I’ve been running woman.com.au since January 2013 and although I have big hairy audacious goals for it, I never imagined the little blog I started would gain so much ground and explode the way it has in such a short time. I have been blessed with an incredible community of ambassadors and editorial team who help create the stories, spread the word and lend a hand where it’s needed. They are the face of woman.com.au, and as an introvert, I’ve been secretly happy to work behind-the-scenes, intentionally avoiding publicity that would pull me into the spotlight.
“It’s not about me. It’s about women with great stories to tell . I want to put the spotlight on them,” I said to our editor Stephanie Sta Maria during an editorial meeting at a local cafe in Hawthorn, Victoria. She wanted me to start opening up to our readers and our community.
“I don’t want the spotlight on me.” I protested.
Which is kind of odd because I’m a performer. In my kindergarten yearbook (yes we had one), I was named “The Dancer”. I later became a gymnast until the age of 16 when I officially “retired”. I also sang in a youth choir and, when my family migrated to Australia when I was a teenager, I continued to pursue my love of dance which brought me to the world of ballroom dancing seven years ago. In 2010, I won a title at the Australian Dancesport Championships in my category – an Australian champion!
Donning beautiful sequined gowns, fake tan, false eyelashes as long as my arm, tons of glitter and bling to light up the MCG at night, I would perform to a crowd with a dance partner. Ballroom dancing is competitive requiring skill, style and stamina. The idea is to stand out among a sea of beautiful dancers while showing an equal dose of characterisation, musicality, athleticism and technique. It’s about owning the dance floor, looking like a winner and taking the spotlight unapologetically.
Despite the nerves, I felt comfortable in that spotlight. In fact, I thrived in it. So I am a little bewildered why when it comes to my business, I hide in the background. I’ve let opportunities go because I keep reminding myself that it’s not about me.
“I write stories about other people, not mine,” I reassure myself constantly.
But that’s not entirely true because I’ve been blogging about my journey to finding Mr Right since 2003 as Chick Wisdom (it hasn’t received much love for a very long time). I was young, free, single and self-indulgent. I wore my heart on my sleeve and told the whole world about it. The stories were real, raw, honest but light-hearted, and may I say, just a little bit witty, and sometimes bordering on the edges of what may be deemed acceptable.
When my then housemate and girlfriend felt the tick of her biological clock, I wrote about an obsession over her eggs and our adventures in search of an alpha male.
When my five-year relationship ended in an email message, I dispensed sage advice on how to get over him quickly which has been translated into fifteen languages! I’m still waiting for my royalties.
Finding myself single again, I declared war with Bernard Salt and Mark McCrindle on the Great Aussie Man Drought.
And, when I climbed the corporate ladder in the male-dominated tech space, I shared my triumphs and wisdom declaring nice girls don’t get the corner office.
Which, by the way, is not true, but that’s another story.
I realise now that each time I’ve put myself in the spotlight, I have done so behind caricatures of myself. Characters that I thought were too far removed from who I am, they couldn’t possibly be me.
Despite baring my heart and soul to be judged by others, whether on the dance floor or with my words, I felt safe. Unexposed.
It wasn’t me. It was a character.
As a ballroom dancer, I project a carefully choreographed character, from the way I stand and move my body, to the cheeky little wink and the self-assuredness of every step. It’s an imagined and exaggerated version of a person full of chutzpah – beautiful, confident, feminine and fearless; a pocket rocket.
Similarly, as I blogged my way through dating mishaps, I created an alter ego. She was smart, funny, witty, likable and hopeful.
Everything I thought I wasn’t.
It hit me.
I have carried the self-belief that the real me is an awkward, boring, introvert. Not The Dancer nor the clever girl with her clever words. No, that’s not me.
So who would want to know about the real me or hear what I have to say?
So I hid behind my Latin Ballroom character. I hid behind Chick Wisdom. And now I’m hiding behind one of the most significant things I’ll ever do.
I also once hid behind an impressive job title: Group honcho something-or-other. People thought I was some shit-hot talent, a woman to boot, headhunted by companies who wanted cool kids on their teams. If only those people knew how trapped I felt. My successful career enabled me to buy expensive things but it also took over my life and left my dreams to gather dust. I realised I had defined myself by what I did for a living. So at the end of 2009, I quit corporate life, walked away from it all and went on a quest to design a life on my terms.
I’m still on that journey, sometimes taking one step forward and two steps back, but always finding little rewards and fist-pumping moments every time I venture back onto the scary, unknown, and unfamiliar path that calls out to me in my dreams. The same path has brought me to an incredible place and privilege here at woman.com.au – the privilege of sharing some of the most epic stories of ordinary women doing extraordinary things.
And I realise that I have been getting in my own way for far too long. The Dancer and those clever words are not the work of some character I created. They are reflections of my soul, my very being at its purest, finest, most glorious, unencumbered state. Beautiful, powerful, resilient and vulnerable at the same time.
That is me.
So I realise it’s time to start telling my story. To step into the light and own the stage.