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Every week, our students share their ideas, opinions and insight in the Wenona Weekly Student Blog.
As we grow up we are all exposed to numerous influences that greatly impact on how we think and subsequently, how we act.
Whether it’s social pressures, celebrity icons, or even our parents and friends, these influences can make us second guess how we intrinsically want to act, and make us question who we are and who we want to be. But there comes a time when you have to let go of the constant desire to please those you idolise and want to be like, and instead accept who you are as an individual.
For me, this came when I started at Wenona. Starting at a new school in Year 5 was different from starting in Kindergarten, when you are less afraid about judgement and not fitting in…because if you wanted to wear a tutu and fairy crown everywhere you went, like I did, you just did it! For the first time, I was struck with the fear that people might not like me, or the possibility that I might not be able to make any friends. This again came in Year 7 when our grade grew, and as familiar faces became less and less, I had to gain the courage to put myself out there to get to know people, and to let them get to know me.
But I found this really quite hard, as I’m sure a lot of you would have, because putting yourself out there to possibly be judged and disliked at any age is a scary concept. So I instead tried to conform. I looked at how everyone acted around me: what movies they liked, what interests they had, and even how they looked, and I tried to pretend to be an exact copy of them. I would second guess what I said in conversations, in case I said something that was ‘wrong’ or something that they might disagree with. And though this was all well and good in the short term, it was exhausting trying to pretend to be someone I actually wasn’t.
So, my Year-7-self turned to the advice of my mum, who told me something that I still find important today. She said to picture yourself when you’re leaving Wenona and “all grown up”, and to go back to School trying to be that person. Well, I wanted to be a kind person with a group of friends I could always go to and be there for, be a bit taller and cool enough to wear the vest, and above all, really like who I was.
So I decided to go back to School and each day try to become the person I wanted to be. I had to make a conscious effort not to by-pass what I actually thought or what I really wanted to say, and instead just say it. And although it was scary to begin with, the more I did it, the easier it became. I just had to teach myself how to be me all the time and be happy with that, despite what other people thought.
Once I started to let go of being afraid, of being disliked or judged, and was able to be unapologetically myself the best things happened in return. I started to make real friendships with people I had things in common with. And I started to join groups and pick up activities that I otherwise wouldn’t have tried because I lacked the confidence, which ultimately has made my time at Wenona so much better.
You have the possibility to decide who you want to be, because despite what we may think, and what I thought, we are not defined by what we do or say in Year 7 or 10 or even Year 12. If you want a fresh start, then that is completely up to you, and we shouldn’t as a community, reserve judgement about people without allowing them to grow and change.
We have to accept everyone’s individuality, but more importantly, we have to accept our own and let go of the fear of judgement. Because everyone at Wenona has something unique and special that they can offer to our School community and the world when they leave it, but it can so easily get lost under the pressure to conform to be something we’re not. In order to truly be happy with who you are - and become someone you really like and the people around you really like - we have to be willing to be different and accept each other’s differences. That way we can dive into everyone’s individuality.
To end with a quote, because it wouldn’t be a speech without one, as Piglet says, “If you weren’t you, then we’d all be a bit less we.”
Prefect and Music Captain (Choral)
Happy International Women’s Day everyone! I don’t know if it is just me, but International Women’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year.
It is a day when we celebrate the economic, political and social achievements of women in both the past and the present. It is a day when we thank women all around the world as they continually fight for our rights. It is a day when we take a moment to acknowledge women who have endured through times that we can’t even imagine, so that we are able to sit here and gain an education. And it is a day when we call for change as we recognise that the fight for equality is not over, and that we must stand together in unity against those who try to push us down.
International Women’s Day first started in 1910, at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin, a leader from Germany, proposed the idea and received unanimous agreement from over 100 women, representing 17 countries around the world. The first International Women’s Day was held the following year in a few European countries. It attracted thousands of women to hold meetings and protests for equality, which sparked much public debate. To put the significance of the day into context, at this time women did not have the right to vote. In the USA, women over 21 did not get the vote until 1928, a full 15 years after the first International Women’s Day took place. These women were protesting for rights that we in the present day merely take for granted. Since 2013, International Women’s Day has been held on the 8 March, and has become a global day to celebrate how far we have come in gender equality.
The theme of International Women’s Day 2018 is Press for Progress, based around the fact that, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, gender parity is more than 200 years away! We still have a long way to go. Australia’s current national pay gap is 15.3% and was ranked 46th on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2016. The highest ranked countries, such as Iceland, are taking active steps towards eradicating the gender pay gap, making the pay gap illegal in the hope of eradicating it by 2020. Furthermore, as of 2013, 34 million adolescent girls worldwide are not attending school. Put simply, 34 million girls do not have the chance to get an education and learn vital skills. These are just a few reasons why the Press for Progress campaign is so incredibly important.
