A Y chromosome is no longer a necessity for an individual to be a force of power in any area of life. We no longer have to reach for our comics or movies to enjoy a badass female character. There are women in this world who have done incredible work to not just better themselves but create a supportive space for the rest of us. These women have uplifted their communities, given hope to those with similar aspirations, and shown the astounding power a truly focused woman can wield.
According to YouGov, a British market research and data analytics firm, Michelle Obama is the world’s most admired woman. Turns out, the most admired woman in the world also suffers from imposter syndrome.
“But even now, after you reached your goal, you’re still not quite sure if you belong and can’t get one question out of your mind: ‘Am I good enough?’” – Michelle Obama wrote in a letter to herself as she struggled to convince herself that she belonged in Princeton, despite having earned her place. Similar doubts have continued to plague her as shared by her during her recent book tour.
She advises others to fight the self-doubts and hold onto courage and hope.
According to Michelle Obama, the people occupying elite spaces are not as smart as we might think.
“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.,” she said. “They are not that smart.”
Trying to highlight the power of hope and courage, she shared –
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
The former CEO of PepsiCo was both the first woman and the first immigrant to hold the position, and though the average large-company CEO tenure is five years, her tenure lasted for 12 years. Under her leadership, sales grew by a whopping 80%. In several interviews, Indra Nooyi repeated one piece of advice to budding entrepreneurs –
Develop a niche skill.
In order to become a leader, you have to be the most knowledgeable person in the room, the ‘go-to-guy /person’, if you will. It has to be a soft skill, one that stands you in good stead as a leader and can be adapted to a variety of situations.
“When you have a competence that nobody else has, you become more valuable” – Indra Nooyi.
“When issues arise, you want people to automatically think of you as the sole person who can solve said problem.”
Oprah Winfrey is a truly extraordinary woman; she has been responsible for some of the most important changes in society. Through her shows, she became a source of much-needed education, wisdom, and guidance. It’s hard to pick just one advice out of the many things we have learned from Oprah Winfrey so, I’ll share the one repeated most frequently in her interviews.
It is also what led to her swearing-off sensationalist television and taking-on a role more in alignment with her beliefs –
Listen to your inner voice
“Everybody has what I call this instinct, this inner voice. Every decision I’ve ever made that led me to the right space and place in my life, I got there because I relied on that inner voice.”
She quit stable jobs, moved to different states, took massive risks, and launched projects, all on the strength of that inner voice. Oprah’s life story, if studied carefully, will convert even the strongest non-believers. At every crossroads, she checked-in with her inner voice, evaluated her intentions, and surrendered herself to service propelled by the strength of her beliefs.
“For all the major moves in my life—to Baltimore, to Chicago, to own my show, and to end it—I’ve trusted my instincts. I take in all the information I can gather. I listen to proposals, ideas, and advice. Then I go with my gut, what my heart feels most strongly….When you don’t know what to do, do nothing. Get quiet so you can hear the still, small voice—your inner GPS guiding you to true North.”
“Do not ever quit out of fear of rejection.”
The author behind the all-time bestselling book series, J.K. Rowling went from being a struggling single mother to one of the wealthiest women in the world. The highlight of her back story, the one we must all learn from, is that she failed spectacularly, and she was rejected A LOT.
“A mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
Imagine a world without Harry Potter.
Imagine a world without the hope brought into it by the success of J.K. Rowling, the woman who really did rebuild her life with rock-bottom as its very solid foundation.
Now, you have to believe when she tells you not to let failure guide your choices. Keep going because your next creative endeavour might just be the one to change the world.
“Even if it isn’t the piece of work that finds an audience, it will teach you things you could have learned no other way. The discipline involved in finishing a piece of creative work is something on which you can truly pride yourself. You’ll have turned yourself from somebody who’s ‘thinking of’, who ‘might’, who’s ‘trying’, to someone who DID. And once you’ve done it….. you’ll know you can do it again. That is an extraordinarily empowering piece of knowledge. So do not ever quit out of fear of rejection. Maybe your third, fourth, fiftieth song/novel/painting will be the one that ‘makes it,’ that wins the plaudits, but you’d never have got there without finishing the others (all of which will now be of more interest to your audience).”
Through Motivating the Masses, a training resource for personal and professional development, Lisa Nichols teaches us to live a better life. By sharing her own story, she encourages us to believe in the possibility of a better life regardless of our current circumstances.
She is a truly charismatic speaker, and I’ve always felt that it’s her belief in her message that makes her so good. So, it makes sense when she credits her own happiness to the creation of an abundant mindset and becoming her own rescue.
“I felt rock bottom, and I realised, I have to do something. I have to be my own rescue. No one’s going to rescue me.”
She believes that we must say yes to ourselves. We must first focus on fixing ourselves and then, we try to help others.
“I was willing to be my own rescuer at the risk of your approval.”
Talking about the power of visualisation and creating cognitive dissonance –
“Your mind will move heaven and earth to resolve the conflict between your actual circumstance and the pictures in your head. It’s the act of disrupting your mind by thinking outside your comfort zone. It’s what pushes you to chase after a better reality. So if you are living in scarcity and you have no money but you keep thinking about an abundant life, your mind is creating a mental disruption in your head. Your mind is having a thought that doesn’t agree with your reality—and it will begin to work to make your reality match your mindset.”
Most successful people in the world seem to be laser-focused and extremely driven which makes them (for some of us) somewhat un-relatable. We want to be successful and we are willing to put in the work, except we have not yet found the path we want to follow. If that’s your story, Diane von Furstenberg can give you some very useful advice.
She didn’t always know what she wanted to do as she shared in one of her interviews –
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But the only thing I knew is that I wanted to be in charge of my life. I wanted to be a woman who did not need anyone, who could pay for her bills. That woman who wasn’t waiting for the Prince Charming. I did not know what I wanted, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be.”
In the same interview, she shared the one decision that changed her life –
“The chances are when you begin your life, you don’t know what you want to do. I certainly didn’t know. Then you have doors to meet people and they are doors that come in front of you. I want to remind people that it is not always the most glamorous door that will be your door. I certainly had no idea that working for a man in a factory in Italy was going to be my door. Yet I owe that man everything.”
Every time a woman enters a space formerly reserved for men, the lines defining our roles and place in society get a little blurry. So, there is nothing more beautiful than a woman obliterating sexist ideas and proudly occupying the main seat at a table dominated by men.
Draw inspiration from the words of these warriors and build yourself the life you’ve always dreamed of; get out of your own way, and do whatever you must to reach your destination.
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Power or Prison, what role do your emotions play in your life? Do they add to your power or are they the secret saboteur holding you back? Take the free quiz to find out.