Sunita Behl

I am delighted to have been asked to be Editor of GRIT and to help support the Women Empowered community. I believe words have the power to change lives. You can change someone’s point of view, their aspirations and even their beliefs. If you have a passion, an inspirational story or a cause that’s close to your heart then we want to hear from you. GRIT is our monthly newsletter where the WE Community share their experiences. Our contributors come from all backgrounds and walks of life and some have never written before. This is your opportunity to have your say and read about the things in life that aren’t often talked about, but probably should be. Words have the power to change lives. And WE can’t wait to hear yours.

A letter to my younger self

For our Spring issue of GRIT our contributors have written letters to their younger self offering emotional support and practical advice. We hope you enjoy their insights – you may even recognise some of their thoughts in yourself.

The impact of Covid-19 continues to affect many of us, but in very different ways. As we pass the anniversary of the first lockdown what have you learnt about yourself over the past 12 months? Do you have an inspiring Covid-19-related story about your community?  Have you achieved or accomplished something because you were forced to put ‘normal life’ on pause?  Or perhaps you had to navigate a major life event such as having a baby or scaling down your wedding? Please share your life lessons, personal achievements or how you overcame Covid-19-related challenges over the past year. Send us your ‘Covid life lessons – one year on’ article (400-700 words) to as soon as possible.

WE hope you continue to stay healthy and safe and that WE hear from you soon.

Sunita Behl

Dear young Sophie

By Sophie Anwar,
Transformation coach

In a few days you will be heading to Pakistan. You have tried to rebel and scream silently about the injustice of it all. You think no one can hear you. Right now, you feel angry, anxious, and scared of the unknown and uncertainty. You feel betrayed by those who are supposed to protect you. Don’t despair. It will all make sense soon.

Our mother had no choice. She had a promise to keep, so you will just have to suck it up. But I want you to see it from her perspective. Your mama is more than just your mother. She has so many labels placed upon her and she too carries a very heavy burden. Take the time to understand her.

Knowing what I know now, I want to thank our wonderful, amazing parents, for doing the absolutely the best they could with the knowledge and education they had. They travelled thousands of miles alone (imagine this was their first trip outside of their village in remote Punjab.) They headed to a land where no-one understood them, their culture or language. They faced racism and mistreatment. Even though they wanted to go home there was no money to get them there. There was no Plan B. It was sink or swim. Before they had a chance to breathe, this young couple had children.

Sending you to Pakistan to get married at 17 was the only ‘gift’ that they thought they could offer at that time. I now understand that this was never intended as a punishment, just a desire to see you settled and happy with a partner who they thought would fulfil you. Unfortunately, he will only fulfil their vision for you. Our parents have your interests at heart. They will ensure you do not consummate the marriage which will set you apart from many others who have endured the same situation. Our parents will rationalise that this can wait. (They know their daughter is not ready to become a mother or be saddled and tied down.)

Your husband will arrive in the UK and the expectation will be to live with him, but you will resist. Guess what? He was never and will never be the one for you. You will think of him later in life with great fondness. He is a wonderful human, but his destiny will be to be with another.

This will turn out to be one of your most enlightened experiences. From this springboard you will learn the core values you will need for your future: determination, patience, resilience, the value of hard work. You will find the gumption to focus on your studies and make it to University far away from the Lancashire hills. And the reason this all will happen is down to that trip to Pakistan and your vision for a different life. You will be single minded in your goal. You don’t know it right now, but you are preparing to fly.

You already know, since you were child, that you don’t belong on that tiny little street in Lancashire and that you don’t want to live the same life as your aunties, mum, and neighbours. All around you though, are examples of the most incredible women, full of strength and determination. Their outlook may not have match yours, but they will teach you so much.

One day you will realise that this present moment, and all the ones preceding it, which are filled with so much hate, anguish and sadness are there to help you see the light. To push you to propel yourself forward so that you can choose your life, meet your goals, and fulfil your purpose.

You will heal. You will smile so much your face will hurt. You will focus on your dreams and goals and Allah will take care of your other requirements with abundance. You will travel to the four corners of the earth with your children and a husband that you will choose for yourself. People will come into your life in droves. Some for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. They will ask you why you always smile. Your answer will always be “but isn’t life wonderful?”.

So, my beauty, let it unfold. But if you already knew what I know now, maybe you would never become you. Authentic, content, and free.

Love you always,


Sophie helps clients to truly manifest a life that they love. Find out more at

Dear 16-year-old me

By Hina Tucker,
Art therapist and founder of The Mindful Studio

I’ve often wondered what I would say if I could talk to you. What advice would 33-year-old me give 16-year-old me if we ran into each other in some spacetime continuum?

Would I warn you about the guy you’ll end up dating for much longer than necessary? Or maybe ask you to join me for an ice cream? (because I know 16-year-old me and 33-year-old me both really love ice cream) Perhaps I’ll just check in with you, because our parents aren’t always the best at checking in, or write you a note about all the great things you’ll end up doing and the beautiful son you will have?

