All my life I’ve wondered how to ‘be’ the kind of woman I want to be. Fearless. Friendly. Strong. Independent. Creative. Driven. Kind. Vulnerable. Stylish. Selfless A good friend. A good partner. The kind of woman who can pull off lipstick in the daytime. The kind of woman who can walk into a busy room with her head held high.
Sometimes I felt like I was being told I could only be one thing but more – you can’t be strong and vulnerable, Jess – but the older I’ve got the more I have realised that I can be whatever I want to be. I can be a jumble of contradictions. I can go for my ambition without sacrificing my personal life. I can cry at a sad film without being incapable of dealing with difficult situations. I can stand up for myself without loosing people from my life (and anyone I lost from my life for standing up for myself is probably someone I could do with ditching anyway). I can care without being a pushover. I can lose that I have outgrown without being a bitch.
To be a woman is not to be a static, 2 dimensional object. I can enjoy fashion and beauty without being a muted doll there to be looked at. I am more than someone who used to be a teacher. I can have layers to my personality. I can want to write, to draw, to travel, to socialise, to hibernate. I can be a complex web of parallels and opposites, of likeable qualities and flaws.
Over the years I have learnt to find a sense of happiness and securuty in myself instead of worrying about what other people think. It doesn’t matter if I aren’t the most popular or the prettiest. I’ve learnt that being mild mannered and appeasing everyone else’s whims instead of listening to my self is not the way to live. I am evolving, day by day, into becoming the kind of woman I always wanted to be.
I didn’t get to where I am without the influence of some incredible women along the way. My mum, for starters, AKA the best woman on the planet. She taught me everything I know and made me believe I could be anything I wanted. She caught me when I fell, nurtured me when I was hurt, let me go live out my dreams even if it meant leaving the country to do so. Whenever girls at school were catty, she showed me how to brush off their remarks on the outside but more importantly not let their words sink too deeply on the inside. She told me my birthmark made me more beautiful but that beauty is not the only thing that matters. She showed me that you can be strong whilst still allowing yourself time to cry, the value of being a good listener and the importance of staying true to yourself and what you think even if it means not conforming. She propped up every single one of my dreams and ambitions and never let me doubt that I could achieve them. She made me who I am.
Then there are the other women I’ve met along the way. I remember the teachers from school that I connected to. They were always the creative types, the ones who had artistic tendencies and were truly free to express them self. They encouraged my talents, made me believe in myself and taught me that my achievements were to be proud of, not downplayed out of fear of what other people might think.
Some friendships have changed me for the better. I’ve fallen out with two best friends in my life and learnt so much from those situations. I’ve learnt when to walk away from something toxic, that being able to stand your ground in a friendship is important and that some people are only meant to be in your life for a short time and that’s okay. The positive friendships have been just as important in moulding me into who I am today. Cocktails after a breakup, honest opinions when clothes shopping, laughing so much your stomach aches… where would a woman be without her team?
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some of the best people I know. I truly believe that good teachers are a rare breed and I hit the jackpot with the people I worked with. Never once did anyone pull the other down or take away from anyone else’s big moment. If your class did well, you were cheered on. Staffroom chat was always supportive. We uplifted each other, listened when the day was tough and brought snacks for each other just because.
Then there are the celebrities who I look up to and who use their platform for good. In a world of Instagram models flogging diet pills, surgically enhanced starlets claiming to be a natural beauties then teasing other people for their flaws and dim witted men minimising women down to a score out 10 on a ‘hotness’ scale, there are shining beacons of women fighting back and sending out refreshing, honest, much needed messages. Kristen Bell, Debby Ryan, Fearne Cotton, Jameela Jamil, Zendaya, Rosie Ramsay, Emma Watson, Sophia Bush, Emma Willis… I could go on and on. Using their platform, however they got it, to talk about miscarriage, race, gender inequality, insecurities as well as to just cheer on all the other epic women out there in the world just doing their thing… that’s what being a woman is about.
We work best when we lift each other up. Compliment each other, cheer for each other, be the ultimate girls girl. We are all in this together.
And remember-‘Girl Power’ isn’t just a saying, it’s a way of life.