Can we (please, for the love of God), start celebrating the women in our lives?
On Friday 29th September, I presented my 5th ‘Importance of Celebration’ seminar, this time in Waterloo, London.
This is an event I’ve designed and run via my not-for-profit initiative, the Not Sorry Club.
So, I’m in London, and I’m presenting this event which focuses on women unapologetically celebrating our successes, and defeating Imposter Syndrome. In parts, I tell my own stories, then encourage the women in the room to share theirs.
On the way home, I found myself overjoyed that my event was able to, once again, encourage rich discussion and storytelling. Women in the room were genuinely opening up, connecting, allowing themselves to find strength in sharing their vulnerabilities together, and each of them realising “I’m not the only one that feels like this”. I was also riding a high from the lovely feedback I had from the audience and co-organizers alike.
But I also felt sad, upset. Angry even. I’m a serial journal-keeper, and here’s what I wrote the next morning, on a Saturday at 6:30am…
I’m in a room full of scientific minds.
20 or so NHS scientific staff with job titles like ‘Lead Biomedical Scientist’, all with Masters degrees, and taking on additional tasks e.g. community groups, discussion initiatives etc — one woman I met even was a Chair of a specific “Women in” group. And none of them felt worthy. None of them felt truly successful, or deserving of celebration.
Why? What is society doing to these women? All women?
At this time, I’ve just conducted my 5th Importance of Celebration event (a Not Sorry Club seminar) in London. The event was part of a Women In Leadership day with the Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Learning Academy.
But no matter what type of organization hires me to run this event, or the professions of the women in the room, the levels of imposter syndrome are all the same, and those levels are high.
I ran the same event earlier this year in my home county of Suffolk with a group of women who had either just started a business or were hoping to do so soon, in collaboration with MENTA; same levels of imposter syndrome as the scientists in the GOSH/NHS event.
I ran the same event with 100 female market research and data experts in the room, and again, same levels of imposter syndrome.
So, interestingly, I can vouch that after running this event with a total of what must be just shy of about 200 women, from various backgrounds, types of upbringing, ethnic origins, education and aspirations, that all of them feel like they’re not good enough.
And you know…I’m writing this at 6:30am on a Saturday because frankly, I’m angry.
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to turn into some man-bashing dig at society and the patriarchy (although, I’d be forgiven for doing so I think) but what I do want to now talk about is this:
What are we going to do about this? What are we going to do about women and girls who are growing up and are TIRED?
We jump through hoop after hoop after hoop, and end the day feeling like we *still* haven’t done enough.
I’ve met a couple of women with, I shit you not, TWO PhDs, and both knew they should be earning more but didn’t want to rock the boat and ask, because they felt undeserving.
I’ve met women who have juggled children, ill parents, extended family, running a home, friends who need their attention, and all while working full time, and still feel like they do not deserve to celebrate their wins, or even have the time to do so.
These women, when I talk to them about celebrating success/taking the time to reflect and be proud of what they’ve done/take moments to have joy just for them, is for many of them, the first time they’re hearing this kind of talk. I can see the mental gear shift happening in their eyes.
First, the idea of taking time to celebrate success feels decadent.
I can see a few members of the audience looking wary of this Betty woman talking about this new-fangled concept.
Then, through storytelling and discussion, these women realise celebrating success is actually an important and necessary thing to do.
Who wants to die having never celebrated and taken time for joy?
And then…then there is grief and anger.
A note: I’m not trying to upset the women I speak to during The Importance of Celebration event. My purpose is to uplift them; provide a permission they’ve likely never had before; that they are good, they are important, and they deserve joy and celebration.
Even if no one else gives them a pat on the back, or says thank-you, the lesson is that you can and absolutely should recognise and celebrate your achievements.
But what I’ve noticed in just a handful of times running this event, is that a pattern is emerging AFTER the seminar comes to a close. Afterwards, when there is networking and chatter over food and drink, I overhear conversations. There is a rebelliousness in the air.
“Why should he get to just come home and chill, while I’ve got to do everything? I work too.”
“They just expected me to do these things, but now I’m not anymore”.
“My manager keeps putting me down, I think I’m going to finally talk to them about it”.
(I promise these are real things I’ve heard).
And in the room itself, during the event, I ask where this lack of celebration mindset comes from. For some women, it’s cultural: “in our Chinese culture, we’re expected to do well academically, so you can’t ever get a B grade at school because the other kids are all getting As”.
For others, it’s simply a matter of when you were born;
“I’m the oldest sibling, so I was expected to be the best role model for the younger ones”.
“I was the youngest, so anything that was celebrated was done already for my oldest siblings”.
And for others, it’s being on the grind;
“I was too busy to celebrate; taking care of kids, a home, my degree, there was never time”.
And, most heartbreakingly of all…
“Well, no one said anything, so I didn’t think it (my achievement) was worth talking about”.
So this message is for the people around the women who achieve:
You would be lost without the women in your life that work hard, and strive for better. Treat them better.
When they achieve a milestone, say ‘well done’.
If the woman in your life who always makes a fuss for your achievements, she needs attention too.
Your female colleague who grafted to hit that target, or achieve that thing; park your resentment/jealousy and instead, dare yourself to be INSPIRED by her. Dare yourself to buy a card and a fucking balloon and actually CHEER for her.
For the people who see that the manager has misinterpreted the levels of effort from a team, and it’s the woman/women in your group who did the heavy-lifting or pushed the envelope, or had the idea in the first place, please, for the love of all that is good, CREDIT HER.
No, women do not *need* all these various sources of external praise and crediting necessarily to innately love themselves and permit themselves to celebrate their own successes. But, we do live in a capitalist system that provides reward and merit that can, in most cases, directly lead to our financial success and/or our lifestyles more broadly.
And we do live in a system as human beings were kindness and recognition from others is key to our emotional wellbeing.
- Credit her
- Thank her
- Acknowledge her
- Praise her
- Pay her
- Don’t take her for granted
- And ffs, CELEBRATE HER.
All above said with love and a goal for peace.
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The Importance of Celebration event is a 2 hour part-storytelling and activity lead seminar with discussion, and can be conducted in-person or virtually.
To make a booking please contact me directly via email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.