Advice for someone like me

I was recently asked what advice I would provide for younger women who are like me. Dissecting “women like me” could be turned in an epic graph as I am made of many layers and levels – each with their own barriers to overcome. 

First generation British; eldest daughter – not son; born to two brown migrant parents; one of whom was an abusive predator; the other who was practically a single parent and stay-at-home mum; growing up on welfare; being a visibly Muslim women of colour. 

When it comes to giving advice, I thought about the feedback I received throughout my (short) career on things I can improve. And one thing that has come up time and time again is I don’t show what I’ve been doing. 

I am the type of person that will do what needs to be done, and I never understood the need to do a song and dance about literally doing your job. But I noticed how others around me would. And that meant I consistently looked like I was doing less, even when I wasn’t – and often I was doing more. What struck me also was speaking to people who would describe the work in such positive light – work that I would always consider to be average at best. 

The mix of being a women and expected to just overcome combined with humility being so ingrained into the cultures of many people of colour – we often do not even have the skills to describe or recognise our achievements. 

I realise we are our own worst critics. Not just about what we have done, but when it comes to believing we are capable of so much more. 

And so if I had to give advice to women like me – I would say to recognise this. Do not change your character but recognise that this particular characteristic may not necessarily translate well in interviews and applications, or the work environment. When people give you positive feedback, write it down if you have to. Internalise it. Learn to use it when required. 

You can have humility but also have faith in yourself. 

Our Voice MattersĀ 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”- Dr Seuss

Sometimes we mute ourselves. We worry about saying something that will sound like we’re making a fuss. Our voices as women are quietened and as women of colour silenced. We are reminded we sound bossy. We sound aggressive. We don’t know what we’re talking about. We don’t sound like that passive, attractive women of their dreams anymore.

If something makes you feel uneasy, sends a pulse down to your stomach, does not sit right in your mind – you are not making a fuss. Your voice is important. You are confident. You are brave. You do know.

Because only you will know what your experience has taught you. It should not be ignored. You are not just the other.

So that comment that sounds a little racist or sexist, that joke that wasn’t so funny, that question simply inappropriate – call them out. Our voice matters.

Perhaps they will tell you you’re making a big deal out of nothing. Perhaps they will call you bossy. Perhaps they will call you aggressive. It may hurt. People those who you thought you trusted betray you. Allies broken.

But you’ll feel lighter – having done your bit – trying to make the world a better place for everyone. You’ll surround yourself with people who genuinely care. People who love you. People who empower you. And not those who clip your wings and muzzle your mind. Your voice will have mattered. And for that at least you can be proud.