You may be successfully running a business, nurturing a beautiful family with a loving partner and kids you can’t stop talking about.  You may be one of those highly-driven, practical girls who has gotten everything right or you may be the girl who was smart enough not to make the same mistakes twice.  Maybe you are all of the above.  It is a matter of immense pride for any girl to have you in her life as an acquaintance, a mother, a best friend, a sister, a boss, a mentor or even as a worthy adversary.

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But when you come across the likes of me, girls who wear their heart on their sleeves, girls who are childlike (not childish), girls who have made the same mistakes more than once, girls who are trying to figure things out…‘be kind’ to us.  Because more than ever, now is the time for you and me to come together.  Just like you, we don’t like it when we are subjected to an endless monologue about one’s achievements.  Just like you, we don’t like to be patronized.  Like you, we get self-conscious when we are laughed at for being ourselves.  We are all strong women, but that doesn’t mean ridicule and group bullying don’t affect our confidence.  What hurts you hurts us too.  We probably don’t have the ability or tact to handle uncomfortable comments and situations.  We probably think it’s better to keep mum or have we been defensive; have our outbursts made you uncomfortable?  Please let it go, because when we rerun the incident in our heads, just like you, we feel bad about it too.  It is wonderful to see you carry your success with dignity, to watch you doing things right, making lemonade out of the lemons dropped in your life’s orchard.  Do continue to exercise your good fortune.  Share your learnings, strategies and understandings to create a pool of empowered girls.

The likes of me, due to years of conditioning, might not get what you are saying or might not be able to put it into practice, or we might fail at the first couple of attempts; try not to judge us, write us off or discount our being.  Trust me when I say ‘we do listen.’  You and the likes of me are just wired differently and dance to different tunes.  Our playlist of success may be entirely different, but that is not a good or bad thing, it just is what it is, right?

Our journey, yours and mine, is not about going from being a girl to being a woman.  It is not about going from being single to married or from married to single or from divorced to being married again.  It is not about being a mother or being childless, being a sinner or a saint.  Our journey is not about climbing up or tripping down the corporate ladder.  Our journey is not black or white, like everything else in life it is a rainbow of things.  Our journey is about greater meanings.  Things that will leave a legacy.  Things that will give birth to a generation of girls who will pass on the goodness that you and I have sowed.

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Our journey is not black or white, like everything else in life it is a rainbow of things.

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Let’s be the ‘let live' kind.  Let’s be the kind, that’s kind.  Your story is truly different from the likes of mine — I respect it and I thank you for doing the same in return.  Let’s coexist and not let people pit us against each other.  My life cannot be yours and yours cannot be mine, but we can be in each other’s lives and make it divine.

I have one such girl in my life.  She is my soul’s best friend.  Not because we are the same, but because we are two different people sharing the same space, and that space is this beautiful world we live in.  If you have one or several girls in your life who make your soul happy, then try being that for someone else.  You never know who needs it.  Actually I do know who needs it — WE ALL DO. Wouldn’t  you agree? 

 

Smitha is an Advertising copywriter by profession. Having run a successful food blog called ‘Foodishly In Love’ in the Middle East, she has relocated to Los Angeles, California to pursue a Degree in Digital Marketing at UCLA. Today her writings are inspired by the lessons learnt while riding the highs and battling the lows. Everytime she sets pen to paper she aims to create a space where her readers feel understood… assuring them that they are being heard and not judged.

 

 

Have you ever been in a position where you feel like you don’t belong, despite being told the opposite?  Maybe you’ve been given a new position or a leadership role, yet you feel completely unqualified for the task.  Or maybe you have a striking fear of being ‘found out,' in the sense that others will realize you don’t know what you’re doing.  This all too common feeling is called impostor syndrome.

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Impostor syndrome is the inadequacy that people feel in the workplace, even if they are entirely able to successfully fill a position.  Studies show that it's most prominent in high-achieving women, who, despite their ambitious tendencies, internalize the notion that they’ve fooled people into thinking they’re smarter or more successful than they actually are.  An impostor syndrome mentality leads women to silence themselves in many ways such as refraining from vocalizing an opinion during meetings, or downplaying their qualifications in interviews.

