The last five months have probably involved the most reading and writing that I have ever done in my life, yet for some peculiar reason I have set myself the goal of writing a blog post every month; and so here I am on the last day of January, telling you all about it in some attempt to hold myself to account!
The setting of goals for the year ahead is something that I have scoffed at in the past; arguing that it’s a waste of time, I like my life the way it is and there is no way I’m going to stick to them anyway so what’s the point – well past Florence, as often is the case, you have been proven wrong. Last January for the first time ever I actually sat down and spent some time reflecting on what I was doing and what direction I wanted my life to take, I probably got a little over excited and set myself ten goals for 2017 (since when have I made things easy for myself right?!). Although I haven’t stuck to all of them and my priorities have ebbed and flowed throughout the year, writing the goals in the first place has forced me to check in with myself, to ask how I’m doing, and generally bring a little more self-care and reflexivity into my life rather than charging full pelt through the messy realities that surround us.
Instead of starting the year telling you all about what my goals are for 2018, because they are really just for me right now, I want to reflect on what I am proud of from the last year in my life. I am not a natural cheerleader for myself, as you will probably see through my reflection below, but I am discovering that there is so much value to be had in giving yourself a bit more credit. As a woman, I often feel that I diminish my achievements and devalue myself simply because I don’t want to be seen as showing off, demanding too much or taking up too much space. During a discussion with my wonderful friends recently in which we were all telling each other how amazing the other was, yet devaluing ourselves in the same sentence, I realised how ingrained this notion is in us. I have absolutely no problem holding up other women, supporting them and shouting about their achievements but when it comes to myself I am suddenly silent. I am trying to change that through bringing confidence to the way I articulate and position myself in the world. One of the first steps in creating this unapologetic self-love is reflecting on my achievements and putting them out there in the world, so deep breath and here goes – the thing that I am most proud of from the last year, and equally that has involved the most self-doubt and anxiety, is the fact that I am now a masters student!
Thinking back to my first introductory lecture I remember feeling like an utter imposter; the first Women, Peace and Security programme in the world, in one of the best institutions possible, and there were only 20 in my cohort – what the hell was I doing there?! Did they let me in by mistake or something? My classmates introduced themselves telling us about their past experiences which ranged from working in the field and for NGOs to working for the UN and government organisations – not going to lie I felt somewhat intimidated. As I got chatting to them, however, in socials and in class over the next few weeks something amazing began. We began creating a network of strong likeminded women who were impassioned, intelligent, challenging and empowering. Turns out that rather a few of them felt the same way as me on that first day – it’s an odd thing that we do as women, to put ourselves down or devalue what we are saying before it even comes out of our mouth. Very quickly, however, we have built a fantastic community of women who hold each other up and hold each other to account. On a daily basis I learn something from my peer’s experience or I have my arguments challenged by them. I am taking in so much information and continually developing and articulating my ideas and understanding. Despite my insecurities, I have begun to realise that I do deserve to be here and that I do add value – and that is a revolutionary realisation.