Saturday, April 26, 2014

Strong women as role models.

Below is a 3 minute film about Alex Nissen, a woman I worked with a few years ago.  It was the first time I'd worked with a group of strong, socially active, vocal women (and one wonderful man) and it was an eye-opener. 

In the world I was raised in, in the 50's and 60's, women weren't argumentative, didn't challenge the system, and didn't speak out openly about inequity or injustice. They certainly did good works, cared for the sick, disadvantaged and elderly and made new migrants welcome, but it was a quiet, more submissive, deferring to authority kind of goodness. And there was no way they'd challenge injustices in society.

The professionals I was now working with, in particular Alex and Deborah, with minds strong as steel traps, confronted and challenged statements and opinions respectfully and honestly. There was no psychological game playing, no power plays or one-up-manship, which was extremely refreshing in comparison to other areas of my work life. 

At first I found it confronting  to watch and listen to people challenging each other, criticising, objecting, disagreeing. In the world I'd grown up and worked in, anger and associated emotions were hidden, denied, something to be ashamed of and they certainly weren't expressed cleanly or openly by either men or women. Expressions of anger and disagreement were met with disapproval, the cold shoulder and sulking. Conflict of any sort was studiously avoided. 

I'd never imagined a world like this - strong, vocal, assertive, secure women, speaking knowledgeably and confidently and it was like a breath of fresh air and I soaked it up, looking forward to spending time with the feisty group each week. 

By their choices and actions, Alex and Deborah showed not just me, but those with whom they came in contact with, that it's possible to live by deeply held values on a day to day basis. It might not be easy, it might not always be enjoyable but it's empowering.

One side of Alex which isn't highlighted in the video is her wonderful, warm, quirky sense of humour. 

One day, after yet again being unable to remember the complex (some people might disagree!) infuriating passcode on the security door, Alex smiled cheekily, took me by the hand, led me to the door and made up a little story and song about the number sequence. 

She had me in tears of (possibly quite loud) laughter as she bounced my fingers over the correct sequence time and time again singing the jaunty song until the numbers stuck! I'm sure passers by were bemused at the sight of two grown women singing at a security pad, but Alex made the lesson fun, and I remembered! What a skill!

Watching the video of Alex reminded me yet again of the importance and power of reflecting on values, clarifying them for you as an individual, then making daily choices which support them. 

And to that end when faced with a decision which needs to be made, you can ask yourself: 

Will this decision support my values or those of someone else?

Is this taking me closer to what I value or not?


Are the choices I'm making today leading me to where I want to be tomorrow?

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