On Saturday, my husband just happened to switch the tv on during the dying moments of the women’s Wimbledon final.
‘Ah, Serena Williams is losing!’ he exclaimed.
My youngest perked up! ‘Serena Williams? We’ve been learning about her in school. She plays tennis!’
It was heartbreaking to watch Serena lose but equally the winner, Simona Halep was such a joyous winner, she won my heart over too. Her speech was incredibly humble and humorous, I was enamoured. Meanwhile, my youngest waited on tenterhooks for Serena Williams to light up the screen. Although Halep was the champion, in her eyes, Williams was no less. She watched in awe as both women lifted up their trophies. The camera shot to the board where the names of the previous winners were emblazoned in gold. We counted how many times the Williams sisters had won the Wimbledon tournament. It was a lot! Finally, Shreeya to me and said, ‘I want to win a gold trophy like Serena Williams!’
‘Ok, that’s good,’ I responded, ‘Do you want to start playing tennis?’
‘No,’ she replied, ‘but I want to win a gold trophy at something, not tennis!’
Her words stayed with me. Maybe it’s because Serena had been discussed at school. Maybe it’s because Serena is a female of colour, like Shreeya, but the fact that she saw her pick up her trophy, saw her name written so many times, pride of place on the board of Wimbledon champions, my little girl was inspired to be so good at something that she too would win trophies.
In a similar vein, my brother called me up to check up on how I was. Our conversation moved onto a colleague of his, whom he regards as a big sister. He was so incredibly proud of her because she’d recently been made a director. He’d seen how incredibly hard she’d worked for years, inspiring others, leading by example a consummate professional. She was promoted alongside a few other people – all of whom were men. As she was the only female who was promoted at that time, a few trolls decided to insult her by saying that she was a ‘token’, trying their best to denigrate her achievement.
I listened to my brother’s outrage about the situation and anger towards the people who would make such ridiculous comments – then I stopped him and began to explain something that I hoped he would pass onto his colleague.
The truth is, the haters, the people who are inadequate are their jobs, the talentless are always the loudest and most resentful of those who are successful and do achieve. The higher you go, there where will be more and more people who will be envious of your success. What your friend needs to remember is the number of silent women whom she is inspiring with her success. The number of young female graduates, just stepping out into their career, looking up to your friend and thinking, if she can do it, then so can I.
Even at my age, I am constantly inspired by both men and women who achieve success – because it inspires me to try harder, do better and question – What am I actually capable of?
The point of what I am trying to say today is that not everyone can be a Serena Williams, but in your own way you never know who you are inspiring. You never know who is watching you and your achievements and thinking that they want to be like you or achieve what you have.
Keep working hard. Ignore the loud haters. If they were any good at anything, they wouldn’t have the time to criticise what you are doing. Instead, know that you are helping a silent group of people who will want to follow in your footsteps and grow towards the sun, through the glass ceilings that you have smashed.