Destroying this mindset is vital, because now more than ever women’s voices need to be heard and we must not be afraid take on leadership positions.  We have a duty to overcome the feeling that we don’t deserve success and in doing so, raise the number of female leaders everywhere.

If impostor syndrome resonates with you in any way, here are a few tips to help you find your confidence and realize what you have to offer:

1) Read Your Resume Daily

Take a moment each morning to read your resume before you head to class, interviews, or work.  This can remind you of everything you’ve accomplished and the experience you’ve accumulated over time, and it only takes a few minutes.  Keep the things you’re most proud of written down on something you always have with you, whether that be your daily planner or even your smart phone.  This way, you can read them over on short notice when second-guessing your abilities.

2) Follow Social Media Accounts that Promote Female Ambition

If you’re active on social media, you should follow accounts that celebrate female ambition.  That way, when you scroll through your feed, you will also be reinforcing the notion that your desire for success is rightful and that you deserve a voice in the professional world.  Accounts that add a bit of female empowerment to my day are Makers Women, Girlboss, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls.

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Impostor syndrome is the inadequacy that people feel in the workplace, even if they are entirely able to successfully fill a position. 

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3) Buy Books Written by Powerful Women

Reading books written by women who have achieved success in their careers can help you recognize the legitimacy of your own accomplishments.  Sometimes reading about the hardships faced by other women will remind you of the battles you’ve endured on your own path to success, and why you deserve to be where you are right now.  Ultimately, you can let the stories of other women who have been in your shoes be the light that guides you towards self-recognition and self-confidence.  Some books that I would recommend are Yes Please by Amy Poehler, Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham, My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, or The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. 

By slowly implementing these tasks into each day you can overcome your impostor syndrome mentality.  It's incredibly important that we recognize what we have to offer in our respective professions and aim to achieve the highest possible level of success for the future.

 

Madeline is a student-athlete at New York University studying English and American Literature. Given her school’s location in Manhattan, Madeline loves to explore the city and document her various adventures on her blog, CrookedViewpoint.com. . You can also find her wandering around  bookstores searching for her next feminist read and sipping an iced coffee. For a more holistic view of her creative and professional style, check out her portfolio website, MadelineHoward.com.

 

Often when I think of mentorship, I think about people who consistently supported me and gave me advice while I was in grade school (like my government and politics teacher in high school), role models I’ve had throughout my life, or opportunities where older students were paired to mentor me in an extracurricular activity (like student council and school plays).  Those instances of mentorship, although valuable and memorable in many ways, ended once I left high school.  For the longest time, I thought mentorship was something that happened to me, not something I did.  I also thought there was an age cap on mentorship and that it ended once you became an adult.

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However, when I got to college my perception of mentorship–both on the giving and receiving end–changed and matured.  I realized that I could still be mentored and greatly benefit from the relationship and opportunity even in my twenties.  I also realized that I too could be a mentor to others.  I owe those newfound insights to mentorship–both in the professional and personal sense–to my professional and philanthropic sorority, Kappa Gamma Chi.

Through my sorority, I was mentored by both women attending Emerson on similar career paths, as well as by alumni who were working in the industry I was interested in.   

Through the mentorship and networking opportunities I had through Kappa, I not only realized my potential, but also discovered my desire to share the invaluable gift of mentorship with others.  During my senior year of college, I volunteered as a ‘Big for a Day’ through the Big Sisters Association of Greater Boston (an organization that strives to help young girls succeed through positive mentoring and enrichment programs), as a tutor for middle school students at a writing and academic enrichment center outside of Boston, and served as an AmeriCorps Student Leader in Service.  In each of those capacities, I was able to serve one or a group of students, provide mentorship and support (both personally and academically), and assist them with their identified needs and areas of growth.   

