By Shirley Fairall – Many years ago my best friend invited all the girls for lunch on Women’s Day and somehow we ended up going around the table reflecting on what we’d achieved since the previous Women’s Day. We all loved it, and so began a tradition that saw us gather on Women’s Day every year, all of us enjoying the opportunity to have this one special moment when we were free to chat about our triumphs.
Women are naturally reticent to sing their own praises too loudly, but we’d found a way to do it amongst a supportive group we trusted, and we’d managed to turn Women’s Day into something we were comfortable with. For us, it wasn’t about making a political statement, it wasn’t about dancing around voodoo dolls of our exes, and it wasn’t about having a day off from our lives. It was a lovely Sunday around the garden table with our girls, enjoying an easy lunch and reminding ourselves that we were awesome.
We weren’t an exceptional group of women. We had ordinary jobs, some of us were married, some were mothers, some were dating and some weren’t. Our achievements ranged from getting a promotion, having a baby, resigning from a job we hated, learning a new skill, hitting a new sporting personal best, making peace with an in-law, staging a career coup, going to the cinema alone, crossing a destination off a bucket list – you name it, from the professional to the personal, from the minor to the major, we acknowledged our growth points through the year.
The things we’d done weren’t necessarily exceptional but we’d done them and they were worth acknowledging.
One year we were joined by Olivia, a girl who wasn’t usually part of our Women’s Day tradition although most of us knew her. As we went around the table she listened quietly and when it was her turn to talk about her year she shyly but firmly waved us away, insisting that she’d done nothing. You could see that she was deeply uncomfortable and felt like she didn’t belong in the group. She just wanted us to pass over her and move to the next person.
Suddenly someone piped up with a reminder of a Unisa course she’d completed and you could see her thinking, “Oh yes, there was that,” as she remembered all the nights of study and the exam nerves it took to earn a certificate she’d always wanted. Then someone else mentioned a new client she’d won away from her company’s major competitor, someone else brought up the fact that she’d dumped a toxic relationship… and on it went, many of us remembering something she’d done in the past year which we considered achievements and which she hadn’t thought about in that light.
It was great to watch Olivia slowly sit up a little straighter and square her shoulders as she was acknowledged; it was even better to watch her start to acknowledge herself. What we were seeing was a woman gaining in strength as she was reminded not just that she was awesome, but why she was awesome.
Here’s the thing: when you stop for a moment and purposefully think about it, you realise how much you’re growing all the time. Even when your life seems unimportant amongst the achievements of others, even when your gains are little ones, you’re growing. What you do matters. It matters to your friends, your family and your colleagues – it should certainly matter to you.
Here’s another thing: as women, as friends, we hold each other’s memories and we see each other more clearly sometimes than we see ourselves. Don’t we owe it to each other to share those views where they will make a difference – with the person who has achieved something we admire? And don’t we owe it to ourselves?
We would love to hear about your growth points over the past year. For once, don’t be reticent. We know that no matter who you are, you have achieved something in the last 12 months. Tell us about it, no matter how big or small. Do it for yourself. We’ll gather all the comments and publish them together to serve as a reminder of just how awesome women are, you included.