How do you feel your confidence has changed over the past 10 years?

I have always been what some may call outspoken and passionate about topics that mean a lot to me, but I struggled feeling like I belonged to particular social groups where I felt understood or heard.

I thought this was about my personality, or views, so I would often water down, or become quiet on issues I felt I should be speaking up about. I would feel uncomfortable and riddled with guilt.

I have tried to live my life by doing the right thing by others, being supportive, attentive, and loyal-but this has often been to my own detriment.

It took me a long time to realise that self-care, love,and respect was just as, if not more important.

I have developed good reflection skills and have taught myself to accept that my voice is powerful, my experiences are valid, and I do not have to wait for permission to use my voice. Which is definitely something I struggled with previously. Some days I still do, but I am more understanding of my personal traumas and triggers now, which has given me confidence to release a lot of self-blame.

Confidence is not linear, and levels vary daily, but I am learning to trust myself more now than I ever did before.

Confidence for me is more about how I approach and adapt to certain situations, push myself out of my comfort zones and accept that things may not always be as successful as I had hoped, but it’s all learning, so I try to embrace all outcomes with gratitude and empathy.

Why do you think that is?

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I had experienced a lot of traumas, cared for a lot of relatives, raised children, been married and had multiple job roles.

I was very much a keep going and push through type personality. Then I became ill and the built up stress, and no time to heal, I believe caught up with me and my immune system, leaving me with disabilities.

This was a very difficult period of grieving for me and my body, learning how to manage my conditions and often lack of mobility. My self esteem had plummeted, I carried a lot of guilt and shame, especially for not being able to parent the way I would have liked to with my young children.

By the time I was 27 I was medically retired from my career in Local Government, and I felt like a failure.

But I wanted to show my children, and myself, that there were always different paths to take and solutions to be found.

So, I completed an undergraduate degree with the Open University, worked on managing my health, learning how to understand my body and pain fluctuations.

I began volunteering, allowing me to network and socialise again, soaking up as much knowledge as possible.  I then pushed myself into further education, completed a Masters degree with Distinction, which is something I never believed I would be capable of doing.

Along with my personal experiences and skills learnt academically, I started to believe in myself more and having the support and encouragement from my children, meant the world to me.

Due to these experiences, I have been so fortunate to have had some inspiring and positive interactions with people in the last decade, who saw potential in me that I didn’t see myself.

They have all helped me open doors and given me courage to step through them. I think as women get older, camaraderie is so important to gain perspective and feel empowered.

Do you feel invisible in some aspects of your life? How does that show up?

As a woman at the start of midlife, I am noticing how society, including issues around women’s health, will overlook different ages, or have gendered expectations of how a woman should look, act, think and adapt to society whilst ageing.

I think media culture and patriarchal beliefs have a lot to answer for in the way that women sometimes feel they should view themselves, especially when they are often carrying the burden of unhealed traumas with little to no support.

I have felt invisible in many professional and personal settings, especially when advocating for others and left feeling like my voice was not good enough to be heard.

Either too loud or not loud enough. Like I was expecting too much. For example,during a gynaecology appointment with a male doctor who in my opinion was unnecessarily rough and seemed incapable of saying the words vulva or vagina in front of me. When I queried this and explained how he had made me feel I was told I shouldn’t be questioning his professionalism and scoffed at by him and the nurse.

This is why I have ventured into creating my own business, Reflections of a Feminist Ambivert.

I want to raise a platform where using my voice encourages and empowers others to do the same, to share knowledge, experiences and create positive changes on issues of social injustice and gender inequality.

Tell me about a woman who is older than you, inspires you and why? Describe how she makes you feel.

I come from a very matriarchal family. All the older women in my family have been through so much and have taught me resilience. I admire them all. But as corny as it may sound, for me at this stage in my life, I have a greater respect for my mum, Angela.

We had a complex relationship when I was growing up, but she gave me the foundations from a young age to feel like I should never feel less than others due to my gender.

I was aware of some of my mums life experiences, but now I can appreciate the hardships and trauma she had to navigate, with minimal understanding from society and other family members. I never fully appreciated how this had impacted her own health and outlook on life, whilst raising five children. But what I find inspiring now is watching her starting to find her confidence, be open to learning new perspectives, having open conversations around acceptance of herself and her relationships with others. She is also embracing aging positively and it makes me feel confident to embrace aging confidently also.

It takes courage to have an open mind and a big heart, and my mum has always instilled this in me, and I am grateful for that.

What worries you about ageing?

Not having enough time.

There is always so much I want to do and experience, and I do find myself birthday clock watching now. And I feel pressure to try and do as much as I can.

I also worry about my health and pain levels, having already lost some of my younger years to ill health, I hope I can maintain a good balance of a healthy body and mind to embrace ageing.

Also, my right eyelid is annoyingly getting droopy! HAHA.

What excites you about ageing?

Having and sharing more experiences with people.

Caring less what other people think of me and feeling more confident in myself.

Developing my career.

Watching my teenagers start their next chapters in lives.

I think the main thing I am hoping ageing will bring me is peace, security, and contentment-but I am just not sure what that looks like for me yet.

What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

Oh wow, how long have you got?!

I would let my 15 year old self know that things she was subjected to were not her fault.

To be more body confident and stop body shaming herself.

To get out there and sing wherever you can.

That she didn’t need to carry so many burdens on her own and then blame herself when she felt lonely or unloved.

Also, to focus just a little bit school work more!

To be proud of herself.

Question from Anita… What does strength mean to you?

When I was younger strength to me meant, pushing through regardless and proving I was physically strong “for a girl”.

Whilst I still believe there are ways forward during difficult life situations, it is about feeling compassion for yourself and others. From knowing when you need to take a pause and voice that.

Strength to me is about empowerment, acceptance, understanding patience, having hope, asking for help when needed and knowing where to seek guidance from.

I have a tattoo as a reminder to myself of a Japanese proverb, Nana Korobi, ya Oki that basically meansfall down seven times, stand up eight. I interpret this as to never give up hope.

Don’t focus on the fall, focus on standing up and on a greater vision that may not be reality yet.

To find out more about Danielle & read reflections of a feminist ambivert
visit http://Feministambivert.co.uk