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Opinion by Sascha Moore - July 20, 2024

When coming of age is a curly beast

As women, we’re conditioned – and categorised, constantly. While it’s no different for men, for us, the effects are arguably often more far-reaching and entrenched. Which is why it’s so confusing when you get rare glimpses of full potential that it somewhat feels either unattainable or fleeting.

For me, which is by no stretch representative, it’s always been the ‘cheerleading’ contest. Who’s the prettiest; the most vivacious; the most popular (a.k.a. the most influential)? Intersect this minefield with who’s the smartest, the most determined? And, God forgive, the hardest worker. The concept of the ‘most deserving’ state of the ‘Golden Child’ is as unfeasible as it is elusive and therefore, most alluring.

I’ve always seen my greatest achievements layered with justification. My greatest value proposition in marketing is that I’m connected with market and understand people – their intent versus their words. This is my strength. However, this has been masked by a curated perception of lifestyle and allure that I felt was a necessary part of the ‘play.’

But what happens when the play becomes old and your opportunity to shine outdates your preconceptions?

Welcome to the coming of age. It’s about addressing the curly beast that’s been otherwise tamed for a few fleeting months or years, but most likely, decades. It’s a time where self-worth isn’t defined by anything other than aptitude and ability that surpasses all around you. And for women in finance, this can be both intoxicating as well as terrifying.

What if we don’t have our youth; our looks; our ‘marketability’ in whatever form that looks like. Instead, we have tenure. We have respect. We have reputation.

The question is: Is that enough?

The purpose of this article is to question what’s ever enough. There are those who are innately ‘hustlers’ and those who are happy to sit on the sidelines. Neither is right nor wrong. Though for the former, the hustler never sleeps. And it’s because of this relentless, nomadic drive that makes us appreciative, though never content.

So, what does this look like, in real terms, today? We need to define the new path of acceleration and this can only be determined by true trail blazers – whether they may be 20, 40, 60 or 90 years old.

COVID has done us the favour of pulling the rug out from under even the most incumbent of operations, industry and practice. Therefore, if you are ‘coming of age,’ despite your technical birthdate, it’s your time to reap the rewards of the years of insecurity, dissatisfaction, or just plain rejection of stale monotony.

And the best part is that it turns out that all of the pretence of previous allure is trumped by ability. By vision. And grit. Those will succeed will only do so if they come from an ‘abundance mentality.’ We will only survive if we prop up like-minded allies and counterparts. Conversely, the death of cumulative success will be a ‘scarcity mentality’ that we’re so conditioned to adopt. Spoiler alert: the deeper the collaboration, the greater the opportunity.

What does this mean in real terms?

If you don’t feel recognised for your worth, you’re perhaps not in the right environment: though more pertinently, it’s unfortunately more likely that you’re self-sabotaging to different degrees by questioning your value, trying to interpret key stakeholder’s motivation, and attempting to justify how it all relates (a.k.a. makes sense) to your world. The cold reality is that it doesn’t. And it won’t. So, stop chasing rainbows.

Conversely, believe in your own ability, as this will surpass stakeholder objectives, motivations, and intent. Because, ultimately, those with the sharpest vision will win. And - FYI - this has nothing to do with age, popularity or looks. It comes down solely to grit, determination, support and collaboration. Oh – and also not giving a flying ‘duck’ what anyone else thinks, because they’ll catch up eventually (or they won’t).

This article originally featured on The Adviser