Right now, you have a lot of big feelings and ideas that are being conditioned to be kept small. You are always being told you are “too much,” and then also being told that you don’t open-up enough. This conflicting advice will still confuse hell out of you, even when you’re older. You can’t condense someone down into a teeny-tiny, human-shaped bouillon cube and then tell them to open-up. They just crumble.

So, take up space. Over-eating to be seen is not the type of space that will do it for you. I want you to understand you can take up emotional space. You don’t need to shrink yourself down to please others. Your ideas matter, your feelings matter, and your wishes matter.

Be your own cheerleader – it is the best thing you can do for yourself. You will grow up and you will be OK. And if you choose not to listen to me, your older self, (because let’s be honest, younger me and older me are still stubborn as hell), you’ll still be OK. You will figure it out.

You will find ways to nurture yourself and learn to outgrow your old conditioning. You will set boundaries, break generational traumas, and learn to have healthy relationships.

And lastly don’t forget to drink more water.

Hina Tucker is a licensed and board-certified art therapist who encourages clients to explore free self-expression through the creative process. Find out more at

Dear younger Simi

By Simi Shallon,
Psychotherapist & Counsellor 

When I think about you as a teenager and young adult I feel a mixture of joy and sadness. You are the eldest of our 3 sisters and always been expected to be the ‘responsible’ and ‘sensible’ one. You have so much to give. You are happy and so generous, but also naïve.

You give away your time, friendship, loyalties, things, money and help too freely. You’re always praised for being ‘such a nice girl’. You enjoy the praise as it makes you feel accepted, respected, and ‘liked’ so you just keep on giving. But you don’t realise that all this giving will one day wear you down and drain your energy.

You don’t realise some people just keep on taking, wanting, and expecting more but this was not healthy nor sustainable. You don’t realise it’s ok to say ‘no’. You shouldn’t be taken for granted and ‘friendships’ should not come with a price. Don’t constantly give away your power. You want everyone else to be happy, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of making you feel unhappy.

I want to ask you to think about your limits and help you understand what healthy boundaries look like. I want to help you to recognise the guilt trippers, the charming manipulators, the energy vampires and how to walk away from them. I want you to know it is not your duty to ‘save’ or ‘rescue’ people. Your emotional heath is just as important as your physical health.

I also want you to see that your first duty is to yourself because self-care is a real thing and it really does matter. Right now, you think that this is a selfish or a narcissistic attitude but today I understand that it is not selfish at all. Just as the flight attendants tell you that you must put on your oxygen mask first before helping another person with theirs, apply this analogy to all your relationships. I wish you had known this sooner and given more importance to yourself before putting everyone else’s needs before your own.

It is OK to make mistakes (it doesn’t matter how many) and it is OK to fail (champions learn how to win from failure). Pursue your own path, follow your own ambitions, and make your own decisions. You will never be able to please everyone anyway. Remember you are loved and will always be loved.

Looking back, I would do a thousand things differently second time round. But if I could pick a few, it would be to always trust yourself. Deep down, you’ll always know what is best for you, you just need to learn how to trust that little voice and stop giving away your power to the haters and the critics.

Be more forgiving and don’t be so hard on yourself. And stop trying to fix other people’s problems. When people need a shoulder to cry on, this doesn’t mean they need to hear your advice or how bad you had it too, sometimes they just need you to be there with them, even if it’s just sitting with them in silence. Hold space for people that need you at their low points. That’s where the healing begins.

I look back now and where there was once regret, there is a valuable lesson in its place. I am grateful and thankful to all the friends, the frenemies, and the foes – they’ve all been good teachers to me. I now understand that I am exactly where I need to be – right here and right now. All that remains to be done now is to keep looking forward.

Dear me, 5 years ago

By Sherali Patel,
Dental Hygienist and Therapist

You’ve just turned 18 and your whole life is ahead of you.

You’ve got your university choice and you’re happy. You’ve got a ‘plan’ for how the next 5 years of your life is going to go. There’s some studying in the introduction, a job and decent money in the middle, and a good ending with a large emphasis on love and marriage. You’ve also tossed in a little fun with your friends. It’s a perfectly written plan, no?

It’s not what you think.

Allow me to shed some light. Your life plan will change before you even know it’s changing. Your expectations will change as your priorities change. Suddenly the idea that your wedding is the ‘biggest day of your life’ will disappear. (This will be the day you get your first salary instead.) Your guilty pleasures will no longer be scrolling socials all day but making tons of lists to organise your day. What’s important to you right now is okay, and it’s good! However, it will change. Trust your journey; the experiences you have will lead you to where I am today.

Don’t think, just do.

Opportunities can go as quickly as they come – they don’t teach you that in school! One thing I can tell you, that’s not in your textbooks, is to have more confidence in yourself. If you have an idea, just run with it. If you want to start doing something out of your comfort zone, just start. Don’t doubt yourself – you’re the only person standing in your way. You don’t have to conform to what society tells you to do, in the order you’re supposed to do it. Figure out what you want and have confidence in it. What works for you, works for you.

