I am currently putting the finishing touches to the very first collection of my new fashion line. Throughout the artistic process, as I imagine the silhouettes and the movement of my clothes, I find myself reflecting upon what it means to express ourselves as women. It’s something that deeply appeals to me and is very dear to my heart, especially as I watch the news every day and learn about the living conditions of many women across the world. I also wonder about the way women in other communities and different circumstances experience freedom.
I, for one, feel free, serene and fulfilled. However, like everybody else, I also encounter struggles and challenges in my everyday life. I am sometimes paralyzed by doubt and questions, but I fight back and make sure to always keep going. When life gets hard, are we robbed of our freedom or is it simply… a part of life? I love this saying by Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. Either I win, or I learn.” Let’s just say… I learn often.
How women of power see the freedom of being a woman in 2016
In the past months, I have asked many powerful women across Quebec about the way they see freedom. Although they all expressed it differently, they shared similar views on a few key points.
Tip #1 – Own and express your freedom
Here is one of the things I have heard from many female CEOs and businesswomen: « I am what I want to be, when I want and how I want it. »
It’s a very assertive and dominant point of view and I enjoy seeing such raw strength. In the mouth of a man, those words would sound completely different. They would feel like you’re back in 1928, in a world that’s still entirely male-dominated. However, in expressing themselves that way, the women I talked to aren’t positioning themselves against or above men. They are asserting their worth as individuals to their harshest critic: themselves. Because freedom, first and foremost, is about liberating ourselves from our own fears and patterns, from the compromises we make in submission to other people’s pleasure or approval. It’s about discovering the freedom that is within us, and letting it bloom like a flower. Okay, I know this may sound like an 80s new age theory, but I do love the fact that they do no talk of the freedom to be a woman like it’s a desire or an goal, but rather like something that is always there and simply needs to be acknowledged and owned.
Tip # 2 – Knowing where you are and where you’re going
How did these women manage to gain such confidence? One of them told me: “Freedom is choosing whether to sit in the driver or the passenger’s seat in a car!” I loved that quote. There is so much trust in that definition of freedom. There’s a choice. The choice to give or to take, to lead or to be lead. That happens to be the way I experience - and have always experienced - freedom within my relationship. My partner and I each have our spaces to be king or queen and moments where we act as helpers. We switch those roles whenever the situation calls for it, or to make one another or ourselves happy.
Tip # 3 – Invest in your strengths
Life, depending on how you see it, will always surprise you. Monotony, to me, is always looking at life and the people that surround me through the same lens. The freedom to be a woman means making room for your hopes and dreams, and constantly trying to do better. It means being equal to men and mankind, equivalent but not them same, free to be your strengths as well as your weaknesses. Free to express yourself, to lay yourself bare, to contemplate, to meditate and to love – free to do nothing at all if that’s what feels good.
Sometimes, our freedom is taken away from us. Too often. It’s out duty to rise up, to express ourselves, to take the power and to succeed. We cannot wait for the red carpet. Because the reward only comes after what matters the most. It comes after the accountability, the sweat, the tears and the hard work. After the doubts, the fears, the failures, the hiccups and the quest for perfection that will be, more often than not, lived in the shadows and overcome as a team.
The spotlight only feels good for a brief instant. It’s neither the goal nor the motivation, but rather a gift, a passionate orgasm of well-being. True pleasure hides in our daily life, in choosing to invest in the development of a personal or professional passion, but also in all of life’s ordinary things.
Living free means overcoming obstacles, whether they come from outside or from within. It’s obviously easier for someone who lives a life of privilege, has a happy family and the freedom to start a business. But nothing ever comes easy. Taking power requires audacity and a lot of hard work. In business as in life, most of us discover that nothing is free or served on a silver platter. It’s our ability to grow, to trust others and ourselves and to collaborate that will pull us through. Life is so short, in the grand scheme of things. Why not live each instant to the fullest?
Who we are, and who we will become, is defined and transformed every day by the challenges we face, the hardships we endure and the happiness we feel.
What does it mean for you to be free as a woman?