by Jami Blythe
I have to admit – feminism scares me. So, when I was asked to write this blog I went to open my underwear drawer to light a match to my best bra and then paused. Reconsidering, I asked myself – is International Womens Day actually about us throwing ourselves in front of horses for the cause?
After some googling, I was relieved to read differently. It’s about creating a more equal world, a one where we are all encouraged to do our bit, and our best, to shape it for generations to come. But how can I – a 30-something, average Joe tucked away in Northumberland – have anything useful to say on the matter? Drawing upon my internal voices (admit it, we all have them), I gave the matter some serious thought. If anyone is familiar with the ‘inner chimp’ concept, they will know that there is a tiny, big eared, hairy beast partying on down inside our brains and stopping us achieving our dreams. ‘You can’t possibly lose 5 pounds in one month!’ (yes, you can). ‘You can’t possibly suggest that idea, everyone will laugh at you!’ (they won’t). ‘You can’t possibly ride a sub-30 ten mile time trial’ (you can, you just have to get off your backside and actually train). Granted, everyone has self-doubt. I can’t speak for the men around the world, but I do know from my own experience that women are generally a little bit more worried about what people think. And with a metaphorical primate acting as our biggest critic, the task at hand can sometimes be overwhelming.
In 2015, the not too distance past, I was lucky enough to be recognised for silencing my inner chimp and just ‘getting on with it’. After a hair brain (pun intended) idea dreamt up overnight, I decided to take myself on a journey which brought learning and work together. On the way, I found that’s what I do best. Having returned to Uni at the age of 37, I had become excited about learning again. My memories of high school and struggles to engage with academia were turned on their heads. I found myself among like-minded people with exactly the same doubts as me (I know, we were encouraged to talk about it). Before I knew it, I was in New York and Munich feeling way out my comfort zone but loving every moment. You can hear more about my story below.
When I reflected back on what had inspired me, driven me on, and kept me running with the momentum of the treadmill I had found myself on, it wasn’t hard to see. My Mum – a hard working teacher, my ‘life coach’ and huge advocate of ‘getting on with it’. My Gran – a fiercely independent mum, grandmother and great grandmother to a huge family – having arrived on these shores at a young age carrying literally nothing but the clothes on her back. My sister – a successful home maker to three boys and a family business, general organiser of events and sometimes my own life. My cycling friend – who took to the race track at the age of 50 and pitted herself against those literally less than half her age with determination and commitment. My closest friend – who after the tragic loss of her colleague, not only took over a senior role but also helped a whole school of children celebrate the life of a woman who was her inspiration, despite the profound sadness she left behind. Another friend – who, after her husband’s tragic accident, cared for him, rallying her young family until he got back on his feet, against all odds. A bereaved mum who fights every day for a safer world for everyone. What they all have in common was simple – they just ‘get on with it’.
We all wake up in the morning with self doubts, look in the mirror and think we look fat (we’re not), worry about what the future holds (it usually takes care of itself), want to be the best we can be (do the right thing for the right reasons is usually a good starting point) and want to live in a world that is not only pleasant but brimming with Disney-fied happiness, talking bunnies and singing penguins (so I love Mary Poppins, who doesn’t?).
We often look at people and think, ‘she can only do that because she‘s really clever’, ‘she can only win that race because she’s really talented’, ‘she can only talk to those 300 delegates from that stage because she’s really confident’. In truth, there’s no such thing as ‘really clever’. There’s no such thing as ‘really talented’. And there’s no such thing as ‘really confident’. They are all just phrases, invented to cover up the stark reality that others actually achieve by ‘getting on with it’.
My #BeBoldForChange theme for this International Women’s Day will be about believing in myself a little more and remembering that we are all created equal. It’s just a question of opportunity that separates those who can and cannot. Opportunity by-passes us every day. Perhaps it’s time to change our lens, look to others closer to home who inspire us, be the best we can be (whatever that means to you). It doesn’t take as much effort as you think. It’s just a case of grabbing the opportunities instead of telling ourselves that we ‘couldn’t possibly’. I can vouch for the feeling of satisfaction – not from an award itself, but the fact that I simply ‘got on with it’ and hopefully inspired others along the way. Being bold doesn’t take as much effort as you thought – even your inner chimp knows that.
Watch her story here.