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 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.
GRIT is back! A big thank you to our contributors for sharing what becoming brave means to them. We hope you enjoy reading their thought-provoking stories about surviving a life-changing event, living with infertility, managing menopause, changing career or starting a new business.
Our New Year issue is a topic which sadly affects many of us but is rarely discussed – coping with loss. Have you lost a loved one through bereavement, a relationship through divorce, suffered an unexpected redundancy or become a recent empty nester? Please share your story and advice on how you coped and learned to move on so others can benefit from your experience. Please send your article on ‘Missing You’ (400-700 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org before 13th December 2019.
WE look forward to hearing from you.
When I was 10 years old my life took a huge, unexpected life-changing turn. I woke confused to the sound of my grandmother’s voice. Why was she here? Was she on the plane with us? “Your Mum, Dad and brother have passed away,” she said. “They died in a plane crash. You are in hospital and you look very different.” I didn’t understand. The last thing I remember was fighting with my brother on the plane for the window seat.
I was flown back to the UK for surgery and greeted by crying aunts, uncles and cousins all telling me the same news as my grandmother. After 6 weeks of being heavily sedated and having numerous skin grafts for the burns I had sustained in the accident, my consultant informed me they were removing the bandages from my eyes. My team were surprised as I didn’t show any signs of being worried. All I thought was that I could finally see what I looked like. What was the big deal about looking different? I felt the same.
However, when I looked in the mirror the person looking back at me wasn’t me. Surely this was a joke? It felt like someone had drawn a face on top of mine. As the person in the mirror blinked and moved her mouth, I realised it was me.
In hospital everyone treated me the same, they didn’t discriminate based on how I looked. However as soon I left hospital the bullying, name-calling and real life began. I looked different and now I felt different too. Accepting who I was and what I looked like was a huge struggle. I had no self-esteem or self-worth. I spent years doubting myself or whether I mattered. How could anyone love me based on how I looked?
I suffered years of torment and depression because I didn’t like who I was. The pressure from society of who I should be, and my cultural conditioning limited my mindset which led me to hate myself. I felt useless and a failure because I couldn’t get a job or a relationship. However, amongst this negativity was an inner strength that I didn’t even realise I had.
I was in the middle of studying for my degree in Applied Health Science when my life was about to change in a big way again. I was diagnosed with kidney failure. This time surviving took on a whole new meaning. I was placed on dialysis for three years while I waited and hoped for a kidney. During this time, I managed to complete my degree and was amid renovating my house when I received a call from the hospital to say they had a kidney for me. I was prepped for surgery but felt so ill that I couldn’t face another day of severe pain, and the 9 months of hospital stay ahead. It felt like my struggle was never going to end and I wanted to give up.
It was during one lonely night on the ward, that a thought, or more like a message came to me, ‘Whatever you cannot control, you need to surrender.’ I was never particularly religious or a true believer in a higher good, but this resonated with me as an image of Krishna appeared. I thought I was hallucinating but the words were so clear.
Those words helped me profoundly during my healing and is how my journey of self-love began. Today I have a completely different mindset and I have become very spiritual in my approach to life. I now believe these events happened to me for a reason – so I could share my story of hope, resilience, faith, liberation and so much more. I am here to break patterns and attitudes that no longer serve us. I’m here to help people live a life that’s more authentic, inspiring and rich in experience.
I am now a Motivational Speaker, model for the fashion and beauty industry, Reiki Grandmaster, Crystal Healer, Confidence and Influential Coach and a Pilates Rehabilitation Specialist. But above all I am a Humanitarian. This is what drives me to be a better person.
My journey of what I call self-discovery started at the age of 43 when I was perimenopausal. At the time I was feeling very down, unhappy and unworthy. I was exhausted, suffered from heart palpitations and felt very anxious. I continued to feel this way for about three months, getting more desperate each month.
I came to a point when I just felt like life was not worth living and I would get down on my knees and pray for help. I visited my doctor but after taking beta blockers for a few days I realised I did not want to be on medication. I was concerned the next time I visited they would prescribe anti-depressants.
I recalled reading a self-help book years before which talked about menopause being the time of life that women look within. If you had not lived your life on your own terms, then now was the time to begin. I began to do my own research and came across a couple of self-development workshops, which resonated with me. I immersed myself in reading as many self-help books as I could; my favourite authors were Dr Susan Jeffers, Dr Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay and Dr Deepak Chopra .
I learnt how my thoughts affected the way I felt and how I could change them to feel happy. I learnt about fears and how to overcome them and found tools which appealed to me as they were based on science, which I started to put into practice. I learnt about the conscious and sub-conscious mind, the law of attraction, the importance of listening to our intuition and practicing meditation.
I started to feel different. I became more confident and more assertive. I was happy. What I realised is that most of my life I had lived in fear of judgement; fear of not being good enough, comparing myself with others, not having high self-esteem or accepting myself for who I was. I was basically living a life to please others.
