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Importance of How You Talk About Yourself Samantha Wills

Samantha Wills: Pressing For Progress Involves Redefining a New Normal

This feature is dedicated to our NoChangeNoFuture initiative. From the Women's March, to Australia voting yes to same sex marriage, and the #MeToo movement, 2017 taught us to look beyond ourselves and come together as a collective of powerful women who are writing our own history. Join us as we cancel setting one-dimensional personal resolutions this January and commit to being the change we want to see. Because without change, there is no future.

I like to believe that the majority of people on this earth want equal opportunities for men and women. We see positive progress in public movements — #MeToo, #TimesUp, and the theme of 2018's International Women's Day, Press For Progress — at a macro level. But to me, considering how much the little things contribute to the bigger picture, it's also important to recognise what pressing for progress means at a micro level.

In the last few years, I have become very conscious of the words I was naturally using. An example of this is the word "lucky". I would hear myself in media interviews saying, "I feel very lucky to be where I am in my career" or "I'm lucky to have achieved what I have."

I had got into such a habit of saying it, but by doing so, I was essentially discrediting all the hard f*cking work, dedication and sacrifice I had given to get to where I was in my career. When I started to notice how often I would say "lucky", it made me realise how such a small word could have such a negative impact. Had I ever heard a male CEO say they felt lucky to had gotten to where they were in their career? No.

So if I believed in, campaigned for and considered myself an activist of gender equality, how could I expect to be thought of as equal if by my own admission, I was pretty much saying that I got to where I am by luck? As if by chance, I just woke up one morning and my career magically, and oh so luckily, landed in my lap.

This was a turning point in my consciousness — the true impact of even the smallest words we become so accustomed to saying. I have written before on why it's important to challenge the status quo. We can no longer accept the things that are said just because we have always said them. What impact are these words having to how others perceive it, and even more powerfully, how we perceive ourselves? The greater change starts with the tiny ones, and that starts with the voice within and how we speak to ourselves.

The Australian way is very self-deprecating, and is often considered a charming trait that the world sees as modesty. However, it can also play into fuelling the lurking imposter syndrome, making us think we are not worthy of something.

It took me a long time to learn that the kinder and more empowering we are to ourselves, the more we can support and empower others. I think a good way to gauge how you are treating yourself is to take that inner dialogue and repeat it as if you were saying it out loud to your best friend. We are our own harshest critics, both directly ("I can't do this / I don't deserve this") and indirectly ("I am lucky to be where I am").

Would you ever tell your best friend that she doesn't deserve something she achieved? Would you tell her repeatedly that something is beyond her reach, or that she can't do something? Would you tell her daily her thighs are too big? Would you compare her to a stranger's edited life on Instagram and tell her that's what her life should look like, and there must be something wrong with her if it doesn't?

Then why do we speak to ourselves that way? If we do not think ourselves worthy and as such equal, how do we expect others to?

We have to start being kinder to ourselves and empowering ourselves, and this starts with changing the way we think and talk about ourselves. This might sound like a simple change to make, and I truly hope it is. But personally, I found it a difficult shift and it's something I continually have to check myself on. Now, I try to practice the following:

  • Congratulating yourself when you achieve something you have worked hard on, rather than skipping forward quickly onto the next thing without taking a moment of self-recognition, or even over-analysing all the things you should have done better.
  • Pay attention to the words that are circling in your mind. You may find that it has become such a habit, you do not even realise you are doing it. And if you wouldn't say that to your best friend, acknowledge that you will no longer speak to yourself like that. (This is an ongoing process, so be patient!)
  • Holding yourself accountable for the words you use. Words are powerful.
  • Acknowledge when something doesn't make you feel good, and be brave enough to walk away from it. It could be a relationship, a social media feed, gossip, eating certain foods. Being aware of what you're surrounding yourself with, as well as acknowledging what empowers you, allows you to treat yourself more kindly.

Real change comes from consistency, and the big changes come from joining together all the little ones. So this International Women's Day, I encourage you to press for progress for the most important woman in your life: you. Be kind to yourself, you are worthy of it. How we treat ourselves is setting the standard of how we expect others to treat us. This new dialogue and true belief in our self-worth sets the standard to us and to others of what we will accept, what we won't.

It's time to challenge our own status quo, because now is the time to redefine a new normal.

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