Have you written yourself the starring role in your life story? Are you the leading lady or the understudy waiting in the wings? Perhaps your carefully considered choices, although right at the time, have evolved into something different than originally anticipated. Life has a way of “getting in the way” and sending us in a different direction making it necessary to reassess. Are we where we want to be or at least heading in the right direction?
Many times we find ourselves juggling the needs and obligations of family and work and getting lost in the process or at the very least setting aside our own priorities, relegating them to “later”? It’s important in our caring capacity that we include our own goals and wishes in the mix. If we are not whole and healthy it is going to be very difficult to sustain an appropriate balance with family, friends or colleagues. Given the perceived traditional roles, we have to be proactive. I am not advocating thoughtless selfishness but learning how to create a different framework so that we can make time for and take control of our own aspirations. We have to identify what we truly want for ourselves and how it can be achieved equitably with work and relationships.
We have to shuffle the cards and maybe ruffle a few feathers, but if we don’t ask for what we want and actively go out to get it, we could end up later in life under-achieving with a walk-on part that is so much less than we deserve. I wish I had come to that realisation sooner rather than later as I rushed around in my Wonder Woman outfit trying to be all things to all people with no long term goals for myself. But then again it’s never too late to re-direct and to remember to never give up; to welcome challenges as agents of change.
As women we have to learn to ask for what we want. It’s as simple as that and yet so many of us do not, instead indulging in wishful thinking and putting our wants on indefinite hold, constantly moving the goal posts further down the field. We need to build a vision of what we would like to see in our lives and work towards it. Be as objective as you can about what this is professionally and personally. Ask a parent, sibling or friend to help you with the process if necessary. You don’t have to agree with them, simply exchanging ideas and having the conversation will help clarify your thoughts. Separate your duties and responsibilities and put them to one side for this exercise. Never forget who you essentially are or what you would do if you had complete freedom of choice; determine if any ideas are potentially feasible and what you are prepared to do, to change or to relinquish, to make the dream a reality.
Our needs are as important as those of anyone else and we have to really take that truth on board. To make changes in a personal relationship, we have to negotiate with sensitivity and be able to explain the rationale lucidly. Professionally, we may have to take a different, more proactive approach. It helps if we can create a supportive network with both female and male colleagues but at the end of the day it will come down to you and your sincere belief in yourself and your ability to stay the course when you buck up against resistance. My biggest professional challenge was being thrown in the deep end as the only female executive within an all male hierarchy, several of whom were openly working to intimidate me. The chairman described it as a birth by fire – and it was. Painful at the time, private moments of frustration and tears but which ultimately made me angry enough to stand my ground asking to be recognised. My most valuable lessons in business were learned swimming in that shark infested pool. And when I was satisfied with my achievements, I left as the leading lady and not the understudy.
• Victoria Sarne is an entrepreneur and writer. She headed a team to establish a shelter for abused women and children in Canada and was its first chairwoman. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.lifelineswritingservice.com.