When the stakes are down, what do you do? How do you respond? One thing that I’ve learnt over the years – and something I would absolutely go back and tell my 20 year old self – is that we are so much stronger than we know. In the face of adversity, we are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. It is all too easy in life to shy away from something, to shun the uncomfortable situation, to walk away when we think we might make a mistake. Then follows the feeling of inadequacy, the frustrations at not giving something a go. Imagine finding the acknowledgement that it doesn’t have to be like that. Imagine finding a way to step through our fears. What a wonderful world of opportunity we’d then exist in!
Sistr had the honour of speaking to 3 badass women in their respective fields who have shown up, risen up and found methods to become their own biggest cheerleaders.
Marilyn Okoro – Triple Olympian – a British track and field athlete. She finished third in the 800 metres at both the 2007 and 2008 IAAF World Athletics Final. She was on the bronze winning 4 × 400 m relay at the 2007 World Championships in Athletics. COO Global Sports Management Services, Advocate, Speaker, Transition and Wellness Coach.
Marilyn, a celebrated Olympian, made the decision to stop competing on November 31st 2020. Once the final curtain call had been made, Marilyn started out on a mission to revolutionise the culture of sport. Athletes walk away from the world of sport looking for something that will give them the same sense of purpose, the same drive. And yet, the world of Sport just isn’t preparing athletes early enough for their departure. When the race ends, when the final competition has come to an end, what then?
Marilyn’s departure has so far been incredibly liberating as she seeks to educate and mentor other women. Her top tips for backing yourself are both powerful and adaptable to any profession, any situation, any industry.
- Ignore common ‘perceptions’ of how you’re supposed to look and behave. The athletics world is male dominated, Marilyn was a middle distance athlete and yet looked like a sprinter. She was told to change. She didn’t. Her advice is to accept that you are a ‘real’ role model. There are so many misconceptions about how to train and Marilyn’s training was never from a ‘female’ place. She soon got used to being an anomaly.
- Be a visual representation of strength. As a public figure eyes are on you. If there’s someone watching who can see themselves in you and relate to an aspect of you, be it your physical appearance, your upbringing, your approach to training, then that is something so very powerful. Use the power to project strength and positivity onto others.
- Talk yourself up as often and as much as you need. Marilyn stands in front of the mirror on a daily basis repeating affirmations over and over until she believes them. Make yourself love your body to achieve your goals.
- Develop a champion mindset. Know that fear isn’t a reality and be willing to pull it all together. What’s the reality here? Have you trained properly? Have you learnt what you needed to learn? Have you prepared to the best of your ability? Tell yourself that you chose to be where you are.
- Don’t measure life on ‘medals’, measure it on the journey and the legacy. In sport, realistically there is only ever one winner so the odds are stacked against you from the start. So define what success is to you on any given day. Winners don’t always come in first place.
- Have a solid tribe around you. Find the tribe whose opinion matters to you and who are going to shape your life in some way. If it doesn’t serve you then park it. Be intentional as to who you allow into your space.
- Know that you are enough.
Naomi Schiff – a Belgian and Rwandan racer who was born in Belgium but grew up in South Africa. She now lives in Germany and races under the German flag. Naomi’s career highlights include finishing second in the ADAC Zurich 24h Nürburgring Race in 2018 and winning the Clio Cup China Series in 2014. Diversity and Inclusion Ambassador at W Series.
Naomi’s entry into racing wasn’t through the perceived route of a parent pushing their child into a particular field. It was in fact by mistake. Attending a birthday party at a Go-Kart track, Naomi discovered she was good, very good at racing.
Naomi’s drive in life is the recognition that there will be a lot of young girls watching her moves. The voice in her head serves as a reminder that these young girls look up to her. For some, this would translate into pressure, a duty-like feeling to perform. For Naomi, it ignites the fire in her belly; what she does, she does for the aspiring racing drivers, the ambitious young girls who seek out a role model, as Marilyn referred, a ‘visual representation of strength’.
