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Five Lessons From Women That Have Shaped my Life

Growing up female has its fair share of trials and tribulations, even in the 21st century. From a young age we are pushed towards domestic settings with dolls and tea sets, whilst our male counterparts explore the more stereotypically ‘boyish’ playsets of cars and action figures. Often from birth, we are set apart from one another without even realising a distinction has been made. Then as we get older, we go through the awkwardness of adolescence where hormones kick in, periods arrive, and acne makes its first appearance. Often, we lose the carefree confidence we once had, and we replace it with overwhelming self-consciousness and a desire to be accepted. It is during this time that we come to require a confident and relatable woman to take comfort and inspiration from. To seek affirmation that we are not alone when our hormones race through stirring up a mess of emotions and our minds seem to dedicate themselves exclusively to feelings of self-doubt. Personally, I took inspiration from a range of women growing up and I thought I would share them with you as we approach International Women’s Day 2020. So, from movie characters to political figures, I present to you my list of five empowering lessons I learned from women.

  1. 1. “I’m sorry I’m not beautiful enough to be in King Kong.”

    Meryl Streep Yes Gif

    These were the words spoken in Italian in the 1970’s by the then unknown, Meryl Streep. She had just auditioned for a producer who, in Italian, called her too “ugly” for his film, not realising she could understand exactly what he said. Today, Streep holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations in film history, a huge achievement clearly invalidating any judgement the producer made on her appearance. As women living in the digital era we are faced with the ever-mounting pressure to look a certain way in order to be deemed worthy of attention and ‘likes’. In a world where we search for validation from a tap on a mobile phone, it is important to remember the words of Meryl Streep. Online opinions are simply a few in a sea of thousands. We should always remember to look for the kinder tide and not let the opinions of others rule our lives.

  2. 2. “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.”

    Living in the UK we are extremely privileged in our right to a free education. This is something denied to many girls across the world and often we fail to see how lucky we are to have been given this head start in life. Malala Yousafzai risked her life (quite literally) against the Taliban in her fight for free education for the girls of Pakistan. She has taught me to be grateful for gift I was given simply by my place of birth. With an educated mind, our words truly are our greatest weapon. Without an education you wouldn’t even be reading this article right now. So, I hope you take a moment to contemplate the advantage you were given in life and how best you can utilise it to support those less fortunate.

  3. 3. “The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of them all.”

    Mulan is a film for the ages. A determined, female character who exemplified the importance of female intelligence and strength long before Frozen had even been conceived as a potential storyboard. This Disney film should be a favourite for all empowered women out there. Its storyline punctures holes in the concept of one of the movie’s most iconic songs (I’ll Make a Man Out of You) to show the flaws of forced hyper-masculinity. This film is a refreshing reminder of how women can achieve anything despite the odds set against them. Because you know, joining the armed forces in lieu of your unwell father, learning how to fight like a male warrior, and then saving the emperor is something we can all relate to… right?!


  4. 4. “You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”

    Legally Blonde

    One of the final lines from the iconic Legally Blonde. Elle Woods taught women everywhere so many life lessons, from the ‘bend and snap’, to a slightly unconventional way to gain admission to Harvard Law School. Among those lessons however, was perhaps the most important: to know your own worth. When her ex-boyfriend, who initially broke up with her believing she could never be taken seriously, finally decided she was in fact worthy of his love after all, Elle Woods politely declined his advances to instead pursue the career she had worked hard for and deserved. It is important to take heed from this lesson and remember that no guy will ever be worth us losing ourselves for: if he truly loves you, he won’t ever make you feel like you need to prove yourself worthy of him.

  5. 5. “Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.”

    The most educated and woke First Lady speaks nothing other than true wisdom. Michelle Obama is living proof that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. Though we frequently see Barack Obama’s public displays of affection to his beloved wife and vice versa, this should not detract from Michelle Obama’s own achievements including her work to further the opportunities available to a new generation of girls. She is a reminder that the stereotypical, unlikeable female workaholic seen in movies is a fraud: with hard work and the confidence to succeed other aspects of your life and personality need not be sacrificed.

Words by Mariam Zara.


Edited by Sarah Goswami.