Last Friday I watched a woman reportedly worth more than Beyonce, cry.
On stage and in front of 1,000 people.
To give this story some context, Sophia started selling vintage clothes on eBay when she was 22 before launching her online retailer, Nasty Gal, in 2006. This year, just 10 years later, Sophia was named the 2nd youngest woman to make the Forbes’ list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women with an estimated net worth of US$280 million. She also wrote a book, #GirlBoss, in 2014 which spent 18 weeks on the New York Times best seller’s list and has developed its own cult following (my copy is highlighted and dog-eared).
Now, back to last Friday…
Less than 24 hours early, in the early hours of Thursday morning, it was announced that Nasty Gal had applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US (it’s also been rumoured that Sophia will stand down as Chairwoman).
Although it’s been 2 years since Sophia was involved in the day-to-day operations of the business, she is still on the Board of the business she founded.
And it was evident, but not surprising, that this development was raw and painful for Sophia. She talked openly about it when delicately asked about it by Business Chicks Global CEO, Emma Issacs.
But you could hear the emotion in her voice — and then the dam broke and she put her head in her hands and sobbed gently while trying to compose herself.
I don’t think any of the 1,000 people in attendance even breathed in that moment; you could have heard a pin drop.
My heart broke for Sophia in that moment, having to deal with what must feel like a terrible, embarrassing and (as the face of the brand) very public failure.
But here is what I realised in that moment (and after speaking with multiple women harbouring almost identical fears and self-doubt at She Went Wild on the weekend):
When you share your stories - whether about your achievements, your biggest fuck-ups or your fears - you give other women permission to do the same.
I don’t know any woman who owns a business who hasn’t cried because of it. Of course, it’s not just reserved for business owners; I certainly remember shedding tears back in my corporate days too.
And so in that moment when Sophia put her head in her hands, the entire room stopped and our hearts ached for her because we could relate. Her story - her tears - gave us permission to be honest about all the times we’ve failed, all the times we’ve sat on the bathroom floor (if we're being honest, it's my preferred spot to do it!) and cried and all the times we’ve felt intense disappointment, sadness, humiliation and even grief about our business, work, sport, relationships or life.
As much as we all love social media, the downside, of course, is that we only share the “highlight” reel with the world - the new PBs, the shoes, the views, the smiles, the food and the times we look and feel good.
Let’s face it, no-one has ever posted a photo of themselves on the bathroom floor, snotty-nosed and tear-stained, after being made redundant, having an argument with your kid or spouse, losing a client, getting injured, not getting the job you had your heart set on or failing to finish a goal race. And because of that, it’s very easy to feel isolated and alone in your stories, your fears and your tears.
Now I’m not suggesting that #snottyselfies becomes a “thing”. But I am encouraging you to share your fears and your experiences because other people can see themselves in your stories and know that they aren’t alone.
But the reverse is also true - you also need to own and share your achievements too.
To own it by saying ‘thank you’ when someone compliments you - whether it’s on your race result, your achievements, your effort, your passion, your shoes or your hair. To own it, to acknowledge and accept it - instead of downplaying or dismissing it by saying “thanks but…” then listing 10 reasons why it wasn’t that important, significant or “good enough” when compared to the achievements of others. Our #10kStrongWomen campaign is, at its core, a project to encourage more women to proudly own their achievements.
By owning your achievements, you give other women permission to do the same.
The more you do that, the more the women around you will feel comfortable and confident to share their achievements, and their fuck-ups, to proudly accept a compliment, to celebrate what they’ve achieved and to ask for help when they need it.
In my book, I talk about how you don’t need more confidence, courage or bravery — instead, the challenge is to tap into the existing and unlimited supply of all the confidence, courage, bravery, determination and inner strength you already have.
And adopting this mindset of owning the good, the bad and the (tear-stained, snotty-nosed) ugly is another way we can all do that.
If the last week in US politics is any indication, it’s up to us - to you - to be the change you want to see in the women, and young girls, in the world.
So what achievement or fuck-up will you own today? 🙂