10 Things For Women To RememberIllustration by Rebecca Clarke
Amy Woodside, founder of OKREAL, offers her own hard-earned lessons for women defining their own path in life.
What do I want from life? What is my next step? Am I doing what I am meant to be doing, and is that enough? These are the questions I started asking myself a few years ago. In an effort to find some answers, I looked at the lives of women whom I admired. What did they do? How on earth did they get there? How did they find what truly fulfilled them, and what did it take to turn that into a reality? Armed with curiosity, a desire to get very honest about what I wanted to be doing with my life, and the ambition to create something that would help others in their own pilgrimage, I started a website called OKREAL in 2014.
I began photographing and interviewing inspiring women who were living their own versions of fulfillment—asking them questions about what motivated them, what freaked them out, and how they got to the bottom of who they were. I believed that if I needed this resource, then others would too. I was right. OKREAL has since developed into a platform for women who are striving to live life deliberately on their own terms, and want authentic advice to help them do so. We host live interviews with aspirational women, weekly mentor circles, do one-on-one coaching, and have a constant stream of online content to support and motivate you to figure out what you want from life and how to get there. OKREAL is about learning from others to help see yourself more clearly. It’s a community of women—virtual and IRL—who you can look to for guidance, for insight, and for comfort in knowing that you’re not in this alone.
The biggest bonus from building OKREAL is that I’ve been able to spend the past two years listening to women. These conversations fill me up: they remind me that women are powerful beyond measure. They also show me what women struggle with, their fears, and how they tackle the tough stuff in life. Something I see a lot in women is a recognition of their power and capability—but a disconnect between this and their sense of self worth. We can all sing along to Beyonce’s “Who Rule The World," but actually putting girl power into practice can be challenging. We all need reminders of our value, and prompts of how capable we really are if we’d just believe it. If you’re carving out your own path in life, whatever that means to you, below is a list of things to remember. I’ve based this on some of the most common obstacles that I hear women struggle with, myself included. Pick and choose at your leisure. You know what you need.
You are born with a compass—your gut. Like anything else, your gut gets better (as in, more accurate) with practice. You have to train it. This means listening to yourself, making decisions to the best of your ability based on instinct, even when you’re not totally sure. Sometimes you will get it wrong and sometimes you will get it right, and both will contribute to your growth. If you’re really stuck, ask yourself—what would you tell your best friend to do?
Lay out all the beliefs you have about yourself. Take a good hard look. What was planted in your head a long time ago and gotten stuck? What is true? What are you using as an excuse which deep-down you know you could do something about? Hanging on to old beliefs becomes comfortable. It means we don’t have to go to that scary place of admitting that we have the power to change. When we admit we’re able to change, we become responsible for our lives, which means we’re the ones in control. I dare you to get out of your own way.
Stop worrying so much about what other people think of you. They are not thinking about you. Or they are thinking about you 60% less than you imagine. This is because (like you) they are busy worrying about what other people think of them. This goes for comparing yourself, too. That person who looks like they have everything figured out is dealing with their own set of issues that you just can’t see from the outside (aka their Instagram).
Sometimes things don't work out even when you do everything right and are being the best version of yourself. Some things are bigger than you and you will not understand them. We are not meant to get everything right, and we are not meant to understand everything. Learning to let go is just as important (and often harder) than learning how to persevere.
Stop judging other women for their choices: the way they live their lives, how they mother their kids, their choice to not have kids, to wear short skirts or ugly sweaters, to post selfies or to be loud, to have their own version of womanhood that is not the same as yours. The way other people live their lives is none of your business. Bitching about other women does not make you bigger than them, it makes you small. You have far more important things to spend your energy on.
Setting boundaries is a process of figuring out what you’re willing to accept, actually sticking by it, and constantly raising the bar for yourself. Start asking yourself: What am I willing to accept? Establishing boundaries comes with understanding the gigantic-but-very-hard-to-distinguish-difference between having high standards for yourself and striving for perfection. Call me if you figure it out.
It is OK to care a lot. It is OK to feel all the feels. It is OK to not be so tough all the time. Please stop being so hard on yourself. Be strong enough to show yourself some compassion.
Not everyone is going to like you. No matter how nice, well-intentioned, or agreeable you are. Do not kid yourself into thinking that the more you give of yourself, the more you mitigate the possibility of people not liking you. Your purpose in life is not to get everyone on your side, or to be responsible for everyone around you. Do not mix up serving people with saving people.
Your career is important but it is not everything. It is one part of the whole of you. There is so much more to who you are than your title, how much money you make, or what under 30 list you make it (or don’t make it) on.
Do not be afraid of wanting a lot for yourself. Admit to yourself what you want. Then say it out loud. Say it again. Keep saying it until it doesn’t feel embarrassing. Keep saying it until it rolls off the tongue. Keep saying it until you’ve made it happen.