On not apologising for who you are
As some of you know, I have worked for the past few years as a lawyer in the City, an experience which, though sometimes difficult, has taught me a great deal, and for which I am immensely grateful. Some of you will also know that I will soon be taking off my lawyer's hat, and from January, will be (excitingly and terrifyingly) forging a different path, embracing a freelance lifestyle and going it alone.
It's therefore of little surprise, I guess, that thoughts of careers, achievements and success have featured heavily in my mind over these last few months. I have reflected frequently on my role as a lawyer, the successes I have had and the lessons I've learnt. I hope that at least some of those will carry me forward and help me as I embark on a new career, with all the completely new challenges that that will inevitably bring!
I was asked recently to be involved in Danish design brand Georg Jensen's You Can Never Be Too Much You campaign, and it got me thinking about the some of the fascinating and inspiring women I know (and know of) and the wonderful and impressive journeys that they have made in the world, often defying other people's prejudices and perceived limitations to get to where they are. The campaign itself features five seriously amazing women at the top of their respective fields, each of whom has got there through hard work and gritty determination (they are Sarah Kendall, Dominique Crenn, Susanne Bier, Behnaz Shafiei and Cecilia Braekhus).
The campaign also inevitably made me think about the challenges that women face when they strive for success, and the pressure that many women in professional environments can sometimes feel to conform to a certain image, or to present themselves in a way that is "acceptable" to others. I have seen this at first hand in law and felt that pressure myself from time to time. I have sat through meeting after meeting dominated by outspoken men with forthright opinions, and felt unable to say what I think or feel. I have voiced my opinions (about how important it is to enable part time employees to become equity partners of law firms) and had them dismissed out of hand. I have watched women apologise for being too loud or too pushy, too opinionated, too demanding (i.e. for just being themselves) time after time. I have heard the word "ambition" used like it's a dirty word about women, as if there is something shameful about wanting to reach the top or achieve your dreams.
Thankfully I have also seen the opposite too, not least at my current firm, where senior management is almost exclusively female, and 80% of the workforce are women. I have had the privilege to be surrounded by a host of strong, fierce women, speaking their thoughts, sharing their ideas and refusing to be anything other than true to their own characters and convictions.
And as I've grown older and progressed in my career, I too have found the confidence to openly embrace and express my own personality, without apology, and not soften or mould myself into a certain image. Of course, this is exactly what the campaign celebrates -
"You'll always be too much of something, for someone. But if you round your edges, you'll lose your edge."
As I leave the world of law and embark on a new path, there will be new challenges to overcome. Being one's own boss, trusting one's own instincts and relying on one's own inner resource requires just as much grit and determination as toughing it out in the boardroom or courtroom. I will have to fight to maintain confidence in my own worth, to champion my own voice and my own abilities, to stay true to my own intentions and not lose heart in the face of doubts or criticism. Thankfully, just as in law, I have many role models to inspire me - artists, bloggers, photographers and countless other creative women who publicly express who they are, what they think and what they want, without apology or embarrassment.
We are each and every one of us deeply complex and flawed, vulnerable and strong, strange and wonderful in a million different ways. And when we embrace those things, we achieve great things. Why would we, why should we, ever apologise for that?
This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Georg Jensen, but as you can probably tell, all opinions are my own and come straight from the heart. I love talking about this sort of thing and would so love to hear about your own opinions and experiences - please do leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
Please do have a look at the video too - I think it's great!