Thursday 26 February 2015

Talk to the And! - 2015 is the year of &powerment #UseYourAnd

I've no doubt the title of this blogpost has left you somewhat perplexed so let me explain ! Gillette Venus have launched a new campaign to empower women and girls (and basically anyone - it applies equally to men and boys) and invite them to embrace their And, refusing to be limited by labels and stereotypes.

They explain : "Put an end to the one-dimensional labels that limit your potential. Because you are beautiful AND smart. You can be an astronaut AND a soccer player AND a ballerina. Your life is composed of many ANDs – an empowering sum of all of the things you are, and all you want to be. Venus invites you and women everywhere to take a stand against one-dimensional labels. #UseYourAnd."

If you're nodding your head thinking "yeah, girl power !", head on over to look at the campaign video.

Saying the words "girl power" just made me think of The Spice Girls which is actually a great example of the concept - why choose between being the Scary, Sporty, Posh, Baby or Ginger Spice when you could be all five ?  During childhood, there is no such thing as restrictive labels. Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and they'll throw all manner of weird and wonderful answers at you, from famous singer, princess and film star to bus driver, teacher and doctor.

When she was little, Sophie told me she wanted to be a fireman during the week and a dustman at weekends (goodness knows why - she wants to be a holiday rep or bilingual tour guide now, in London or New York or Paris or all three, which suits me better and shows that she still hasn't lost her And!). Pierre will jump from being Mike the Knight to a fairy princess in minutes (you can tell he's got sisters !) without a second's hesitation. So why does it all change when we grow up?

Empowerment spokesperson Claudia Chan has developed lots of tips for girls and women on how to overcome any labels they’ve been given, and embrace their ‘&’. She explains :

"You will have many dreams in your life, but the likelihood of attaining these dreams is based on your perception of your abilities. You need to have the confidence to know that you have what it takes to do it. So it’s extremely beneficial to assess your beliefs about yourself, understand where they came from and identify any lies you’ve accepted from others, or have been telling yourself, so that you can shift them into new, positive truths.

Here are 4 steps to determine if you’ve been stereotypically labeled and what to do if so:

1. Determine If You’ve Been Stereotypically Labeled:

a) Reflect: Take some time to reflect back on your life stages. Can you think of someone, or even you yourself, who may have boxed you into a category or label of some kind? Since this really requires getting into a different headspace, consider doing it lying down, in a relaxed meditation pose, on a walk or in conversation with your partner, friend or life coach.

b) Journal: On a piece of paper, or on your favorite mobile app (I prefer Evernote), write down a list of stereotypical labels that were ascribed to you. Who assigned each to you? How old were you? How did it affect your perceptions about yourself? Which ones empowered you and which limited your perceptions of your skills or opportunities for your future? Do you remember decisions you made because of it? In this process, it’s important not to second-guess yourself. Trust your instincts and be open to what you may discover through the exercise.

2. Understand the Effect of Old Labels

Review the old labels you wrote down and try to trace back any decisions you might have made, consciously or not, that may have limited your potential. For example, were you labeled the “smart” one in the family and when given the opportunity to explore your creativity, you chose to focus more on academics instead of taking art or musical instrument lessons? Identifying the decisions you made and any interests you may not have discovered due to your labels can get you thinking about new ANDs to explore today.

3. Replace Old Labels with New ANDs

Now that you have a clearer understanding of your labels, think back a few years. What are some achievements you’ve made, skills you’ve honed or passions you’ve developed that are contradictory to your old beliefs? Write these items down and try to define them. For example, did you believe you were never a good writer but now do a lot of writing that gets praise? Were you told you were not creative, yet several of your accomplishments required creative skills? Reflect on these new qualities and where you want to focus your energy and self-identity in the near future. Doing this will help you rid old false beliefs and recognize the new ANDs that make you the remarkable, multi-dimensional woman you are today.

4. Start Taking Action on New ANDs: Now that you’ve found new ANDs, take actions that will allow you to explore these ANDs and realize more of your potential in those un-tapped areas! In the above example, you could sign-up for a local art class or watch YouTube videos to begin to learn how to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to. Moving from idea to action makes your new ANDs real, helping you to see your tremendous potential.

I personally think that a great place to start thinking about your labels is your twitter bio - you're limited in the number of characters you can use so you end up resorting to the labels that instantly spring to mind. Mine says : "Mum of 3 bilingual kids, keen cook, teacher of teens & online reviewer of ... well, pretty much everything really ! Books, toys, food, days out - you name it !". I ran out of space but I could have continued with book addict, obsessive geocacher, Most Haunted fan, eternal optimist and big kid ! What about you ?!

Disclosure : I'll be receiving a little Venus care package to celebrate the launch of the campaign.

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