International Women’s Day

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. The theme for 2024 is – Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress’. For me, the theme is about visibility and not settling for a bit here, and a bit there. It’s about making a conscious decision each day to invest in women. For a while now, I’ve been concentrating my energy on practices I can incorporate into my daily life to not only honour myself as a woman but those around me. I create time and space, both small and large, whether that’s an act of kindness to a stranger in the street or mentoring a colleague to increase their confidence or attain a promotion. For my personal relationships I’m a cheerleader, a sounding board and a springboard, supporting my friends and family to see themselves through my eyes and achieve what matters most to them. Small acts of kindness can create a ripple effect of positivity when people witness you living these values. I’m so grateful for the extraordinary friendships I have in my life. Many of these people also prioritise uplifting themselves and others.

It’s difficult to capture the profound impact this kind of platonic love, respect, and way of living can have on your life.

We live in an exciting time, witnessing and actively participating in significant change around women’s rights. We’re rejecting social and cultural expectations of how we should ‘fit’ into this world. Standing on the shoulders of the women who paved the way before us, we continue their work, ensuring sustainable change for those who come after us. Progress truly is accelerating. We refuse to be pit against one another, lifting each other up in celebration of ourselves in all our unfiltered and uninhibited glory.

One of the most profound and positive impacts in my life, including my cancer journey, has been the incredible women with whom I’ve crossed paths for a reason, a season, and a lifetime. On the day I received my diagnosis, I was promptly sent to get additional scans. Sitting in a sterile hallway, drinking liquid to help light up my insides, I was struck by the warmth of four strangers also in the hallway, all women, all with cancer of varying types and stages. Each of them looked at me with warmth and compassion. We didn’t speak much but I felt their presence, holding me up in my chair, helping me to take each step forward to the next machine and waiting room.

A week later I bumped into one of these women again in my gynaeoncologist’s waiting room. I had just been told I was Stage 2B. The option to try and conceive a child was off the table, and I didn’t have time to freeze any eggs. Feeling as though I was dragging my body through thick mud, I walked into the waiting room. Locking eyes with her, I came out of my daze momentarily registering her presence.

Falling into her arms, I choked out the words ‘no baby’. She was much smaller than me. I don’t know how she held me upright, but she did.

She squeezed me tightly and I felt comforted by her warmth and knowing of my struggle. She was there to navigate her own challenges but had created space for me. I wish I could tell her how much that moment meant to me. Throughout my treatment I somehow crossed paths with multiple women, many of them my treating nurses and radiographers who were experiencing their own fertility struggles. For some reason they shared their stories with me, and I didn’t feel so alone. I can’t help but think this was no accident, and they were brought into my life for a reason. I wish I could recall their names and tell them how profound an impact they had, on what were some of the hardest days of my life. All that I can do is honor what they gave me and ensure that I do the same. This is one of the reasons I created Lustre Me.

There are so many ways we can each accelerate progress. Something as simple as a smile as you pass each other in the street or letting them know they’re rocking today’s look. To accelerate progress, I’m a fan of connecting with strangers, friends, colleagues and family to make sure they know they’re amazing, and making the world a more beautiful place, just by being in it.

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being mentored by some impressive women throughout my career and am honoured to have formed a beautiful friendship with the woman who showed me that I can be an effective leader and not lose sight of who I am. Coincidentally, she was the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day event many years ago. I truly enjoy ‘paying it forward’ and find it incredibly rewarding, investing and believing in other people the way I have been.

It’s very annoying, but accelerating progress also often means leaning into discomfort – I know it’s hard. This is something I’ve been practicing for several years, and in many iterations since being diagnosed with cancer, recovering and subsequently starting my life over.

Tapping into your own power takes time, and living that way authentically, in the open, is another thing entirely. Insert the entirety of America Ferrera’s monologue from Barbie here. In particular ‘It is literally impossible to be a woman…we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.’

I’ve even had to practice how to be proud of Lustre Me, worried I’ll be perceived as being arrogant and ‘who is she to think she can do this?’. So, I lean into the void and feel uncomfortable, my friends and family cheering me on from the sidelines. I know you have to be your own cheerleader, but shit, it’s so much easier when you’ve got support.

I’ve even found the act of having photos taken of myself for my business incredibly confronting. I think most people struggle to appreciate their own beauty in a photo. But you know what, fuck it! Take the photo! When I look back at pictures taken years ago, the same ones I agonised over how I looked and was so critical of myself, I can’t see what I was so worried about. Now it’s not a quick fix, but I make sure I take the photo. I feel incredibly proud of how strong and beautiful I feel when I look at the photo accompanying this post. I also feel so thankful for my friend in the photo who inspires me to be brave every day. I still find it hard to share the pic, afraid of criticism. There are so many ways we can lean into the discomfort to accelerate progress for ourselves, other women and humankind. Personally, I like to tackle it, a couple of bite sized pieces at a time.

So, as terrified as I am, I post the photo.

I would love for you to post a photo that you wouldn’t ordinarily share. Be brave, feel unashamedly strong and beautiful. If you don’t have any because taking photos makes you uncomfortable, take one and post it to #postthepiclustreme. Let me be your springboard. If you’re not ready for such a step, then take the pic and keep it for you at the moment. When you look at it, silence the inner critic and send yourself the kind of messages that you would a friend. Say to yourself, I am beautiful, I am proud, there is no one like me.

Tell me about how you accelerate progress! Get in touch via Instagram or Messenger.  

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