as being part of the alumnae board. This has given me an opportunity to meet women beyond those who were around during my four years there. This has expanded my network to include boss ladies in a variety of fields, and has taught me to be a leader, to speak in crowds, to meet those who are different than me across all age groups, and to plan events that can motivate and educate other women as well. In college, after some hesitation, I joined a sorority, and to this day, those are the women who make up my daily texts and stand beside me in some of life’s most difficult moments. From my highschool girlfriends to my sorority life “sisters,” some of those women are the ones who have become family. I’m the godmother to some of their children. I’ve stood by them during their weddings, and even divorces. They’ve stood by me as I’ve laid to rest close family members, celebrated life accomplishments, had life-altering news, and fallen in love.
This is all to say that women, strong, positive women are some of the best support systems one can have. As women, many times we are taught to compete against each other for the one slot that is open to us for a job opening, or a promotion. We’re accustomed to compete against each other for the cute guy at the bar or even who is parenting better. But, what we really should be doing is supporting one another. Together, we are stronger. We should be learning from what those before us have accomplished. We should be talking to our friends and those in our network and getting advice on how to excel at work, how to be a better relationship partner, or how to mother. We shouldn’t be tearing one another apart trying to be better than the other. Instead, we should be building for ourselves a network of support, a catalog of advice and lessons that we can turn to and rely on.
I know in some of my darkest moments, when I felt like I couldn’t even catch my breath, the women in my close network (family and friends) were the ones who were there checking up on me multiple times of the day. They’re the ones who offer to go for a walk on the Key Biscayne bridge to get some air, when they know I feel like my world is shattering around me. They’re the ones who remind me to take a personal day at work, when I’m working to my limit, and sick, and remind me that health and sanity comes first. They’re the ones who remind me to take care of myself, when at times I want to take care of everyone around me. They often remind me that “no,” a simple flat “no” is an answer. They’re the ones who point out red flags in relationships, when I’m too in the newness to see it. (And in hindsight, they were always right.) They’re the ones who cheer me on when I’m thinking about doing something outside of my comfort zone and the ones who responded to my daily selfies when I started to working out in order to help keep me accountable to myself. Because a selfie at the gym, means I actually went and worked out. When I was terrified to start and was doubting myself, they would encourage me to start slow, to stay for 10 more minutes, or met up with me for an after gym Saturday morning coffee.
So, what I take from International Women’s Day is thank the women around you, the ones who support you, push you, encourage you, and make you…YOU. Appreciate yourself. Celebrate your accomplishments. Build your network. Use the advice and lessons of those around you. Trust your gut. Applaud how far you’ve come, while continuing to push yourself to greater things. Because this day is about everything that makes a woman…a WOMAN and that includes the things you’ve failed at, succeeded at, and are striving for as well as those you love, what drives you, what irritates you, what drives you mad, and what gives you peace.