I think I just existed, on the treadmill of life, going through the motions of doing what needed to be done. This is not to say that I did not have holidays, and days out, but on the inside I felt afraid and lacked confidence.
As I started to feel more alive and excited about life, I wanted to share the tools that I had learnt with others. I became so motivated to help others who may be feeling like I did, that I qualified as a life coach, trained to run workshops, did courses on Neuro linguistic programming and became a licensed trainer.
I have now been running Zest for Life and Dr Susan Jeffers – Feel the fear and do it anyway – workshops for the past 15 years as well as many talks in the UK and abroad. Last year I published my book Freedom to Be Me – my story of how I became brave by coming out of my comfort zone.
To find out more visit www.azminajiwa.com/
“We’ve received your pregnancy test results; unfortunately, it’s negative, we are all very sorry.” This is a phrase I have heard repeatedly. It’s a call I dread. One that tears open my wounded heart to bleed every time.
The reason for this ache is infertility – the dark secret that our society tends to hide. It’s not that we are only ashamed of it; it’s also because we do not know how to handle it. So, what exactly have the past 7 years of ‘trying to conceive’ involved?
Other than my life being taken over by the ‘baby-making’ project, it has involved hundreds of medical tests, nutritional advice, supplements, hypnotherapy, theta healing, acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, meditation, spirit babies, energy work, a laparoscopy, dye test, immunology testing, a hysteroscopy, an endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA) test, multiple IVFs, followed by two donor egg cycles. (All the while, hoping and praying each month that I’m pregnant.)
Initially, I kept this journey to myself, only discussing it with a few individuals. It is so personal that, unless you are in a similar position, there is simply no way you can begin to understand. Then last year, circumstances prompted me to share my story. We had just been through a gruelling 9 months of IVF with no success, and gossip was rife. Before anyone else made my story the headline of their storytelling, I thought I’d better take the lead role. I started writing, sharing aspects of my journey on my blog.
A year later, I have no baby in hand but a couple of other treatments under my belt. Yet, I have never been pregnant. Not once in all these years. Since sharing my story, many people have commented on how ‘brave’ I am. Brave, because our society and culture, widely considers infertility a taboo. We prioritise and celebrate having offspring, and everything related to children. But living with infertility is brave in itself.
Having just received the news about my non-pregnancy, I am currently in a state of pure anger. I feel robbed and violated. Anger because I cannot believe just how unlucky we (my husband and I) are. Anger because it is not fair. Anger because scientifically, they have solved every ‘problem’ and, spiritually, I have done the work. Anger because there is no explanation for it not working. Anger because I have no one to blame.
Over the years, we had to learn to accept that we would not get pregnant naturally. Then, after several failed IVF attempts, we came to accept that we would not be able to conceive using my own eggs. Now, after two failed attempts at using donor eggs, how do we bring ourselves to accept that perhaps this may not work too?
Bravery comes in various forms. My body is brave – it has repeatedly taken a physical beating and bruising with hormones and injections – but has survived and thrived. My mind is brave – after all these years, it is firm, has a voice and pulls me through each time. My spirit is brave – it has not been broken and is still willing to pursue and achieve what we desire the most.
Being brave also means re-adjusting to a major shift in life expectations. To continue being a dutiful daughter, daughter-in-law, wife and sister, and getting on with our responsibilities within society and family life. It means attending birthday parties and family gatherings, whilst supporting others in their happiness and success at falling pregnant, even though you can no longer share in their happiness as it’s a stark reminder of what we desperately want, but don’t have. Bravery means working hard and making sure that your business prospers to secure the future of the children within the family, even though those children may not be your own. Bravery means to carry on.
I know, there may come a day when we reach the end of our pursuit and accept defeat. On this day, we will have to be braver than ever before. But I also know that I’ll have my husband beside me, along with my mind, body and spirit to lead the way, and together we will be the bravest of them all.
Ever since I was very young I always wanted to run my own business. However, fear of the unknown, the risk of starting something alone and the financial implications were always daunting.
I worked in Marketing for 11 years with several pharmaceutical and aesthetic companies and reached a solid and stable place in my career. This sounds great on paper, but I found the juggle of travelling abroad, working long hours, limited flexibility, plus the stress of being a full-time working mum of 2 little kids extremely hard (hats off to every woman who does this well, I salute and admire you!)
Although I was in a great place in my career, the desire to be my own boss and have the flexibility to work when I wanted, how I wanted was always there. So, I finally decided to just go for it. To be frank, once I had made the decision in my head, I felt really scared! I had a full-time job and financial stability – leaving that all behind to step into the unknown, on my own, was frightening!
I needed to find something to help me feel brave, so I started to put together a checklist of things I needed to do, or be aware of, before taking the plunge. Having a marketing background helped with this.
- Can I find a niche/gap/need with enough substance and growth opportunity?