Friends are the family you choose…right?

You may think the friends you have right now are the defining people in your life, and their opinion of you is always of importance. You may even be navigating important decisions right now based around this circle of friends; I don’t blame you. It makes sense since they’re going to be around for the next five years.

This is far from the truth. Your friends may change but your family will always be your support system for everything, and this may be easy to overlook sometimes. You may even think your family are out to get you, and to be honest they will be your harshest critics, but they’ll also sing your biggest praises even more. Trust that your family want what’s best for you.

Savings, or those Jimmy Choo’s?

When you start earning you’re going to want that perfect pair of shoes or this season’s designer bag. It’s all wonderful and lovely until you haven’t got savings for your future home, the property you want to invest in, or that special present for your other half. I’m not telling you to save and never spend, because let’s face it that’s boring, but save smart. Organise you’re spending and your budgeting, manage your expenditure goals so you can not only get those shoes when it’s well deserved, but you have enough to put towards the more important investments.

Believe in yourself.

The biggest days of your life will be centred around your decisions, your choices, and steps you’ve made to better yourself. People may doubt you and not take you seriously sometimes, however they are just reminders of obstacles you overcame. The plan you have right now is good, but it will change. And that’s okay.

P.S -Thanks for getting me to where I am today.

Hello from 2021!

By Punita Gandecha
Founder of Step Into Your Spotlight Ltd

This is you from 2021.

I want to let you know that you don’t have to worry and don’t have to try and control everything. You are safe and there are some memorable times ahead!

You will go on to achieve the great things that you are currently dreaming of – from working in those big skyscrapers in Canary Wharf to travelling the world. You will make that dream come true to go to New York on a business trip and you will see inside the buildings of some of biggest companies in the world. You will even be the one that they turn to for advice on how to improve things.

It won’t be easy to get there, but it will all be worth it. You will have no regrets in ticking these things off the list.
But I want you to know this – you should share more of your feelings along the way. I know it’s not easy being the eldest, being a girl and being from a family that like many others, are trying so hard to make so much of the opportunity in this new land. Being a child of immigrants adds much more complexity to your life and struggles than you will realise. That’s OK – you are not expected to know everything now, but you will figure things out as you go.

Don’t hold it all inside trying to protect everyone around you and forget about yourself. You’re allowed to be both the protector and be protected. Share more things with your family in particular – you are great with friends and with professionals, but you are also allowed to be vulnerable with the people who care the most about you. Find that opening and give yourself permission to make some mistakes without beating yourself up about it sometimes before you even attempt something. Mistakes are what makes you human!

Embrace softness and have fun goals too. Start cooking and baking as early as possible. Don’t worry if you don’t – by the time it comes to 2021 these hobbies will be some of your greatest passions and friends will be asking why you are not pursuing those instead … maybe you will?!

Get into yoga as soon as possible. There is so much wisdom in your body and the sooner you know this the better. But again, don’t worry – you will go to India when you are 35 and it will all make sense. You will realise that what your grandma and mum have been trying to teach you (it might have felt like preaching at the time) had value all along. Give it more of a chance to settle in without cynicism you have now…it will help you in the long run.

Life won’t always be easy – things won’t happen according to the timetable that you have in your mind. But you will learn that this timetable is based on other people and society’s expectations. Who makes up these rules anyway? Make your own and don’t forget to live in the moment while you enjoy breaking them!

The one thing that I recommend you do not change is the friends that you make along the way – every single one of them are absolute gems. There will be ups and downs no doubts but with so many of your core values aligned, these girls will be your rocks throughout your life.

And finally, when 2020 arrives you will realise how precious life really is and how so much of what you have learned through the struggles will be of use to others. I won’t give too much away now!
If the above sounds like a rollercoaster, just go with it! Surrender. Embrace life. And never forget to keep stepping into your spotlight!

Take care,

Punita is a Consultant, Coach and Founder of Step Into Your Spotlight Ltd. She loves working with young women who are seeking to be leaders in their life. She can be reached on

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2021 GRIT Topics


If you could turn back the clock what words of wisdom would you pass on to your younger self? What have been your biggest ‘life lessons’? Would you approach or do anything differently in your personal or professional life knowing what you do now?
Submission deadline: February 2021

As we pass the anniversary of the first lockdown what have you learnt about yourself over the past 12 months? Do you have an inspiring Covid-19-related story about your community?  Have you achieved or accomplished something because you were forced to put ‘normal life’ on pause?  Or perhaps you had to navigate a major life event such as having a baby or scaling down your wedding?
Submission deadline: ASAP

A subject many feel uncomfortable talking about, but we should discuss more – money! Can you help raise awareness of any important finance-related subject from working at home, writing a will or life insurance to getting a mortgage or why you need to manage your finances for the future. WE is also planning a video project with financial advice from experts to help support our community. watch this space …
Submission deadline: ASAP

Please share your views and thoughts on any topic which you feel is not discussed often enough and that you would like to raise awareness of.
Submission deadline: ASAP

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