How does Naomi back herself when the stakes are high? When her career isn’t going to plan what tools does she use to talk herself up?
- Charge the fear narrative. Naomi spent time with a sports psychologist when she was younger who told her the symptoms of fear are similar to those of adrenalin. It’s all a mindset so change the narrative. Fear is information and you can’t give it power. Performance is linked to confidence so give yourself confidence by telling yourself it’s not fear, but your adrenaline kicking in and you’ll use this adrenalin to channel your power.
- Promote yourself to yourself. ‘Make’ yourself believe in yourself; there is no other bigger cheerleader than yourself so why not champion yourself.
- Line your ducks up. And by this Naomi means do all the hard work, the preparation, the practise. If you do all this, when the criticism comes from whatever angle, you can hold your hand up high, and say you’ve done everything in your power to prepare for the challenge.
- Find your North Star. What is your reason for success? Define it and live by it. Every. Single. Day.
- Accept the bad moments are character building. Accepting the failure will allow you to see the best in every situation no matter the consequence. Sit down and have a chat with your ‘failure’, look at it, process it, learn from it and move on. You’ll wake up stronger and more conscious of yourself and your purpose.
Dani Wallace – Queen Bee, Founder of Fly Anyway Foundation, Show Up, Wise Up, Rise Up, Public Speaking Coach, Motivational Coach & Mentor, Gratitude Obsessive!
There’s always been a performer in Dani since the age of 14 years old when she travelled the world on stage. And yet Dani explains that people misconstrued extroversion for confidence. Her ‘go-to’ was to seek validation from outside of herself as inside, there was nothing. Dani is a survivor of domestic abuse and homelessness and yet has overcome the odds to build a phenomenal business that is all about building confidence and backing yourself.
How has Dani broken the generational and cultural cycles that have framed her family? How has Dani found the voice to show up, wise up and rise up?
- Look at the future version of you. Who do you want to become? Who do you want to inspire and make an impression on? Look at that person and love who they are and what they embody.
- Don’t let down the past you. Acknowledge the things that you weren’t showing up in yourself, learn from them and then show up in your own Arena.
- Own yourself as a woman. Whether you’re having a day where you feel like you need to masculinise yourself or a day where you draw on your femine side or whether you don’t know or care which way you’re falling, you don’t need to pinpoint where your femininity sits. Just accept yourself as a woman in whatever form or in whatever space your energy sits.
- Own your boundaries within your relationship. Be it with your partner, family, friends, colleagues, know what you are comfortable talking about and own it. Be it talking about money or, sex, missions or, dreams, define your own boundaries and hold no shame or fear in being able to define them to others.
- Acknowledge the power of the ripple effect. Dani has learnt that by opening her mouth, building her business, coaching her clients, everything has a ripple effect. She opens her mouth and it’s powerful. In acknowledging the power behind the voice, it enables others to share their voices and make an impact. The impact can break cycles and the power in that knows no limit.
- Hear both voices in your head. The first voice we all hear is the loudest voice. The inner critic that despite coming across as negative, just wants to keep you safe and alive. That voice is not open to another level of conversation because it doesn’t know or want to acknowledge another level of success. It merely serves to protect you. Dani says have a chat with this voice and reach out to the quieter voice that’s whispering ‘take the risk’. Say “thank you for keeping me safe however, now i’m going to lean into the quieter voice because i’m curious”. Get curious and ask questions. “Is what I want to do safe, is it logical, is it going to serve me?” If the answer is yes then listen to that quieter voice and crack on.
Let’s face it, none of us are born with an immunity to fear or self-doubt. Importantly though, we all have the ability to learn and teach ourselves how to navigate the fear and self doubt. Have faith in your capacity and ability to tackle problems as they come along. In doing so, it will allow you to pursue new challenges that lead to a deeper sense of purpose in your life. You don’t need a detailed plan, just trust in yourself that you’ll figure it out. Don’t dwell in a circle where your potential is restricted, challenge yourself to trust that you have all the powers to deal with challenges, all the resources to face new challenges and as such, expand the possibilities that come your way.