Other exciting steps included – starting a new course, securing a job interview, saying ‘no’, finding a mentor, sorting out health issues, feeling more confident, clearer goals, being more assertive, resolving past ‘baggage’ and taking more ‘me time’.
Only a few months earlier this group of women had been reluctant to speak up about their achievements in life; they felt the pressure of childhood messages and social expectations to be modest, people-pleasing and compliant. Deeply absorbed instructions like the silencing ‘be a good girl’ (usually code for be quiet) and ‘don’t blow your own trumpet’ have a lasting influence. However, having discussed how the next generation of girls cannot grow up with confidence, assertiveness and self-love if they don’t witness women setting this example to them – ‘it’s hard to be what you can’t see’ – there was an exciting shift.
As each group on the programme met the challenge to present their achievements in a creative way, from pictures to poems, it was so moving to share in everyone’s recognition of, pride in, and celebration of their successes.Special moments on this final workshop also included making empowerment dolls with guest artist Rita Kappia, a presentation of certificates and a reading of the Girl Declaration, which reminded us of our important influence as role models to girls who are constantly watching and learning from us.
Celebrating the participants’ progress reminded me of my own journey. About twelve years ago Springboard helped me to become more comfortable with talking about myself in a positive way. In the past I noticed myself playing down my skills and achievements by saying things like ‘I just helped out’ when I actually took a central role or ‘I’m only doing the minutes’ when this was a vital record of important action points and I had also initiated good ideas in the meeting. Even now I continually challenge myself and others around me to use positive language, for example to say with pride that ‘I am the elected Chair of a voluntary group delivering a successful annual festival to celebrate International Women’s Day’, rather than downplay my role to ‘I’m a volunteer for the event’.
Now, as a Springboard Trainer, it is a pleasure to support other women to find their assertive voice. It is important to resist the cringe we have been taught to feel and let our light shine, so that others, especially children and young people, know that they can too. The visibility of diverse role models matters.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
Guest Blogger: Vanessa Boon, Chief Difference-Maker and Founder MD, Energise has over ten years’ experience in people development and diversity. She is a Licensed Trainer delivering our Springboard, Sprint, Boost, Spring Forward and Fresh Steps programmes in the UK and is part of our global ‘Train the Trainer’ team. Also a Chartered Member of the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) and a busy Human Rights activist, Vanessa was presented with an Inspirational Women Award for her work in her local community earlier this year.