Empowerment Life Lessons
When I was a child, I noticed how my mother wasn’t empowered to develop her full potential. Her parents made the choice to invest in their only son for education, even though my mother was older and highly intelligent. Granted, they could probably not have afforded to send all four children to university, but she didn’t get the choice.
She married my father when she was nineteen and became a secretary, as it was called then. For a few years when we were young, she didn’t work and then she returned to the workforce when we finished primary school. My mother, being who she is, performed her job very well. She soon became an executive PA who did a lot for the executives she supported. She managed charity endeavours, she delivered beautifully-written board packs and made sure that all communications were professional.
For most of my life, people have praised me for my vocabulary and usage of interesting words and phrases. I attribute that entirely to my mother. Books and reading were a huge part of our childhood and my mother worked hard helping us to develop strong communication skills. I’ve become a writer in my forties and I find it interesting that the love of words and language has been there my whole life, embedded by my mother.
Sadly, with no tertiary education and having an employment gap, my mother didn’t earn a lot. When my parents got divorced, she struggled to make ends meet. I saw how powerless she was in maintaining her lifestyle and giving us the things we wanted as teenagers. I vowed never to let myself be in that position and I threw myself into academics when I was thirteen. I did very well at school and with my understanding that education was the key to empowerment, I went to university. My father paid for my fees and books mostly and I was able to immerse myself in the student life in another city.
Completing my degree was an enormous milestone for me in terms of having marketable skills. I relished having my own salary which was a huge factor in deciding not to study further. I simply could not delay being completely financially independent. I was set up for a great corporate career in software development. I worked hard, and I made the most of the opportunities that came my way.
I met my husband at university and we dated for a long time before we got married. I’ll be kind and say that he needed a little persuasion. I was married at age 31 and it was an adjustment financially. We both had corporate salaries, we were each paying off homes and we owned our own cars. My husband was very clear on the fact that we now had a joint home and we were putting our resources together. Of course, I was very cautious, and I always wanted to keep my money separate. My husband would talk about ‘our money’ and I would talk about ‘your money’ and ‘my money’.
While pregnant with my first child, we bought a family home. It was time to pool funds and credit ratings so that we could afford the kind of home we could spend twenty years in together. I still insisted on separate bank accounts and I even had a savings account that I referred to as my ‘runaway money’ when talking to friends. I felt that I needed a back door, in case I needed to support myself and my children without him.
A few years ago, as a business owner and managing director, I burnt out in a dramatic fashion. My health collapsed, and I could not work. This created a crisis of many dimensions. Was I worth anything without a salary? Who was I without my job title? How am I going to survive financially? Of course, there was my dependable husband with his assurance that we had solid savings of ‘our money’. My recovery took a few years and, in that time, I struggled to lean on him.
Currently, I’m building my brand and business which takes money and a lot of patience. I’ve realised that depending on my husband was probably one of those life lessons I needed to learn. My self-worth took a great knock when I got sick and I could no longer provide for myself or my family. I was completely disempowered. I’ve worked very hard on finding my value that goes deeper than a salary or a job title.
The next phase of my life entails empowering myself in my new role as a writer, speaker and entrepreneur. I’m very clear that I have value to offer the world and that I need to gear up to be professional. This year has been a great year for that. I’ve registered my business, sorted out tax and accounting systems, established my website, business cards and consistent social media branding. I’ve developed a marketing strategy which drives much of my activities. I boosted my brand with public relations opportunities such as radio and TV interviews. And I arranged for distribution for my book which is available countrywide now.
This year I also focused on networking to connect with people who share my vision and can help me take my message to the world. I have a fabulous coach who is helping me to deliver my second book. I have a clear vision for myself and my business. I’ve empowered myself and believed in myself enough to take my business into the future and I can’t wait to see what next year holds.
Kathy Mann is a writer and speaker, based in Johannesburg South Africa. She’s passionate about building a happy life, on purpose using the tools of positive psychology. Kathy guides people towards living their best life possible through what she has learned in becoming very sick from stress. Women often feel so stretched, trying to be everything to everyone. Kathy’s here to remind you that being true to yourself, connecting with your strengths and talents, is the best way to serve the world.