Throughout my life, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful women. Some of these meetings were planned; some were purely serendipitous. Either way, these people have contributed to the revelations in my personal life that helped form the person I am today. Here are the top five words of advice (by five strong women, and in no particular order) that I would love to share with you today.
Dr Carmen Nge Siew Mun — Assistant Professor, UTAR Faculty of Creative Industries
“You don’t need to put yourself down in order for people to like you.”
Growing up, I always thought that it was a natural thing to get people to like you. Through years of observation, girls liked by others often get things done quicker, have more fun, and it was just how everyone behaved generally. With that in mind, I’d go out of my way to make people around me feel comfortable, welcomed and included, even if it means pretending to not know the teams on the Premier League or not knowing the answers to every question the teacher asked, for fear of being seen as someone who is a know-it-all, or being called a show-off. I actually thought that a girl should never be too smart.
I’d shy away from sharing my opinions in university because I wanted to fit in, because that was how it should be. Dr Carmen saw right through me; she realised that I had many constructive thoughts worth sharing with everyone in all my journal writing assignments. She would leave little comments in my journal entries and little did I know, I would be emboldened by her simple words of encouragement like ‘be yourself.’ Slowly, I started speaking up more and from there, gained more confidence in myself. After many years, I’m still learning, but at least that ol’ habit of putting myself down is almost non-existent. Thank you.
Mom — Entrepreneur, Superwoman + Wonderwoman with the kindest soul
“You lose some friends, you gain some friends. And you’ll move on and be okay.”
You know how sometimes you feel like you’re actually a cameo in your own movie, and you have no idea what is actually happening? Experiences like those have plagued my life for the longest time and I would be in this never-ending spiral of self-hate and negativity because no one told me what I did wrong or why this was happening to me.
One day, I came home crying to my mother after a painful experience. She sat me down and calmly told me: “People can be very difficult to understand sometimes. It is something that is out of our control, particularly when it comes to emotions. We can force our way to obtain an answer, but oftentimes it might be more detrimental to the relationship. It’s hard to accept, isn’t it? Learn to make peace with yourself because sometimes it’s best to just let it go and move on”.
Love you, mom.
Samantha Jones — Fictional PR Specialist and Publicist
“I love you, but I love me more, and I’ve been in a relationship with myself for 49 years and that’s the one I need to work on.”
Ok, so this woman doesn’t really exist in real life. But she’s one fictional character whom I love to bits because she is courageous and she is always true to herself — traits that I don’t have (yet!). Samantha Jones from TV and film’s Sex and the City would often break taboo and go against the grain of how society believes she should behave. Her brass and unapologetic personality can be eye-opening (sometimes not so much in a good way) but you can’t help feel empowered to step out of your own comfort zone.
Being raised by a grandmother (bless her soul) who believed that a woman should put others above herself, I never knew how to put myself first. So you can imagine after hearing someone say they should love themselves more, I started questioning all my life choices, especially ones that involved my personal well-being. Samantha has taught me that the one relationship I need to continuously work on is with myself. So should all of us.
Suze Orman — Financier
“Every financial worry you want to banish and financial dream you want to achieve comes from taking tiny steps today that put you on a path toward your goals.”
Well, this advice is as straight as an arrow. Suze opened my eyes to the big world of banking and finance, where I once thought every financier was a male. Her appearance on Oprah years ago was a breath of fresh air. Armed with a no-holds barred personality, she showed me that women have options, and we just had to break free from our own fears and prejudices when it comes to financial security and freedom. There is no need to depend on others when it comes to being financially free, learn how to depend on yourself and your own abilities because you can! Also — nothing beats good old-fashioned hard work, consistency and discipline.
Rachel Hua — Academic Director, ELS
“This, too, shall pass.” (Most likely from an ancient Persian proverb)
I’m quite the optimist. When my bag and wallet were stolen sometime back, I’d think about how my belongings could help the thief get through one more day, not whether I’d ever get them back. So the times I feel sad, disappointed and frustrated are few and far between.
However, that doesn’t mean I don’t ever get trapped in the dark. I can’t do everything on my own, and that includes pulling myself out of a bad place. If and when I do, my friend Rachel is always there to tell me that tomorrow will always come and all these, too, shall pass. She’s an amazing source of light. What do I do without you?
These words of wisdom from five very different women didn’t show up in moments of overwhelming inspiration. Quite the contrary to how we think wisdom flows, these words simply surfaced naturally, out of the innate ability of humans to empathise and connect with what another person is experiencing.
Each of these pearls of simple words have been instrumental in guiding my growth and evolution as a woman entrepreneur and individual over the years. I’m still growing, learning and evolving — this is a process I know never stops and constantly changes. What won’t change, however, is the compass that I’ve firmly rooted within me, thanks to these five amazing women I’ve been fortunate to know.
And it’s still not too late to say — Happy International Women’s Day!
Programme Director, Illuminairre