Following college, I became a high school teacher where I feel like most of my job, aside from teaching content, was mentoring students who sought my support, advice, insight, and assistance.  In so many ways, teaching is being a full-time mentor to students.  Last summer I was a mentor teacher to incoming first-year teachers through a teacher training program in Arkansas, which was fulfilling in both a professional and personal way.  Through that experience, I learned about how to effectively manage and mentor people of all ages, how to find common ground among a diverse group of people, and how to help people set goals and reach them.

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Admitting my areas of growth was the best I could do for my mentee relationship.

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With this month being National Mentorship Month, let’s explore why mentorship is important and valuable!

No one is a complete expert in their industry; even if they are deemed an ‘expert,’ they’ve probably had a mentor (or several) to whom they owe their knowledge, expertise, and success.  As an early-career teacher in a public school, I was assigned a veteran teacher as a mentor by my principal.  Depending on the school, mentor teachers will usually observe their ‘mentee’ on a regular basis, purposely check in on them both professionally and personally, and provide classroom and pedagogy resources to improve their mentee’s practice and expand their knowledge of the field.  

I’m sure in other industries mentors are assigned, but if that’s not the case at your job and you are in need of one, try asking your manager or boss!  Or, if you’ve been working in that field for years, you can always unofficially mentor an intern or newcomer in your job.  Your advice, previous experience, and insights may go farther than you realize.  I don’t know if my mentors in education realize how much of an impact they have had on my work life, but they have certainly helped bridge my gaps of knowledge due to my limited experience and have provided resources and support that have significantly improved my teaching.  

As a mentor to a newcomer at work, a student at a local school, a sister/brother through the Big Sisters and Big Brothers Association or a similar nonprofit, or to a younger peer in a sorority or at your university, you benefit in many ways from the mentorship relationship.  As a mentor in various capacities, I learned more from the person I was mentoring and the responsibilities that come with mentoring than I initially expected to.  In a professional way, I learned how to better listen to a colleague’s identified needs and concerns, and then not only assist my mentees in addressing them, but also in solving them and moving forward.  I learned how to be an objective observer of their work while also providing necessary support and advice.  

One of the most challenging but rewarding lessons I have learned as a mentor is how to effectively mentor another professional while you still have a lot of room to grow and learn yourself.  There were many times I struggled with this balance as president of my sorority and as a mentor teacher.  The people I was mentoring were expecting to be mentored by me, learn from me, and be taught in some capacity by me, but what happens if I don’t know something?  I soon found that admitting my areas of growth while also actively trying to improve and learn more was the best I could do for my mentee relationship, which also increased the trust and respect within our mentee relationship.  Framing your mentorship as more of a shared experience and exchange allows for mistakes to be made, room for growth, and mutual admiration that isn’t marred by hierarchical pressure implied by the assigned roles of a mentor and mentee.  It also helps to ask a lot of questions of your mentee when mentoring him or her and to get to know their background, and previous experience.  This way, you are both learning from each other and you can provide support that is personalized and appropriate for them and the experience they are coming in with. 

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Being a steady and reliable role model in another person’s life may be the support they need.

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In a less professional sense, being a mentor through a nonprofit like Big Sisters Association changed my life in many ways.  I mentored a girl in the Greater Boston Area who shared her background, life, and circumstances with me and in turn, gave me a new perspective on young people growing up in a low-income area of Boston and the particular challenges they face.  Her youthful and wide-eyed observations on life inspired me and affirmed my choice of becoming a teacher.

In addition to donating money to a cause every month, or if you are unable to, think about how personally rewarding and meaningful a mentorship opportunity could be for you and the person you are mentoring — whether it be a student, child, peer, or co-worker.   Additionally, being a steady, stable, and reliable role model and adult in another person’s life may be the support, assistance, and care that they need.  I know especially for some of the students I have taught and mentored, just being someone they could talk to, go to for advice (both academically and personally), and learn from was helpful.  Mentor a community member and help them develop new skills, teach them about a new field, support their passions and areas of interest, and be a support system for them both professionally and personally.  Maybe in turn, they will then return the favor and be a mentor for someone else in need.  The cycle could continue, and you may make more of a positive impact than you had originally thought.  Mentoring is a tangible way to contribute to your community and to another person’s life.