- Have I completed my numbers to estimate profit/loss and start-up costs?
- Am I financially stable enough, and prepared, for the pressure of no regular income while my business gets off the ground?
- Will I really get more flexibility than if I stay in my career?
- What do I need to know to set up and progress my business?
- Who are my competitors?
- Do I understand how to build my brand and make it stand out?
- Am I confident in what I’ll be selling/promoting/doing?
- Am I passionate about my business venture?
Identifying the type of business I wanted to do was crucial. I knew there was a need for parents looking for entertainment packs when travelling abroad or during holidays to keep children busy and away from the “screen”. The idea came to me while travelling with my own kids, as I frantically tried to pull together toys and games before our holiday and ended up buying expensive and unsubstantial stuff at the airport. I reasoned that having pre-packed entertainment packs containing trialled and tested high-quality activities could help take away stress and give parent’s peace of mind. I had found my niche and SnA Life was born!
It has taken a lot of time planning, negotiating with suppliers, and finding the right, high-quality products but I now sell my SnA children’s entertainment packs on Amazon. I have also set up a website, Facebook and Instagram account. I worked hard on my customer service and today I am proud to have gained 5-star reviews on Amazon and Facebook, which has really helped my business grow. Now I’m already thinking about my next product.
My advice to anyone considering starting their own business is that sometimes it may take a few business ventures in order to find what ticks, and this can be financially straining, so be prepared for that. However, if you plan and research thoroughly, know your numbers, and become brave, bold and confident you can achieve your business dream, whatever that might be.
For more information visit www.snalife.co.uk
I didn’t think I have ever done anything anyone would consider ‘brave’. You see, I’ve always played it safe in life and did what I was told; listen to your elders, don’t ask too many questions, study hard, get a job, etc. My traditional Indian upbringing meant I readily complied. However, with that came the trappings of living a life of expectation (expectation of others and not so much my own); the house, the cars, the holidays; the prestige that came with ‘having it all.’
I had always been a high achiever. I would show off to my friends that I had more letters after my name than in my full name (now I just say it in jest). I had always been keen to tell friends and family where I worked in the City. After marrying, buying a home and having kids life was different, and yet still the same. I was always very happy yet felt a level of discontent.
Changing job titles, changing companies, exploring different hobbies all kept me busy; at times happy, but never fulfilled. Friends and family would always say how fortunate I was (hard work rather than fortune I’d say). I was fitting in and I had a sense of belonging. Simon Sinek says, “The most basic human desire is to feel like you belong. Fitting in is important.” I had everything, so why did I still feel as if something was missing?
You may be from a culture that has certain traditions in upbringing. You may believe that aspiring to achieve wealth is being a success. You may have considered yourself fortunate to have been included in the ‘rat-race’. You may be fulfilling the ideals of others. You may have plenty of ‘things’ in life. But have you ever stopped to understand what your purpose is in life? To really understand your purpose is not always easy, especially when you are just busy with life. Or maybe you just have a ‘gut-feeling’ that there is more to life?
Call it luck, serendipity, law of attraction or the universe working its ‘magic’, but I was fortunate enough to meet a role model a few years ago who coached me to help me define who I am today and discover my purpose and allowed me to take a very different direction in life.
I went against expectations, left my job and became a life coach. I guess you could call giving up a safe well-paid job with bonuses and healthcare, evenings with my family for a life of instability as a business owner a form of ‘bravery’. Many people questioned what I was doing and why I had given up such a ‘safe’ life?
There are some scary days; days where I think should just go and get a ’job’; days where I worry if I will still be able to provide for my family? I’m still on my journey but I’d like to think that my ‘bravery’ has changed my life for the better and for those around me. My bravery has opened me up to so many different experiences and people. My bravery has allowed me to transform the lives of others, and that keeps me going with what I’m doing. I think Dolly Parton said well, “You’ll never do a whole lot unless you’re brave enough to try.”
Please do reach out to me to have chat to see how I, as a life coach, can help you take some brave steps.
For further information visit www.TheClearCoach.com
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2020 GRIT Topics
NEW YEAR SPECIAL – MISSING YOU
How has your life been impacted by loss? Have you lost a loved one through bereavement, a relationship through divorce, suffered an unexpected redundancy or become a recent empty nester? We want to hear your advice and thoughts on how you coped and learned to move on.
Submission deadline: 13th December 2019
SPRING 2020 – HEALTH MATTERS
Has your life been touched by a major illness such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or mental health? Please share your story to help raise awareness of any medical condition or health-related advice so others can benefit from your experience.
Submission deadline: February 24th 2020
SUMMER 2020 – LETTER TO MY YOUNGER SELF
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: May 23rd 2020
AUTUMN 2020 – NO-ONE EVER TALKS ABOUT…
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 26th October 2020
WINTER 2020 – EDITOR’S PICK
A review of our highlights over the past 12 months featuring our most popular 2020 contributors.
WE needs you
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