This little girl: message to my younger self

The #thislittlegirlisme series of stories is part of a campaign by Inspiring Girls International. Its aim is to raise young girls’ aspirations worldwide by encouraging women to share their childhood ambitions and inspire the next generation. I posted mine on LinkedIn, but in celebration of international girl child day today, I re-posted it on my website. Finally, I also created a section on the CYGNA readings and inspirations page with the stories shared by CYGNA members.

     

Litte girl

This little girl loved puzzles and wanted to be a detective. This little girl loved learning and reading. She would rather spend time in her own little world than play with others, unless it was playing school with her younger brothers. It wasn’t until much later in life that she discovered that she wasn’t weird or anti-social, but simply introverted and shy.
 
This little girl got stellar grades at secondary school, graduating cum laude, and winning one of the school’s prizes. Yet, she didn’t go to university. Nobody in her family had. The big lecture theatres with hundreds of students she saw at University Open Days probably scared her too.

Student years

So, she aimed low and went on to do a professional degree. She was fortunate to find a group of friends who were a bit like her, quiet and not into big rowdy parties with lots of drinking. They had small parties at which they talked till late at night about life. She met her (now) husband, her biggest supporter these past 37 years.

This slow start gave her the courage to do a university degree after all. She became a tutor for 1st-year students in her 2nd year and a research assistant in her 3rd and 4th years, learning she loved both teaching and research. It took her a while to realise that this was something she could do as a real job too. She embarked on a PhD, a journey with many hurdles that almost didn’t end well.

University professor

Thirty years, three countries, and seven universities later she is a well-known professor working at Middlesex University, an amazing university that allowed her to craft her own job leveraging her strengths. She creates collaborative research cultures and helps junior colleagues realise their research potential through mentorship, and a programme of staff development.

She leads a network for female academics (Cygna) with more than 250 members, acts as a research mentor to hundreds of female (and male) academics all over the world, and shares resources and advice on harzing.com, a website that has well over a 100,000 visitors a month. This little girl is me, posing for a school picture in a dress her mother had made.

My message to my younger self

I would like to tell this little girl that even with detours and delays you can still get where you want to be. Most of all though I would like to tell her that being different is good, not bad. That you don’t have to change to conform to what other people think you should be. That being introverted and shy doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. Everyone has their own superpowers. Use them to craft a meaningful career and life and make the world a better place!

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