With recent movements such as Me Too and Time’s Up, there is a strong call-to-action to press forward and make progress towards gender parity. This is a call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive. International Women’s Day is important because it is not country, group or organisation specific. Gloria Steinem, world-renowned feminist, journalist and activist once said, "The story of women's struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist, nor to any one organisation, but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights." This day belongs to all groups collectively everywhere. And together we must commit to a gender parity mindset.
So I invite you all to come and celebrate the power of women and the importance of gender parity. We will be selling white and black ribbons at the gates in the morning in recognition of the fight against domestic violence and to support the Time’s Up movement. Our Gender Equity Group will be having a bake sale at recess and a barbeque at lunch in the Undercroft. The Environment Group will be collecting cans for recycling on the day so please remember not to throw them in the bin. At lunchtime, we will also be holding Wenona’s very first Gender Equity concert – Let’s Hear it for the Girls. All the proceeds from the day will be going to the White Ribbon Foundation. So, please come along to eat, listen and celebrate with all your Wenona sisters!
Rebecca (Year 12)
Community and Service Learning Prefect
“Unapologetically yourself” feels like an oxymoron,
It feels mutually exclusive,
You cannot be one and the other.
It feels like it’s supposed to cover,
For the versions of yourself you present to different people.
It feels dishonest, and overly emotional and paradoxical,
It feels like a boastful, bright banner outside an empty theatre.
The broken record at the back of your head clinically outlining everything that was wrong with the performance,
“Unapologetically yourself” feels like a lie.
But on the days when you choose not to care,
Whether it’s that you would rather write poetry than go to a party,
Or that you think dance is the best language,
Or that you actually enjoy studying,
Or that you were born without a soft volume,
Or that you are motivated to get up at 4am and train,
Or that you have perfect pitch,
Or that you listen to crime podcasts in your spare time,
Or that you know every word to Summer Heights High,
Or that you are actually passionate about something,
On these days, you wear yourself like a badge of honour.
It doesn’t feel like a question, it feels like an answer.
“Unapologetically yourself” is not constant.
Everyone wants to be validated.
Everyone wants to be told,
That every part of them is beautiful,
That every part of them is real,
That every part of them is enough.
“Unapologetically yourself” is not easy.
It would be easier to choose to believe them,
When they choose not to believe you.
“Unapologetically yourself” does not mean perfect.
“Unapologetically yourself” is a weapon,
A war cry,
A refusal to back down,
A promise to turn up the volume,
A hand on the drum,
A fist in the air,
A seat at the table,
A prayer to yourself.
You are valid,
You are real,
You are enough.
It is permission for you to let go.
Vice Head Prefect
Although it embarrasses me to say this, my mother has repeatedly referred to my high school period as a cocoon, where at the end I will transform into a majestic butterfly. Funnily enough, she used the same metaphor when giving me ‘the talk’ on puberty. But I believe she had a point this time round. As we develop our own metaphorical ‘wings’, it begs the question; where do we fly?
Now obviously the answer I’ve most commonly heard is that we should all aspire to be strong women of proper character. But as I consult various people with different viewpoints I have really struggled to grasp this concept. What makes a strong woman? Is it independence? Stubbornness? Authority? Virtue? Gargantuan biceps that put ‘The Rock’ to shame? Unchallenged dominance in the world open-mic slam poetry championships?
All of these are partly correct; yes, even the last one. Strength, in my humble opinion at least, is attained by avoiding both extremes: excessive pride and a low sense of self-worth.
On one end of the spectrum of vanity we have inflated self-worth; narcissists with excessive pride. To find a middle ground, we need to be realistic about our abilities, and that will maximise the amount of good we can do. People who overestimate their abilities, can often end up burning out, or feeling humiliated when being told by an important person that they are not good enough.
As Aristotle once said: “At the intersection where your gifts and abilities meet a human need, there in, you will discover your purpose.”
Your hubris or ego can make your ambitions misguided or misdirected. This doesn’t make a person any less valuable, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, however, we need to have strength of willpower and humility, and we need to be able to steer clear of this extremity and find a middle ground on this spectrum of vanity.
On the other end of the spectrum of vanity, is low self-worth. As I said before, humility gives you a clear sense of perspective. The issue lies in our coping mechanisms used to deal with events and issues that we face. We must learn to be more resilient through our own self-discipline than through seeking external gratification.
For example, social media obliges us to post the best parts of our lives to create implied superiority over others in their lifestyle, which makes others feel inadequate, or convinces them that they weren’t meant to enjoy life as much as possible. However, this low sense of self-worth occurs on both sides of the photo. People posting can often be victims of their own self-esteem as well. With an urge to find constant affirmation that their life is good enough, all measured by numbers. Their value is determined by others online and is completely out of their control.
