There was a question on my Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, about real women who inspire. I’ve got three big ones, and many others. They are very ordinary unsurprising choices but nevertheless they’re amazing, everyday, normal women that I admire.
I think it’s just as important, if not more so, to recognise our admiration for real people we know rather than celebrities or well known figures. These ordinary examples are at the forefront of making the world a better place, one step at a time. Rather than implementing the broad strokes or principles by which we ought to live, they are demonstrating the practice of living positively.
My colleague P is such a great example to all her co-workers. I’ve worked with her for over 10 years. She’s professional, thorough, puts the customer first (she’s in support) but knows where to draw the line between work and life. There are plenty of people like that, but what makes P stand out is the genuine care she has for her colleagues.
A couple of years ago she started a LeanIn initiative in our company. She’s fiercely egalitarian. Her efforts have already brought huge benefits. Some practical or tangible, others harder to measure. The sense of community and shared goals for the members of the group – from all sorts of roles, countries, divisions – is wonderful. She’s introduced us to concepts of unconscious bias and micro examples of unfairness. Being aware helps us all be sensitive in our speech and actions and enables us to feel confident to highlight problems.
Personally though, she’s shared advice and informal mentoring with me. She’s so busy with her own responsibilities, but she takes time to talk to me, to advise me, and to remind me to take lunch breaks.
She’s the kind of person who makes a real difference to me, to my company, and to the wider world. The efforts of people like her are what make the world a better, more fair, and equal place to live. I’m proud to know her and count myself lucky to benefit from her input.
This was the person I described in my reply to the original Tweet.
S is simply amazing. Her life hasn’t been an even, smooth road. She lost her mum and a dear brother in law, each right around the birth of each of her first two children. She has a heart condition; medical as well as being big and generous. She’s a full time working mum and has three kids with busy lives full of activities. They are kind, friendly and caring, as well as bright and hard working. Last year she realised her marriage wasn’t a healthy place to be or to allow her children to consider normal. She fought to turn it round and then when all hope was lost, started to draw it to a close. At the same time her stand-in dad’s long term illness finally ended.
She’s dealt with the breakdown of her marriage, the painful loss of her father figure, and all the usual crap of daily life with dignity and her typical straightforward honesty. Even while all that was going on she kept me normal, got me out of the house and made me talk or pretend not to need to talk, during the worst period of my life.
Above all she gives amazing advice.
Let people see you, if they don’t like it they can look the other way.
And she demonstrates that. We have very different opinions: on spiritual matters, psychics, amber teething beads. But we can be honest with each other and respect our points of view. We don’t hold back or agree just to be nice. We don’t judge each other for seeing the world differently.
She regularly reminds me not to care what others think, not to feel rejected when not included, and to value the friends who stick by us through thick and thin.
She was having a hard day at some point, I told her she’s an inspiration to me, that she proves that it can be done. She didn’t believe me, she’s humble and shy too.
She’s my dear friend, my life is brighter and more fun with her in it.
Most people think their mum’s amazing. Not everyone, some people have mums who haven’t had the strength to be amazing to their kids. Well my mum is beyond amazing. She was a full time working mum in the 80s when that was properly unusual. She’s like me in many ways, she trusts easily and sees friendship where the other person sees an acquaintance. So, like me, she gets hurt often, repeatedly and without the person hurting her even being aware. As I was growing up I vaguely knew that she wasn’t part of the group of mums at the school gate. I didn’t go on days out with my class mates because she wasn’t friends with their mums. She didn’t fit in. She must have felt the same loneliness and exclusion that I feel now.
My mum is my best friend. She’s the only person I know who (apart from himself) I can trust completely. I can tell her anything. She’ll always be there. She won’t leave me hanging, excluded from a conversation, a day trip with the kids, a night out.
My mum is also the strongest woman I know. She lost my baby sister at 5 weeks old. She went through something a million times worse than our losing boy3 at twenty weeks pregnancy.
A colleague recently asked me when I was due, I had to explain that we’d lost the baby. He said he hoped I’d had counselling. As though not doing so was dangerous or foolish or careless – like not finishing a course of antibiotics. One reason why I haven’t felt that I need it, is that my mum is the perfect support. She also demonstrates that I can get through this, and that I can fall apart when I need to – that doing so is a good thing. I feel that I’m (we are) strong enough to get through life without boy3 because my mum shows me the way: practically and emotionally. It can be done because it must be done. She’s proof and she’s support to help me/us get there.
My greatest fear (after something happening to us, leaving the boys alone) is losing my mum. I hope that she follows my grandma’s example and lives well into her 90s. It’s very selfish, but she’s my mum and I love her and I don’t know what I would do without her.
(PS the same goes for my dad, he’s amazing too but this is about inspirational women.)
And A Couple More
Having written about these three women I feel like a couple more were left out.
My friend C, who got fired up after the Brexit referendum and joined a political party. She’s a town councillor now, fighting to improve the daily lives of her constituents and doing everything she can to prevent out country from making a huge mistake. She does all that amazing work on top of a job and bringing up a pair of fantastic boys. I don’t know how she has the mental energy or finds the time. I wish I was able to make space in my life to effect change like she does, or even just have the confidence to get involved in political discussions without being scared of arguing.
And finally L, the owner and manager of the nursery that has looked after small boy since he was 8 months old and cared for large boy for the last year before he started school. It’s a truly amazing nursery, there aren’t enough superlatives. It’s not just the standard of care and attention of the staff, of the beautiful setting next to a farm. It’s the personal touches. The individual approach to every child. The support for families when they are going through something difficult. When small boy had a problem with his platelets and the paediatrician said he needed 1:1 care, L checked her staffing and told me which days she could provide that. That’s exceptional. But beyond her dedication to her business and the children under her care, L has a little girl with developmental challenges. She celebrates her daughter’s achievements with the same passion as everyone, puts so much energy into helping her enjoy being a child, and is (with her husband) bringing up a wonderful son too. I admire L so much.