Folks, it’s been a minute!
Over the last while I have been struggling. Finding it hard to recognise myself. Feeling not quite me and wondering if I have anything of worth to share here. Lately, however, I have been thinking that maybe if I start going back to doing the things “the old me” used to do, I might be able to reconnect with her. Writing is definitely one of those things. So, here I am!
Earlier this week I had the unexpected privilege of attending the Executive Women’s Gathering. Unexpected, because I wasn’t on the original guest list. One of my colleagues had a conflict, so her ticket went to me. It was one of those situations when as soon as I had said yes, I immediately began to regret my life choices.
What would I wear? What would I say to people? The event was all about “networking.” A concept that makes me itchy. I am certainly not the type of person who would ever walk up to a stranger and trot out my elevator pitch. What did I think I was doing going to such an event?
The day was warm and the traffic was hellish. By the time I arrived, having spent a couple of hours in the car, I was literally a hot mess. Carefully applied makeup was wilted beyond rescue and I thanked God my dress didn’t show my sweat stains. Not quite the cool and confident persona I was aiming for.
“Gathering” turned out to be the right word. As this was exactly what happened when my social anxiety, re-entry anxiety, impostor syndrome and inner critic all showed up to have a party. Being there under an assumed name did little to assuage these feelings. Every time one of the speakers addressed the audience as “successful” women, my mind immediately retorted with “not you Arwen.”
Despite my (numerous) misgivings, it turned out to be a fantastic day. It was so nice to spend time with my amazing and talented female colleagues. Some of whom I hadn’t met in the flesh before. It was also lovely to feel like the company was investing in us. Not just in a financial sense, but in empowering us to take time away from frenetic schedules to invest in our development. Side note, if your company is not doing this for you, it might be time to start asking why not?
The speakers were all hugely successful, talented and inspiring women. Among them were Roxie Nafousi, Katie Piper, Kellie Harrington and Carolan Lennon to name a few. Each woman had a unique story to tell. As diverse as their backgrounds are, a central theme that emerged was resilience. None of us will get through life without facing some form of adversity, and it was their ability to bounce back which lead to ultimately successful careers.
The main highlight for me was Kellie Harrington. She was up last on what had been a long day, and I worried she might not get the reception she deserved. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Her authenticity and down to earth approach elicited rapturous applause from the audience. She elevated and energised the whole room. I was struck by her sense of humour and how willing she was to just be herself. Incredible.
In fact most of the speakers came across as being extremely authentic. Whether it was with the odd “F bomb” or a funny childhood story, I felt like we were getting a sense of who these women really are. I can’t overstate how powerful this was. Many of us women have grown up feeling like we have to behave in a certain way to get ahead. To play a role almost. We end up twisting ourselves in knots trying to be assertive, but not bossy, likeable but not a push over. It was wonderful to see evidence that these women were able to be successful while being true to themselves.
Another incredible part of the day was the sense of sisterhood. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. You can’t underestimate the power of hundreds of women supporting other women.
There really wasn’t much to complain about in truth. A couple of minor snaffus with the sound and catering, but nothing that can’t be excused as in person rustiness. As much as we are all happy to get back to doing these things in real life, it will take a while for it to bed back in.
The only other complaint I had was that I felt each speaker could have been afforded more time. Each woman was allocated 30 minutes and in a lot of cases it seemed like they were just getting warmed up. Personally I would have preferred to get a little more in depth, even if that meant we didn’t get to hear from as many.
Overall the day served as a timely reminder to me that life is happening and it’s going to require me to step out of my comfort zone if I want to be a part of it. We all have fear and doubt. We have inner critics that won’t shut the hell up. We may struggle to get back out there after two years living behind a screen. But it’s worth remembering we are all in it together. You deserve love, success and happiness just as much as anyone else.
Be well xxx