Photo by Kirsty Mattsson
I struggled to find a title I liked to begin with, if I’m honest, I wanted to simply let this post flow before I pinned down the exact words I hoped would draw you in. That would encapsulate the meaning behind my words.
As I free-flowed, it came to me. ‘Having the courage to celebrate yourself’. Because it’s time to sit up, get brave and champion yourself.
I suppose this piece has come about at a time I’m feeling a little weary, disheartened really, by recent comments friends have made or emails I’ve received from women, fiercely smart, savvy, entrepreneurial women (and they’ve all been from women despite my male friends and readers) who frankly feel scared to share their success and dreams with others both online and in their own ‘real life’ worlds.
Those hiding new businesses, promotions, jobs, awards, pregnancies, and even holidays in the fear that others will judge or worse, envy them. Worried words from others so consumed that other people won’t accept them, it’s tarnishing their success. Other people.
So they feel they must downplay their hopes, filter their dreams and dumb down and underplay their achievements, all to appease others, to ensure they’re not seen as bragging, showing off, in short not celebrating who they are, and what they’re kicking ass at.
They’re self-silencing and the results are crippling. It’s unkind to you, your ego, all that you have worked for.
Your self-worth and self-respect, bruised, as you hide away, often means you fail to recognise what you’re good at, the contribution you can and DO make, as compliments are rubbished away and confidence, perpetually knocked.
This in turn stops you fighting for what you want in life, going for that promotion, pushing for representation, making that YouTube video. It holds you back.
So let’s stop shall we?
Please repeat after me, when someone compliments you, say these two small words, ‘Thank you’. Then absorb and believe them to be the truth.
Start to believe in yourself.
Now let’s unravel why we find it so hard to do just that? To shine a light on our very worth.
Is it other women we’re so worried about?
I hope not.
I refuse to believe that envy and jealousy are women’s pathological default mode.
The majority of my greatest friends and most staunch supporters are other women- creatives, businesswomen, mothers, shakers, cousins, ladies on the street (OK FB)-holding me up, cheering me on, making me believe in me, as I do in them, every step of the way.
So these words from others, this fear of judgement, surprised and saddened me.
Seriously, is this where we’re at right now?
The antithesis of a digital world full of declarations and over-sharing.
And do men ever feel this way too?
I’m sure they do but no doubt think f*** it, refusing to analyse and over-intellectualise. They (mostly) gladly share ‘I got promoted’, ‘my TV series was picked up’, ‘my wife had twins’, ‘I signed a book deal’, -because I see it day in and day out, on my twitter feed and in fb threads, men are celebrating themselves and each other, metaphorically patting one another on the back.
They’re not excusing triumphs or depreciating them with backhanded words- they’re open, factual and proud.
I achieved this. And that. I did good.
And let’s not sugar-coat this. This is, without a doubt, a feminist issue, am I right?
Women are not seen celebrating their achievements enough in the media or among their circles, so suddenly it’s rare and not the done thing.
I worked in a predominantly but thankfully, if not too slowly- changing man’s world in the film and TV industry for many years pre-blogging…I was just one of 7% of female filmmakers. I know too well how hard it is to be respected and thrive as a woman in that field- in any field.
I received an MA in Screen Drama from Goldsmiths, University of London with distinction at 22 (I started it at 21). I went on to work for one of the biggest film companies and distributors in the UK, working in all areas from script to screen, developing a documentary for them about Macy Gray before leaving to pursue my own projects.
I wrote and crafted short films, TV drama, commercials and music videos I directed and produced.
I devised and shot social TV documentaries about kids in dire situations, young carers, those living in segregated parts of Britain, that I pitched and got commissioned- and in some small way, changed lives.
I failed a lot too. On projects. Finding funding. Feeling happy on set for 15 hour days. On being on one project and worrying about the next. Would it come? Would my script get picked up? Could I hack the relentless freelance life?
But yet there was, and is, so much to be proud of. To reflect on.