I hope you feel inspired and motivated to give back to your community, your job, and others through the fostering of a mentor relationship.  This personal way of helping others by guiding them to achieve their passions and find direction will be immensely rewarding on both ends and you’ll be so glad you did it.

 

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Feminism is defined as the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.  Although this statement is fairly simple, ‘feminist’ seems to be the most threatening F word in the English language.  I've heard many of my peers exclaim that, though they are firm believers in equal rights, they just can't identify with a group of people who are aggressive and man-hating.  After taking a women's studies course my freshman year of college, I learned to shake the common misconception that every feminist yells their opinions and doesn't shave their armpits.  

I became a ‘closet feminist,’ if you will.  In most cases, I kept my mouth shut when I heard a misogynistic comment from the mouth of a seemingly harmless friend or peer.  However, after a few years of transforming into the feminist that I am today, I’ve become tired of filtering my thoughts.  I'm still constantly working to feel proud of my beliefs that have been shaped by the things I've learned, and contrary to what many may think about feminism, I haven't learned to hate or blame.  I simply removed the large cloud above my head that was ignorance.  I opened my eyes to a multitude of issues that I wasn't even aware existed throughout our society and inside myself.  I finally understood the thought processes that are so deeply embedded into my brain because of objectification and double standards.  In a state of aggravation and sadness, I took a step forward.

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Institutional sexism exists in a manner similar to that of institutional racism.  Our country was built on sexist values.  It's ignorant to believe that our society can be shaped in social turmoil and evolve without lingering unfairness and discrimination.  Being labeled as sexist has become so unnerving for people that some are deterred from acknowledging issues that are blatantly present.  Personally, I don’t believe that most people spend their free time thinking about their hatred for women.  

However, many people promote sexism by overlooking the pressures and difficulties surrounding the female community.  For example, our society can’t decide whether we will praise or scrutinize a woman for craving attention.  On the one hand, women are being told that we need to do whatever we can to obtain validation.  On the other hand, we’re being advised to be confident, but discreet.  There is a societal need for the attention seeking woman to exist to be seen, but not in order to be known or heard.

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I finally understood the thought processes that are so deeply embedded into my brain because of objectification and double standards.

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My change in mindset began with one thing - education.  I encourage you to be mindful of the almost impossible standards of beauty women are bombarded with.  I urge you to educate yourselves on gender wage gaps.  Most importantly, I hope that all men and women who have not personally felt the burden of sexism understand that there’s a large number of women who have.  If you're a woman who is conforming to the patriarchal standards that we all have instilled in us, it doesn't mean you don't have respect for yourself.  It doesn't make you any less of a woman.  

If you're a man who respects your mother, sister, or female colleagues and friends, I realize that it's easy to separate those feelings from a bigger societal issue.  However, acknowledge that feminism is not a liberal ideal fed only by women who don't own a skirt.  It's not an overreaction.  Being involved in the feminist movement is a way to bring light to the undeniable inequalities that women face on a daily basis.  It's a way to recognize the crippling effects of rape culture.  We need to let go of the blissful state of ignorance and immerse ourselves in reality.  What is real is far from easy or fun, but it's unbelievably important.

 

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We hear it all the time:  ‘She has it all,’ or ‘she is so lucky she has her dream job!’  But what does it mean to have it all?  Can anyone have it all, and balance the perfect career, life and love?  Personally, I get frustrated when I hear people say she has anything.  No one just has a career, a relationship, or a perfect body.  They work for it.  They are not lucky - they have put in the necessary time and energy to yield their desired outcome.  Period.  It’s not easy, it’s not magical, and what is ideal for one person may not be ideal for another.  The key to success and happiness is not the pursuit of perfection.  It’s about achieving your individual, personal balance.

