To celebrate International Women’s Day, I invite you to think about what being empowered means to you. I’ve shared some heartfelt words on what it means to me…
Recently I’ve been feeling moments of self-doubt about my worth, value, and abilities and somewhat feeling overwhelmed or lost and that’s mainly been from spending too much time online (mainly social media!) and reading the wrong things for me. They even came up with a word for it, doomscrolling!
Doomscrolling: the act of consuming a large quantity of negative online news at once. Mental health experts have stated that the practice can be detrimental to mental health.
It became a phenomenon during lockdown where we’ve been constantly glued to the news or consuming social media more than ever. Though each have their own purpose, it’s become one or more of these actions for me: Time waster / Energy sucker / Mood downer / Worry enhancer / Comparison ‘overloader’. Yup, not a good place to be mentally whilst cooped up at home and trying to run my business.
I then was planning some content ideas for March and realised it was International Women’s Day, 8th March.
It really got me thinking about female empowerment. Empowerment is one of my core values both personal and in business but somehow I was struggling to find it recently. This third lockdown I’d lost touch with myself.
This is why I love international awareness days like this. Whilst doing some research I thought I’d go back to basics and remind myself what empowered means. This is what it said:
Empowered: having the knowledge, confidence, means, or ability to do things or make decisions for oneself.
A light bulb moment went off in my head. I’ve been making big decisions all my life and it’s led me to where I am today. I’d simply forgotten I
was, am an empowered woman.
To remind myself further, I made a list of
10 things I had decided to do for myself this past 10 years:
1. Chose to study a subject that I love
At 17 I defied parental expectations and Asian stereotypes and committed to studying an arts degree, BA Hons Photography at Solent University. I was the only Asian woman of colour in my class.
2. Chose to say I love you first to my partner in life
At 18 I knew I found a keeper and didn’t wait around for him to ask me out or wait to be ‘wooed’ by a man contrary to Hollywood & Bollywood movies. I simply made the first move and damn proud of it.
3. Chose to pursue a career that was my own and be financially independent
At 21 I focused on my goal that was working in the creative arts industry and worked my way up as a Graphic Designer and Marketing Officer. I knew I wanted to be financially independent and for no one to dictate how I spend my hard-earned money.
4. Chose to start my own business & pitch for investment
At 22 I knew I wanted to pursue my passion for photography and so set up my own photography business after putting myself forward for 2 rounds of investment from Solent University and Solent LEP. I felt ready. Nisha Haq Photography was born.
5. Chose to enter a national award
At 23, I wanted to challenge myself further though timidly submitted my entry to IPSE Freelancer Awards on the last day of submission. Getting through the first round of applications, then the judging panel and then reaching the awards in London to winning Young Freelancer of the Year 2017 with prize money of £3,000; I finally felt I could do this. I always felt that to have ‘business investment’ I had to be a pinstriped suit-wearing middle-class man. Now having received £10,000 in 2 years to invest in my business, I’m challenging what it means to be a woman in business.
6. Chose to quit employed life
At 24, a month later after winning the national award, I decided that employed life was no longer the life meant for me. I dreamed of being my own boss and so I did. Who says you have to work your way up in your own company for 20+ years then you might get a lucky break. Make that ‘luck’ happen for you.
7. Chose to accept an Honorary Degree and deliver a speech to 2,000+ people
At 25, I was awarded an Honorary Master of Arts from Solent University, the place I graduated from only 4 years before. I’m the youngest recipient at my university to receive an honorary degree and only a handful of Asian women to be awarded this. It’s a huge honour to be recognised in this way and represent people who look like me or relate to my background that you can acheive your goals.
8. Chose to not accept defeat
At 26, the world plummeted into lockdown with the Coronavirus, many of us having never experienced a pandemic, how was I to survive with my wedding & photography business? I decided to fight and work hard to keep my business viable by communicating with wedding couples, helping them with their needs and providing a great service. I didn’t give up and ensured I was sensible with my money, savings and still have a good salary to keep me going.
9. Chose to invest in a house
The same year, my partner and I were looking to put down roots. Something I’d always wanted but felt I couldn’t achieve as a millennial young woman. All these reports of how we couldn’t get on the property ladder did feel somewhat disheartening. After years of saving and working hard, we had a deposit and invested in a £300k house, the biggest investment I’ve ever made. Despite almost losing it all when the pandemic hit, we powered through and made our dreams come true when the sale finally went through in the first national lockdown.
10. Chose to become a multiple business owner and expand my horizons
At 27, I decided to not let lockdown deter my dreams of setting up my own creative studio and helping fellow businesses with their branding & confidence, something I’d had envisioned since working as a graphic designer. I had always thought I needed to be 40+ or something, then I asked, why? I motivated myself to launch a zesty new business, Iggy & Lime in the midst of the 2nd national lockdown and just say ‘F*** it, I’m just going to do it’. So I did.
And I keep choosing to listen to my gut & choosing to go for it.
A lot of these achievements would have been looked down on or simply not possible only a generation before me purely from the pressures, expectations & stereotypes of women and women of colour.
We’ve still got a long way to go for complete equality, removing bias especially in the workplace, breaking down stereotypes & limiting beliefs and creating an inclusive world.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is #choosetochallenge and I choose to challenge these norms & expectations of women. How about you?
Today, start writing a list of all the things you feel empowered by, however big or small… You’d be surprised on how much you’ve actually accomplished to help get you where you are today. We all get wobbly moments in our life but just remember…
You are an empowered woman.
A big thank you to everyone who has supported my business all my amazing clients, collaborators, mentors, investors, peers and loved ones… you’ve all helped me become the woman I am today and I’m so grateful for all your love & belief in me.