Choose to Challenge
When I was born, my parents wanted to give me a good, strong name. So they named me Austen. When I send an email, people address me with male pronouns. When I showed up at my Professor’s office hours in college, they were always surprised to meet a petite, 4’10” woman.Whether my parents knew it or not, their decision to give me a traditionally male name gave mea small leg up in a world that doesn’t always lend an ear to women.
My dad had three daughters, and he raised us just like he would have raised sons. We grew up in a little 2 bedroom home on 50 acres in the mountains of Colorado and our days were full of dirt biking, hiking, climbing trees, shooting, and taking care of chickens, pigs, dogs, cats, and turtles. We never heard the phrase “No, that’s for boys”, and so I grew up blissfully unaware that in some situations, my gender would put me at a disadvantage or worse.
As I grew up and learned more about gender disparities that still exist in our culture today I asked my dad why he didn’t warn me. His answer was simple. “The only obstacles you have, are the ones that you perceive”.
I think there’s profound wisdom in this mentality that’s rooted in true self-confidence and self-worth. I’ve never viewed myself as incapable or less deserving. I never internalized the challenges that women face. And I truly believe that truth has helped me succeed.
But please don’t take me as a fool. I am not discrediting any struggle we as women face, and I’m not saying that to be naive is better or smarter. I’m simply offering the thought that we can acknowledge our obstacles without making them part of our identity. This is a choice.
The theme of this International Women’s Month is “Choose to Challenge”. So, I’m calling on you to challenge the obstacles you may face without giving them the power to hold you back. Acknowledge the hills you’re about to climb without doubting your ability to climb them. The world is at your fingertips, so go do whatever the hell you want.
Written by Public Label’s Social Media Strategy Manager, Austen Overman