“Let go of who you think you should be and embrace who you are.” — Brene Brown
DiscoverHER Project came to me from a place of solitude, reflection, and the strong desire to do more.
I was working full-time; keeping busy, adulting, and adjusting to the 9-5 lifestyle. It wasn’t painful but it wasn’t exciting either. I remember thinking to myself, “is this how it is going to be for the next 40 years of my life?”
I craved purpose, direction, and impact.
Like I had 10 years ago.
Growing up, I was raised under the notion that success means graduating from university, working a corporate job with benefits, owning a house, and starting a family. From ever since I could remember, my parents have sacrificed their happiness and well-being for me and my brother so that we could have a bright future ahead of us. I was subconsciously taught that my worth is linked to my job title and that is how people perceive us.
High school wasn’t rainbows and butterflies. Similar to many, I was bullied, made fun of, and taunted. It started with my last name, and then it would be about what I am wearing or what I did or didn’t say. My insecurities grew day by day and I secretly dreaded going to school. I became so stressed that I developed a severe case of eczema by the end of Grade 8. My four limbs were covered in rashes that simply would not go away. Have you ever been so embarrassed and ashamed of yourself that you couldn’t wear short sleeves in the summer or anywhere else? It was devastating.
It lasted for 3.5 years.
During all that, my mom unknowingly had signed me up to join Air Cadets. My first initial thought as a teenager: WTF MOM. Dorky uniforms, disciplinary drills, you name it. It certainly wasn’t the cool thing to do, and now my entire high school class would know. Great, more immunition. I already despised my weekdays, and now I have to make a commitment to do something that I wasn’t even remotely interested in.
I spent a year and a half with a crappy attitude, thinking it would just go away. Nothing changed. So after much thought, I decided to spend one year giving it my all. If nothing came from that, then I was definitely quitting.
To my disbelief, that one year changed my life and my way of thinking. It gave me a boost of confidence and a sense of community.
It taught me how to lead by example in a male-dominated organization.
It taught me that anything is possible with the right mindset.
It taught me that I was worthy of belonging and living.
I was only 16 and there was a fire inside me.
That quiet girl with the low self-esteem suddenly felt like she could conquer the world someday. My spirits were lifted and it felt empowering. I rose through ranks and led summer camps, squadrons, and more. I won awards and was recognized for my efforts. I was proud of who I became through leadership and community. I felt fulfilled with what I was doing.
When it was time to pick universities a couple years later, I decided to move halfway across the country to gain some clarity and independence as to what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. If you were wondering, no, I did not fulfill my parents’ expectations of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. I graduated with an honours degree is Communications and then a post-graduate certification in Event Management. I joined a sorority and empowered young women to do better and feel better. Throughout those years, I lived my life how a twenty-something year old would have. I didn’t regret a single minute of it because I needed that sense of freedom.
After graduating, I spent my time volunteering with various charities and applied to multiple internships and job opportunities. I filled my professional resume up to the rim, all while neglecting my personal resume. I somehow lost myself and was unsure as to how I could find my way back. In my mid-twenties, there was this pressure that I needed to know or otherwise, I would be considered “a failure”. So, I began reflecting.
So many burning questions. So little time.
Who am I without my resume?
Weeks and months went by, I still had no idea. I faked smiles and went on hustling. I replaced one job with another, in hopes of finding that spark again.
Zero, zilch, zip, nada, nothing
I decided to go back to my roots and to set aside my parents’ expectations of me.
I have always felt the most joy empowering and leading a community.
It has always given me a foundation, a purpose, and a direction.
It is what shaped who I am today.
Paying it forward, I want to build a community where I could gather the next generation of girls to spark conversations about topics they are passionate about; a place for girls to go to, feel safe, and not alone. I want to give girls and women around the world the same opportunities and tools I was given so that they could achieve their passions and maximize their potential. I want to ignite the inner fire in each girl and encourage them to help themselves by helping others.
The greatest lesson I learned is that the flame within us lit the brightest on each of our paths when we were helping others, creating things, and making a difference within our community.
DiscoverHERProject became that flame for me.
The foundation of a young girl is shaped during her adolescence and is perhaps the most pivotal developmental years of her life. Back then, I was that lost little girl who didn’t believe in herself or feel worthy of belonging despite having potential. All I needed was to be surrounded by the right people and focus on what made sense to me.
My wish is for girls to understand the power and potential they have within themselves and to use it for a greater good. Women-culture is shifting and every girl deserves to be rooted in their self-worth; to turn self-doubts and fears into self-love and faith. We are at our best when we build each other up and support each other, no matter the zip code or country we live in. We are all on the same team and we all deserve to have the same freedom.
Join me in supporting the next generation of girls becoming leaders.