Letter to my 13 year old self

Today is International Women’s Day, a day that commemorates the movement for women’s rights. It is celebrated on March 8 after women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia on that date in 1917 and it became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.

This years theme is #PressforProgress. In a statement for 2018 they said “With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated. And with global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more – there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity. And while we know that gender parity won’t happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day. Plus, there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support. So we can’t be complacent. Now, more than ever, there’s a strong call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity. A strong call to #PressforProgress. A strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.  International Women’s Day is not country, group or organisation specific. The day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. So together, let’s all be tenacious in accelerating gender parity. Collectively, let’s all Press for Progress.”

Recently I have been musing on how hard it can be to be a woman. In the light of the #TimesUp movement much has been spoken about about the challenges and inequalities of being female and although things are changing they still have a way to go. I have had my fair share of harassment and in my younger years had to stop a man trying to force me to do something I didn’t want to do on more than one occasion. It amazing how charming and funny you can be while trying to not get assaulted… Since having my son it has been very hard to maintain any consistency in my career (in fact even have a career), and its clear that women with children are still discriminated against quite openly and it is still a very male orientated world.

I wondered, if I knew then what I know now what would I tell myself? Here is the letter I would write to my pre-womanhood self…

Sarah,

You are just about to become a woman. Urgh, I know, periods are rubbish right?You’ve always been female, but you will soon learn you now have a whole new set of skills to use and issues to deal with. It is sad, but you will be judged on how you look – and even though you are a feminist you will use those looks when you can. Remember all the ‘look pretty’ and ‘be a good girl’ comments? It going to get worse…but now you will be judged on your body too. There nothing wrong with revelling in your femininity, but make sure it is not all you are.

Talking about bodies, do not compare yourself to others. Not your face, your figure and definitely not your personality. You will blossom and grow and by the time you are 40 you will look pretty good. It will take a ton of hard work but it will be worth it. You will always be short though, sorry.

Do what you love. You wont want to follow the same path as your peers and that’s ok. Try as many things as you can both in your career, in life experiences and in bed (sorry mum). Give everything you try your all but if you do fail just dust yourself off and start again. Don’t worry about the applause, the applause won’t do for you what you think it will. Never, ever, give up.

You have your whole life ahead of you and you do not need to rush into anything. You are beautiful and talented and there is only one of you. Wait for a lover who knows what a gift he’s getting to get to have you in his life. You are not easy, but you are definitely worth it – don’t ever let a boy define your happiness.

Talking about happiness – let yourself be happy. Really happy. That can be harder than it sounds. You won’t always be perfectly happy – you’ll have to learn to find happiness, to fight for it sometimes. You’ll have to learn that no matter how sad you get, you can always fight your way back. It is always there…and in the meantime there’s always music and pick n mix.

Listen to yourself. You have an amazing instinct – it will save you again and again. Listen to advice when it is offered, but when it comes to taking it not all advice is created equal and you need to know this. Even those with the best of intentions might be unaware of how they are guiding you to the place that is best for them – not necessarily for you. You’ll know what’s right, trust me.

Learn to say no. No I would not like to go out with you. No you may not have my phone number. No I do not want to have sex with you. No I will not text you a picture of myself. No No No. Consider saying No about lots of other things too, but those no’s will be especially important. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do. Those girls that are doing it all now? Its ‘tortoise and the hare’ I can promise you.

Find some friends. You don’t need a lot of them but nurture the great ones. As you get older you will realise how important true friends are. That girl in your class Veronica? She is going to be your bestie for life – you will see each other get married, have babies, even get divorced (sorry – spoiler alert).  Loving people makes you a better person – fact.

Learn to stand up for yourself as soon as you can. One of your best traits will be your bravery – you are so brave it amazes me. Family, friends or lovers might stand in for your own courage sometimes, but that there is no feeling the world which compares to standing on your own two feet. Earn your own money, buy your own things and own your own life. Always speak up if you think something is not right.

Be a proud feminist.  You have come from a long line of strong, intelligent, independent women.  Make them proud.  Make all women proud. 

You will be hurt. Anyone who lives a brave life gets hurt. So learn to forgive. Forgive your parents for not being perfect. Forgive the ones who tried to love you but couldn’t. Forgive friends who let you down. Forgive (but don’t forget). Try and remember that most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can. Try and be kind…its not your natural style but you will get better at it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. You can be a little self-obsessed. Learn to laugh at yourself more than just about everyone else.

Look after yourself.  Health is everything.  You wont sort yourself out properly until youre about 40 and you will waste so much time before that hating yourself.  Love yourself whatever your size – you are the same person inside, remember that. You think you hate sport currently…try and change that mindset as it really will change your life – by 45 you’ll be running 3 times a week.

Spend as much time with your dad as you can. You’re going to really miss him when he’s gone.

You don’t think you want kids at the moment but becoming a mother will be the greatest thing you’ll ever do. In the meantime, learn from your own mum – she will show you how to be a truly great mother (and definitely use birth control till then – you wont believe how many people you know will have ‘surprise’ babies). She is and will always be, your greatest fan.

Try not to worry. You worry a lot. About everything. It really doesn’t change anything.  Fight your anxiety.  You will beat it.

And finally, that thing you think about the most – you will find true love.  However it wont be with Ben from Curiosty Killed the Cat, sorry.  But that love will make you truly love yourself finally…even if you tummy is still a bit fat and your nose is still a bit big.  Be brave in who and how you love – life is not a dress rehearsal. 

Can’t wait to watch you shine.

Love
Sarah xx

Oh and your fashion sense will get much much better…

Me and my mum circa 1986.

Gloria Steinem, once explained “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organisation but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights.” So make International Women’s Day your day and do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women. It can be hard being a woman. It can be unfair. But at the same time it is amazing.

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