We have too much too offer, the need is too great and it's far too important ... to hide our light under a lamp, to let our fears control us, to allow our low self-esteem to hold us back and to waste our precious time and energy thinking we're not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough or acceptable enough.
That's the conclusion I came to today after listening for hours to inspirational women describe how they walked through their fears, conquered their feelings of inadequacy, overcame great loss or recovered from emotional lows to set up social enterprises that are impacting human rights, poverty or climate change, saving wildlife, building peace in conflict zones or giving neglected children a lifeline and a future. I've been at an event called Women On Fire in Central London where amazing women from scientists to poets to drummers to singers to social entrepreneurs to environmentalists came together to share their wisdom and celebrate women's power and our connectedness to Earth. I laughed, I danced and was moved to tears by quite a few of the speakers.
As someone with a passion to write about women who are doing amazing things around the world, today really got me thinking, particularly about the whole body image thing. Of course, negative body image is a huge problem and, as I've mentioned a few times, the statistics show body hate and eating disorders are on the rise around the globe and are having devastating consequences on young women and men, stealing their joy and even taking their lives. But today's event showed me the bigger picture. It gave me so many powerful reasons to put my past - the body obsession, compulsive eating, low self-esteem and so on - behind me, in order to move on to much more important things.
I feel it's time that I, and that all of us if we aren't already, start using our gifts and talents in a way that will have a positive impact on other people or the planet. I know many women who are already doing this (I've included a few in this blog) and I met many more today but I know there are others of us out there who are held back by fear. In my case, I have my writing, my languages and my communication, public speaking and leadership skills that all deserve to be put to good use. It would be selfish not to share what I have for the good of others. I'm not quite sure how that'll happen in the long-term but I can begin with what I know - storytelling. I can pitch some of the stories of these amazing female social entrepreneurs and human rights activists to newspapers and magazines as well as putting them on my own website. And to do that, I'll need to put my own fears - of failure, of rejection - and my perfectionism to one side.
Of course, it's not about changing the world over night. As an extremist, that's kind of how I think. But it's been pointed out to me that my self-critical voice is still present at times so I'll note here that I accept my journey to date and that, going forward, it's about balance, doing what I can while practicing moderation, self-care and self-acceptance in all things - or as much as possible.
I find it interesting that I began this blog after attending the Endangered Species women's summit in London, which launched an international campaign to preserve the female body against a barrage of self-hate and body obsession, fed by the media, fashion and cosmetic surgery industries. But then I ended this Lenten period at Women on Fire, which had a different focus. This was about taking action on a different set of problems facing humanity today: conflict and war, global poverty, human and civil rights abuses, child neglect and the degradation of the planet and wildlife habitats. I also have a part to play in this bigger picture and I need all the time, energy, self-belief and self confidence I can muster to play my part effectively. And that includes the time and energy I would otherwise spend worrying about how I look or how thin I am. As I said, we have too much too offer, the need is too great and it's far too important not to get involved.
Of course, I can also play a role in the body image debate, as I hope I have through this blog, and freeing women and men from addictive and compulsive behaviours is an equally worthwhile and vital cause and one I'm passionate about. But if I can free myself from my own prison of negative thinking, body obsession, perfectionism and fear of failure and put my talents to good use, I'll be a much more powerful example and a better role model to those who follow on behind me. Again, while practicing balance and self-acceptance (I have to keep reminding myself it's progress not perfection!).
So today is the last day of Lent and officially the last day of my experiment. But self-acceptance is for life, not just for Lent! I will continue to blog here although this blog will - once I confront my own fear of failure or of making mistakes - more than likely morph into something else in the coming days or weeks, something I hope that will combine the themes of self-acceptance and freedom from negative thinking with the idea of inspiring and mentoring others through the stories of remarkable women from all walks of life. Easter, after all, is a time of resurrection, of new life and new beginnings, so it's only right that I should think about starting something new.
In the meantime, I'll end on a quote I heard at today's event from a poem by thirteenth century Persian poet Jalal ad Din-Rumi: "Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?" The door is wide open. I hope I can walk through it.