Discover your worth, women! You were born with it, and it needs to be nurtured
How often do you find yourself speaking about your strengths, your abilities, your success and achievements, and stay clear of the challenges, the ‘failures’ or inner insecurities? What we show on the outside, is not always in line with what we experience on the inside. Sometimes as women, we try and keep it that way because we believe our so-called inner life (our real thoughts and feelings) has little or no relevance in the hardcore life we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
And yet, as we read the unfolding reflections of our final woman of significance, Ethne Pillay, we may just begin to appreciate the value that self-discovery brings. Ethne’s story encourages us to acknowledge our personal challenges, bring to light that what we may perceive as a weakness, and not to be afraid to seek support or guidance. Her journey is proving fruitful as she navigates being woman in the field of Human Resources and finds ways to apply her true worth in the organization and in leadership.
In fact, there lies a pearl of wisdom in this story: your vulnerability may become your strength, the freedom of connecting with yourself and being ok with who you are becomes powerful. And, as your self-worth emerges and grows, it becomes visible to others and may even encourage them to journey towards their self-discovery…
Ethne Pillay – Regional Manager Enablement
I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a mother and I have a career. These roles however do not define me. It is the choices I made and how I allowed my experiences in life to shape how the various roles I play, to display who I truly am.
I grew up in a good home with a wonderful “grounding” and changed cities in search of a good job. The first few years of living in Johannesburg on my own was fraught with making a few sound decisions but also making some bad choices. As I reflect on those choices, it related to the fact that I did not know who I really am. I was floundering around, trying very hard to fit into the norm and be hype. I loved being independent, I loved being able to buy my own house, my own car, my own food and clothes. My upbringing prepared me well for that. However, I was lonely. I was not sure of what I wanted to achieve beyond having the material life we all at some point dream of.
Life continued. I got married and have three beautiful children. This journey has not come without highs and lows. Representing all of these roles and with a career in Human Resources (that now spans over almost two decades); I have had my fair share of dealing with the many challenges I believe many women face, even today.
In the early years of my career, still developing into my role in HR and being a newlywed with an infant (or two), I reflect on feeling overwhelmed at times, coupled with bouts of loneliness and depression. Life was tough, and nothing as easy as I thought it would be. I have faced retrenchments and numerous restructures and often finding myself fighting for survival, but this is how my journey of self-discovery started. I knew deep down that I was not all that I could be at the time. I always yearned for more, for better.
My career progressed, holding bigger jobs and now mixing with highly educated and what I deemed very intelligent colleagues overlaid the challenges I was already facing all round. They were mostly men. In the years of feeling insecure and not as clever as the men that surrounded me in the workplace, I could not let the lack of what I thought they had more of become apparent. I had realized that in the workplace, knowledge and being able to hold my own as a woman, without acting like a man was tricky business. I needed to do something. I used every resource available to me to keep myself abreast of developments, not just at an organization level, but also, a global level. This aided me in keeping up with many conversations, which was sometimes used to exclude me. Keeping myself abreast of developments at various levels in the organization boosted my confidence immensely. It gave me the inward power and strength to find my voice.
I observed and often experienced the different reactions to the input of a woman vs. a man in the corporate space. I experienced how men could easily work longer hours at the office whilst women rushed home to attend to household and childcare duties. I experienced, being in HR, firsthand that men were paid more than women were. In my role in HR tried to use whatever the resources the organization made available to me to influence this apparent injustice towards women. I experienced how women were harassed and too scared to speak up in fear of their careers being in jeopardy. With a quiet strength, I stood by “my sisters” in the struggle against injustices in the workplace. Until the day woman featured more in meaningful, bigger jobs in the corporate world. This has paved the way for the better working environment I enjoy today, even though it is not all is not sunshine and roses, it is somewhat easier.
I need to continue to play my part in paving the way for women who will follow suit, particularly now that I find myself holding a leadership role with a team of 19 staff reporting to me, mostly women.
Whilst building a successful career and a reputation built on merit and measurable results, I quickly learnt to be observant, stay abreast with not only with developments in my field, but on a broader socio-economic level as well. I focused on my ability to adapt quickly to any changes in my environment and I fondly reference this trait as; “I always make a plan”.
My most valued experiences and the level of consciousness I enjoy today, has been borne from my darkest moments. I value the role that various interventions ranging from counseling, deep transformational workshops to long hour’s research and connecting with close girlfriends assisted hugely during this time. These interventions presented me with so many opportunities to be taught by many women (and men) alike. I realized that it is okay to seek help, support and a shoulder to lean on. I learnt that knowledge is power and if used wisely, can change the way I experience the world and others. I learnt that being open to different views and suspending all judgement is a strength. I will treasure the contribution of those individuals whose paths I have crossed in my quest to find me.
“I need to continue to play my part in paving the way for women who will follow suit…”
The day I discovered my true self, my true purpose, who I am, is the day I finally started living for me. I felt a bit of freedom for the first time. This taste of freedom inspired me to keep pressing forward. Insights from the many other women who played an instrumental role in my life journey was that I learnt that my femininity and my softness is my strength. I learnt to step into who I am as a woman first, and that helped me to fulfil the various roles I play as a wife, a mother, a corporate junkie to the best of my ability. I no longer shy away from being loving and caring. I use it as my strength to build long, deep, lasting personal and business relationships.
In sharing my life journey, is also acknowledging that I had to take the first step on a very long journey of self-discovery to know whom I am. I had to open myself to the possibility of discovering my strengths and my weaknesses as a woman. I did not focus on what others would think or say, I did not allow it to bother me. I harnessed whatever resources were (and still are) available to me to become the best version of me.
My efforts were intentional!
My goal was clear.
I wanted to be known for me first!
I had to learn, often painfully, how to relate to men in a manner that draws from my inborn strength and qualities of being born a woman. But it all starts with you. If you find yourself being lost within yourself, please take a leaf from my book and start your journey of unraveling who you are as a woman. It will be the basis of so many aspects of your life falling into place and flourish. It is within you to find your strength, find your voice and carry it gracefully as a woman.
Discover your worth! You were born with it, and it needs to be nurtured.
You owe it to yourself!