While I was on vacation, I read a book that Sam had originally lent to my mom. I had been hearing a lot about Lean In and figured it was time I read the book that started it all. Or at least the longer version, called Lean In for Graduates. It was the first book that wasn’t for school or offering acting advice that I still felt I needed to take notes.
Until a few years ago, I had never really thought of feminism as something we still needed, especially not for myself and the women around me. I don’t think I had ever consciously thought that I was missing out or getting less because I was female. You see, I grew up surrounded by really strong women and aside from a gender stereotype that saved us girls from having to work outside in the dirt and garbage at the family business, I don’t think we were ever prevented from doing anything, or treated as less. We were encouraged to study hard, dream big and do whatever would make us happy. In the office of that business, we had a sign that read “Do you want to talk to the man in charge, or to the woman who knows what’s going on?” Even though my grandfather was the boss, we knew he couldn’t do it without my grandmother, and so did he.
It wasn’t until I was reading Lean In that I started to see all of the things that we do to ourselves to prevent us from reaching the top. Emma Watson’s He For She movement has been raising a lot of awareness on the fight for Gender Equality and how far we have left to go, but I hadn’t realized how much I stand in my own way. I often feel like an imposter, I put my hand down when the question period is supposed to be over and if there are people who aren’t able to sit at the table, I will most likely be one of them. I can’t go through everything Sheryl Sandberg mentions in the book, because I think everyone should read it, but almost every example she gave, I thought “I do that” and I had never even noticed before.
Luckily, the book didn’t just make me realize that I have been holding myself back, it also inspired me sooo much, so I wanted to reach for the stars and keep going. I wanted to want to run a Fortune 500 and be president and be a perfect example of leaning in. The book isn’t saying that every girl should aspire to those things though, it just suggests that we shouldn’t be afraid of making those kinds of goals, and then making them come true. I still want to be an actress and a writer, so being a CEO wouldn’t make me happy. But, playing a strong and powerful female president could be fun. Writing female characters who aren’t restricted by gender norms and stereotypes opens a world of possibilities. So, I am tailoring the inspiration to fit my dream, and the book is definitely on my mind now when I come up with stories or read a script.
The book itself was absolutely amazing, and hasn’t left me since I started reading it. Not only is Sheryl Sandberg one of my new heroes, but I have been watching commencement speeches and TED talks and anything I can find to keep the momentum going. One recommendation in the book is to “Do one thing every day that makes you slightly nervous.” The day after I finished the book, I started trying to do that, and keeping note of those things in my journal at the end of the day. Sometimes I felt silly with what I came up with, but they were things that made me nervous that I pushed myself to do. The other day I was about to go to bed and hadn’t done anything yet, so I signed up for a class that sort of scares me. Yesterday instead of just lending my cousin my car, I went to Ottawa with her and a bunch of people I didn’t know to interview a politician for the Science and Policy Exchange. I only started this about 2 weeks ago, and already I have stood up for myself more and said yes to experiences I probably never would have tried.
My biggest fear when I finished the book was that the feeling I had, of being inspired and wanting to conquer the world, that it would pass when I got home and was faced with the real world again. So far, I am no less motivated or encouraged, and I am so excited to see where I can be after I keep this up for a month, a year or even a decade.
To sum it all up, the book is amazing, and you should all go out and read it. There were parts that made me laugh, parts that made me cry, but most of it made me think and dream and finally pushed me to seriously work on cultivating the self-confidence I lost when I was growing up. I might fake it until I make it on that one, but at least I now feel confident that I will truly make it.