In the middle ground, we need to find our virtue of strength as modern women. This strength to accurately recognise how much you can do, and have the conviction to do good with your abilities. Find the intersection between your ambitions and your abilities. Balance of your pride and self-worth.
Accepting who you are, whilst constantly trying to better yourselves. Recognising your mistakes but see them as complications that alter your plans rather than inherent faults with who you are. Don’t shy away from your mistakes, grasp them as a learning experience without letting them define you.
Reflect on yourself with honesty, dignity and don’t let your path in life be dictated by your emotions.
Don’t view your journey as a thousand thorns, but as a rose. It’s impossible to pluck every thorn out; to remove every risk of failure in your lives. And even if you try to, you’ll end up becoming like that weird uncle you see every Christmas who wears a foil hat and cuts his meat into cubes for fear of a stray bone impaling him.
So, to answer my question, where do we fly? Being too proud can create hubris and entitlement, all the while losing perspective and lacking humility, which inevitably breeds disappointment. Like Icarus, you’ll fly too close to the sun. Being too self-conscious however, can create internal discouragements, preventing us from doing anything at all, stopping us making that inevitable first mistake that we all must learn from. It stops you from flying at all.
So in short, swallow your pride whilst maintaining a level of dignity. Building strong women is not about changing self-esteem, it’s about giving women direction, perspective and grit, whilst having the humility to remember where they came from. Most importantly, it’s about walking that tightrope for as long as we can, because our passions, our character and our futures depends on it, from the moment we exit our cocoon.
To all the new girls in Year 7 or in any other Year, I would like to say a very, very warm welcome to each of you. It is so very exciting starting at a new school especially one like Wenona, and to any of you who are feeling a little bit nervous or uncertain, just remember that the girls that are sitting next to you are probably feeling the same way. Every girl here today has started fresh at a new school at some point in their life, and so just remember, that we will not hesitate to help, if you are lost and need to know how to find a classroom or bathroom, or if you are just feeling a bit overwhelmed, so please do not hesitate to ask if you need anything.
Today I wanted to start by asking you this question: Is it more important to know exactly who you are all the time, or is it more important to believe in what you can be?
Sometimes it can feel as if you are treading on water, so to speak. We don’t quite feel like we have control of what is happening, and we don’t really know where we are going. It’s as if everything was completely fine, and then one day, something changes in your world, big, or small, and everything again becomes uncertain. It’s not like you are completely lost, but it also is as if the direction you felt you once had isn’t quite there anymore.
You can feel as if you know who you are, but this doesn’t mean you will always believe in yourself, and back your actions. You can know yourself, but you can also doubt yourself. You can know what you enjoy, but this doesn’t mean you will always participate in those things.
Inevitably, we do not always have control of what happens to us. Sometimes, in times of adversity, when things just aren’t going our way, when we aren’t sure of where we are going, we have to decide how we will react in the face of circumstances that are out of our control.
But regardless of what happens that is out of your control, there are always things that will remain within your ability to change, that you have the power and the agency to control. The first of these is the way you treat those around you, your reaction to the situations that you face. Sometimes we get so caught up in our own worlds, that we can forget that the people around us may also be suffering. We have the power, over our small actions, and do have the power to make someone’s day a little bit brighter, whether by smiling at them on the bridge or giving someone a compliment when you think that things might not be going their way.
A second thing that remains paramount is your belief in yourself. This to me has always been one of those things that I’ve heard, but not really understood the significance of until only recently. If we could all remind ourselves of our own value, of the things that we have achieved, and of the things that make each of us unique, can boost our belief in our own actions. If each of you were to back yourselves and your actions, you leave yourself so much more room to enjoy everything you do.
No matter what happens this year, we must try, even when it’s difficult, to accept that we can only control so much of what happens to us. But girls, just remember that you have the power to persist, to be resilient, and to change the things that you can. You have the power to change someone’s day or even their world for the better.
American Civil Rights Activist Maya Angelou once said, ‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.’
How will you each thrive, and how will you dive in and believe in yourselves this year?
If you feel like you are treading on water, just know that you have the ability to remind yourself of your own values and abilities. Thriving means doing the things you love and the things that make you happy, and it means giving those around you the support to do the same. You have the ability to persist, or to at least learn to do so. And once you learn resilience, the year in front of you will not fly by as an insignificant, but as one in which you learnt to believe in yourself. Don’t think that sitting back and doing nothing will enable you to achieve, but take the action to change the things that you would like to change.
Make the most of everything, and be proud of each other, take care of each other, and support each other. And make sure you learn to be proud of yourselves, and believe that you can do what you set your mind do. Have a fantastic 2018!