I love you.

My wish for women is that they learn to love themselves.

It’s harder than it seems. The words, “She loves herself” ring in my ears. They seem dangerous, even if I say them silently. An echo of school age judgement, shadowed by fear. The social retribution is not worth the risk. It’s safer to say what I don’t like about myself, than to be seen loving myself. I’ll fit in better that way.

It was the return of International Women’s Day that got me thinking how these experiences hold us back as a gender. Tiny, toxic thoughts linger and hold us in place. After years of unconscious accommodating it takes great effort to see things differently. Recently I’ve been helping inspirational women rewrite their stories, we’ve been discussing how to own a unique, feminine identity and stand out more powerfully because of it. I believe leaders take responsibility for every relationship, in every situation. And that requires rewriting our internal narrative; the old stories which silently trap us into not being true to our Self.

I’m no longer sure what was true for that spotty 15-year-old, with oddly ginger hair, track braces and thick glasses. I know I disliked myself then but probably not as much as other girls my age. Speaking to other women now about their teenage experiences has changed my view of living through that age. When we were there, we never did any objective assessment – how bad is your self-loathing on a scale of 1 to 10? Is it made better or worse when you’re publicly weighed before gym class? Do you realise you’re the last person in your peer group to get their boobs and period? What affect does that have on your self-esteem? It’s only now I can see the harm of that way of thinking. Comparison. It’s limiting to all of us. It’s taken me about 25 years to acknowledge my fear of being seen.

This is my love letter to women.

To each one who deserves to be happy, I yearn for you to have a heart at peace and to live with it wildly beating energy into your choices, continuously. It’s why I trained as a leadership coach. It’s not OK that women suffer inside themselves, whilst also raising children, leading businesses and making powerful decisions. I can’t leave you up there, on top of your life, on your own, feeling wobbly. I won’t. I am going to support you. To love you. Until you know how I see you. Glorious, strong, compelling, imperfect and vulnerable.

I see you leaving the café, with your tears spilling, silently and uncontrollably. I know, you’re afraid you’ll break. You’re on the brink, with your toddler pushing you over. He’s giving those judging eyes around you more food to feed on. They nibble on your fear that you’re not good enough. This simple task of being out for the day with your children has beaten you, and you want to retreat behind your front door and scream, “For fuck’s sake!”

I love you.

I feel the empty pain of your loneliness smarting, sat next to you on the train, it soaks into me. We’re surrounded by suits. Your pain is locked tightly by your rigid jaw and your feverish pace. You’re searching for answers on your phone which no device can find. I recognise the effort it takes to be in with this world, doing your work, with your womb weighing you down. I know hope sits like a lead pellet broken inside of you. Poison in your polish, is it visible? Do they know what I want? How can they understand what it’s like to fail to conceive? Again?

I love you.

I hear the rage behind your words when you speak on the stage. Your contempt for this system is now tamed, laying mute and cold in a cave. The injustice of being treated differently has trained you how to behave for an audience of a lifetime. Although none of us has influence on the skin or income bracket we’re born with. Yes. You are naturally more brilliant than those who would shroud you. No. You are not the cleaner, the clerk, the coffee lady or the client. You are the lawyer and you have the right to be seen that way.

I love you.

Your experiences are why I love you. Complicated creatures who’ve learnt to survive. We’re all the same. Every human is carrying a million micro cuts on its heart; scars which need protecting. You do not need to hide your story to make others more comfortable. You are not a young girl eager for their approval. Why abandon yourself to assessors who have no idea what it takes?

There’s no logic to why loving our Self is so vulnerable. It’s rationally the easiest way. And yet standing out reveals my fragility. I am on show. Am I willing to be seen and risk humiliation, rejection or betrayal? To tell them I love them. That’s madness. I’ve learnt not to trust people and yet from this vantage point I see now; the price is too high. If half the population continues this behaviour our contribution will remain unfulfilled. To create from true freedom, we need the expulsion of these noxious acquired beliefs.

Choose to be different. Extract yourself from the collusion that you are not worthy. Find the love you need, on your inside. Nurture your talents. Then show others how to adjust to your strength. Be yourself. Stand there, until they listen. You are radical and beautiful.

And I love you this way.

From Rachel. Xx.