My family. My filmmaking life. My career as a blogger and vlogger.
If we go through life not valuing what we ever achieve, if we always play away our success, never acknowledging our feats, our talent and hard graft, we’ll never feel content or that any of it really happened.
Life will always play in fast forward as we rush towards the next new milestone and rung of success, not appreciating the now. The ‘this’.
Those precious end-products be it a film, a blog post or doing something just for u,s we set out to, strived for and achieved will never fulfil us as we thought.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing, my family are originally Greek Cypriot, immigrants who came to the UK, who valued education, free thought, left wing ideologies, of dreaming big.
My folks are both highly educated: mum a former uni lecturer, my father an entrepreneur- they instilled in me that drive, that thirst, the importance of academia and going for everything, the will to succeed.
Many of my closest friends are American and while I realise it’s not perhaps particularly British to shout about victories big and small (and I’m not advocating a relentless barrage of ‘I’m so brilliant’) you must celebrate your life surely, who you are, what you’re doing, your passions, without second-guessing those who frankly often rarely matter.
I want my blog, my social media, my life to be a happy place, as I, in life, like to focus on the good, but when times get tough, I want to share, to release, and hopefully touch others, right here.
In person I’m positive, warm, outgoing and proud, proud of my family and the life my husband and I have created for my sons while never giving up our own goals and sense of self.
The perfect life does not exist (despite what we self-create on instagram in our ‘best bits’ highlights) and believe me there are many times I feel I’m failing, at being a parent, a creative, at juggling, full stop.
Because it can be tiring and mundane some days and tough.
To still be YOU and HER: a writer, mother, wife- all things to all people.
There are breaks I don’t get, jobs I’m not counted for, scripts that just don’t work. I’m learning. We never stop.
And I’ve learnt to follow my heart and passions, to take risks and dive out of my comfort zone and by doing so, finding new untapped areas I love, ways to work and different goals to plot.
I’m a writer, a filmmaker, a teacher, a leader, yet all of those skillsets require ongoing work, fine tuning, practice- creativity : a muscle to be exercised, always- and what a joy, a sheer challenge it is too.
But everyone needs to feel appreciated, considered and valued. That is life.
I know my failings. I overcompensate when I feel under pressure or misunderstood, I need to learn to listen more, not to be so ‘surround sound’, to know when to say ‘no’ more, to learn to meditate…
…I say, recognise your weak points, work on changing and improving what you can, but never conform to what you believe others want from you or their version of you.
Be yourself and your tribe will find you. Those that make you feel easy to love, those who instantly get you.
That make friendship feel effortless and fun.
Please don’t limit yourself, your dreams, your potential.
The internet is an easy place for others to sit back and safely judge behind the confines of their screens, and yet it equally offers a creative space, a multi-thread narrative for others to seek meaning from. And some will love you, as in life, other will recoil-as perhaps they see parts of themselves in you they hate, or just don’t have a point of reference for you or who you are.
And that’s OK.
It’s never really about you anyway.
If you want to show a happy, captivating, celebratory life that’s fine by me. If you choose to feature quite how tough things are, then good for you. There’s a place and need, and space for all.
Never apologise for who you are, or let others crush your spirit, your personality, your light.
Rejoice in you.
I know I want to read about success, women celebrating themselves and others. I want to see my friends and colleagues shine bright like diamonds Rihanna style.
It’s inspiring and life-affirming and makes me feel fired up about the promise and potential we all have right here, right now.
Women, lets stand together and celebrate our own and one another’s accomplishments.
Let’s write and shout about our success and normalise it as we do so.
Because the more infrequently you do, the harder it becomes to start.
It’s OK to say, ‘today I achieved this and I want it all’ because that is your right. You deserve it. Whatever it is you crave. To grab life by the horns and freaking’ LIVE IT. Your way.
Yes others might well put you down,or try and make you feel it’s not your right to thrive, but this isn’t their story or life.
Make it count.