It’s great to see the world come together each year to celebrate International Women’s Day. Seeing all the positive posts online. The news coverage. And most importantly, the small conversations that I have with others at work, and with my friends and family. But when the day is over, I can’t help but feel a little sadness. A reminder of the women in my life who have been so important to me. I feel like one day of celebration is just not enough.
Why is it not enough?
- A woman can be the epitome of sacrifice.
- A woman can single-handedly change the trajectory of her family’s future.
- A woman can be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, best friend and role model.
- A woman can possess enough kindness to brighten an entire community.
- A woman can possess much wisdom and beauty that she can transfer across generations.
- A woman can be a confidante, a shoulder to cry on, and a soul to reach to in times of need.
At least that’s what comes to mind when I think of the women most important to me.
Today, you can join me in celebrating three women: my mother, a special historic figure, and an inspiring woman with an amazing story who I recently discovered online. They have so much to teach, and we have so much to learn!
My mother was beautiful, funny, and very caring. I loved my relationship with her when she was with us, and that bond has only strengthened since her passing. We could sit for hours day after day, just talking and laughing. My father made sure to celebrate her often. All eight of my brothers and sisters knew that she was very special. When the anniversary of her passing draws near, we start talking, gather, and pray for her more.
The biggest lesson she left me was the encouragement to not stress so much. Ironically, I still have to remind myself to let go of stress! I have a feeling that she finds ways to remind me of this even though she is not physically here. She would always tell me to “let things be”. She told me to get out of my own way, or stubbornness. So when the stress takes over, or I hold onto feelings that don’t serve me, I hear her soft voice gently reminding me to get out of my own way.
For those who have not heard of Maya Angelo, she was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist whose presence was felt across the entire world. Of all the amazing women in history, there is something special about her, and I have written about how she has inspired me during this pandemic. Her sense of maturity and calmness gives me strength. I have read her books, revisit her poems often, and cherish videos of her that I can watch over and over. When I read her words or listen to her talk, I feel a sense of calm, and I always learn something new or see things in a new way.
With so many lessons left behind, the one that I am celebrating this year is her reminder to me that self-doubt will not get me closer to where I want to be, where I want to go, and how I want to show up for others. She reminds me to be kind to myself, to love who I am. The next time you wake up feeling self-doubt, find a Maya Angelou quote that speaks to you. To keep her close I print her quotes and hang them in my office so that I see them daily. The newest quote that hangs on my wall is one that truly helps me be good to myself.
“If I am not good to myself, how can I expect anyone else to be good to me?” – Maya Angelou
Dame Stephanie Shirley
When I have free time, I often search for TEDx Talks to watch. Recently I came across one titled, “Why do ambitious women have flat heads?” This title was a scroll-stopper, and with a click to open, and a click to skip the ads, Dame Stephanie Shirley filled my screen and I heard her incredible story. Her story was one of displacement, which is something that resonates deeply with me. Growing up, my family experienced displacement due to war. We had to leave our home for safer refuge, fleeing danger. Dame tells her story of boarding a train from Vienna to England as part of the Kindertransport that saved nearly 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Europe. For me, I couldn’t even imagine being separated from my family at such a young age. When I was displaced, I had my family to support me. Dame’s story resonated with me to my core, and to see what she has achieved in the seven decades since that train ride is truly inspiring.
In her life’s journey, Dame recognized the limitations placed upon her because she was a female. The lesson I learned from her is to not let the world’s limitations stop you from achieving greatness. A pioneer in technology, she outworked and outsmarted her male counterparts, built a three billion-dollar company, and made 70 of her co-workers millionaires. If you are an ambitious woman who feels like you are being held back, patronized, and not taken seriously, invest 13 minutes and 43 seconds of your time to watch Dame’s TEDx Talk. I guarantee you will look at the world a little differently. You will see that you have unlimited potential and that no one can stop you from being great!
For me, every day is a good day to celebrate the women in our lives who remind us of the things we need to hear most. Gentle nudges to not stress so much (I’m still working on it). The importance of self-love. Inspiring us to break through any glass ceilings we may bump our heads on. I’ve only highlighted three women and the lessons they taught me, but the good news is that there are millions more like them. I encourage you to embrace and celebrate the women in your life but also keep your eyes and ears open for others who you have not met, who have more lessons to share. If you know of other inspiring women, I’d love to learn from them. Cheers to the impact and the importance of women in our daily lives. Since I am always on the lookout for more ways to celebrate female empowerment, let me know if there are women in your network I need to meet and Tweet me @ReyzanShali. I’d love to learn the lessons that they have taught you, and then together we can honor them and their bold truths.