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The first step in achieving balance is deciding what you really want in life, which is not as easy as it may sound.  People often look at what others have, or what they have achieved in their careers, and think, ‘That looks amazing, I wish I had that.’  But again, all too often people look outwards instead of inwards to fulfill the desire of what they perceive to be considered successful.  Why envy the woman who owns the Five Star restaurant if you yourself are not the type of individual who enjoys working nights, holidays and weekends?  Just because he or she is happy with his or her  specific career choices does not mean that you would be too if you were to follow in their exact footsteps.  

Keep in mind that your dreams can also change, and that’s okay too.  What may be your idea of a ‘dream job’ at age 25 may no longer fulfill you at age 35.  And if that turns out to be the case, there is nothing wrong with that.  When people are open to the possibility of change, they are less susceptible to feelings of disappointment or failure.  Personally, I have never subscribed to the idea of anyone having a failed career.  Rather, I like to think that they chose, or circumstances chose for them, a new path.

There are many career paths to choose from; Some people choose one career and stick with it until retirement, while others may have five different careers over the course of their lifetime.  When trying to achieve balance, it’s important to keep in mind that priorities often shift within a lifetime.  The woman who owns the Five Star restaurant may suddenly decide that working nights and weekends may not be conducive to having a family.  She may sell the restaurant and decide to work part time teaching cooking classes so she may spend more time with her kids.  Does that mean her career as a restaurateur was a failure?  Of course not.  She is finding her own balance between career and family and making new choices in order to achieve happiness.  On the same note, if that woman decided to continue working full time while starting a family does that make her any more or less successful as a parent or career woman?  Once again, the answer in my opinion is a resounding NO.  The perfect balance between career and family for one person will not always resemble the perfect balance for another.

When it comes to personal fitness and ideas of beauty, those standards can be just as varied as career choices.  Personally, I have been as small as a size 2 and as large as a size 12.  For me to maintain a size 2, I need to work out 5-6 nights a week for at least 2 hours a night.  I did exactly that for a few years and I absolutely loved it.  One day I decided that I was spending so much time at the gym however, I felt as if I was missing out on a social life.  My priorities shifted and as they shifted so did my definition of balance.

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 All too often people look outwards instead of inwards to fulfill the desire of what they perceive to be considered successful.

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Today I fluctuate between a size 6 and a size 8 but I am comfortable in my skin.  My exercise comes in the form of walking several miles every day.  My husband and I have our own dog walking business so we get to walk together, and spend a great deal of time together during the day, while we work and exercise at the same time.  My evenings are now free for my writing and I get to socialize with friends and family as well.  Some will look at my choices and say, ‘You are so lucky, you get to be outside all day, and play with dogs, and walk through the park with your husband, while I am stuck in an office.’  However, those same people may not be so envious when it is pouring rain outside or there happens to be 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Those things don’t bother me so much because for me, at this point in my life, part of balancing my life, love, and career means being able to stay fit while owning my own business and working with my husband.  Being able to make my own schedule is also high on my list of priorities which is another perk of becoming your own boss.  Now I am certainly not suggesting that anyone quit their day job and become a dog walker.  All jobs have their risks and downsides and dog walking/pet-sitting is certainly not for everyone.  What I am suggesting is this: you can create the life you have always dreamed about and you can achieve a balance with your career, life and love when you look within yourself as opposed to looking at others.

Remember that life is full of possibilities and dreaming never has to end.  You can have more than one dream and, if one dream does not come to fruition the way you had originally intended it to, then dream a new dream.  There are no failed dreams in life only shifts in their outcome.  Stop measuring your own success by other people’s standards .  You are an individual living a life with circumstances that are specific to you.  As life evolves, so will your priorities.  If you are able to adapt to those changes, then you can find balance, happiness, and success.  You can have it all when you work at what is important to you.  Most importantly however, is that you realize that the only measure of success carrying any weight is your own.  Be open to the possibility of change and you will always be able to achieve balance.

 

I am originally from Massachusetts. I went to Barry University in Miami where I received a BA in Communications. I started my Masters at Fort Valley State in Education and finished at the University of Phoenix. I have published two children’s books, have a novel coming out in the spring, and I currently own and operate pupwalks.com. I currently live in Manhattan with my husband and our two dogs

 

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