I read an interesting article recently in the Globe and Mail. High profile, professional women were interviewed to provide insight into the ongoing struggle for gender parity. Adrienne Clarkson was one of the interviewees, and her advice to younger women was never to believe in other people’s expectations of you; only believe in your expectations of yourself.
Here was my shame-inducing moment (for those of you who have read my previous posts, you might have known that this part was coming). After my call to the bar, but before going back to school to study psychotherapy, a friend and mentor asked me a straightforward question:
“Susanne, what do you want?”
[Blank stare followed by what felt like an eternity of silence]
“I don’t know.”
In order for me to be able to tell her what I wanted, I needed to be able to separate it from what others wanted from me. Almost ten years later, and I’ve only recently been able to answer this question. I’ve also become increasingly comfortable admitting to the difficulty I had trying to answer it. It’s one thing to say that my expectations of myself are all that matter, but it’s a far more complicated reality to live.
I want to be part of a conversation that shifts our focus away from perpetuating the illusion of self-worth. I want to be part of a change that sees younger generations of women being taught the skills to know themselves, the freedom to decide for themselves and the courage to stand up for those choices when they are challenged. I want everything that I engage in to be left better than when I found it, including the legal profession.
I want to be able to manage the fear of being criticized for thinking that I can do all of these things and for having the gall to say it out loud.
If I knew myself then as I know myself now, that’s what I would have said.