A Journey to Self-Advocacy, Resilience, and Finding Your Own Truth

To thine own self be true

This is a classic phrase nearly everyone has heard by the time they take a high school literature class. Navigating the world as a girl and now as a woman, this motto has been my northern light as I navigate the challenging world as a woman.

My so-called life and how it led to confidence, advocacy and resilience

Let’s start at the beginning. I was born into a traditional rural life kind of family. The adults worked blue-collar jobs, and the kids played outside and helped with farm chores. Every Sunday, the family would get together for lunch.

Men and women had particular roles within each family unit. As early as I can remember, it was evident that women were to be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning. In contrast, men got to put up their feet in the living room to shoot the breeze and relax.

I realized I didn’t believe in these traditional roles during this time. Many times I sat in the living room to complete my homework. I was told I needed to be in the kitchen. I began my journey to self-advocacy and advocacy for women.

Little did I know that the real challenge began when I entered the workforce. Bypass the part-time work, expected sexism, and downright harassment that occurred daily and cut to my first full-time job out of grad school. I was young and had a lot to prove, and even with my previous experience, I still had in my mind, a very naive one at that, that I would have been taken seriously.

Not only did I experience ageism, but I was also called “honey,” “dear,” or “darling” regularly by my superiors. It was infuriating, demeaning, and embarrassing. It was challenging to be taken seriously and even more difficult to not lose my mind over the mansplaining I experienced and continue to endure.

Did you know that at least 42% of women have experienced some form of gender discrimination at work? More specifically, women are four times as likely to be treated like they are incompetent due to their gender. I’m more surprised that the number isn’t higher, which I can only attribute to the lack of reporting. Even in 2023, I find more and more that women are meant to be seen, not heard.

If those statistics alone don’t fire you up, let me take things a step further.

Lighting the fire deep inside

After years of being looked down upon for being a millennial and a woman who clearly had nothing in her brain to contribute to the world, I found a new level of frustration when I began having health issues and sought care. These experiences lit a fire down inside me and are why I continue to advocate for women’s issues and a resilient force.

Even when I was forthcoming about my eating disorder past, some clinicians dared to mention my weight and the need to revisit my diet and exercise. It’s dumbfounding the number of times that I have been told that the answer to my problems is to lose weight or that some form of exercise and diet will magically make my depression and anxiety disappear.

What makes it even better is when you read the doctor’s notes and the first thing you read is that the patient presented with “obesity” or is “morbidly obese.” Experiences of weight stigma can cause considerable harm. The research is out there. Yet, many healthcare providers still hold onto the antiquated belief that BMI is an indicator of health.

BMI is a barrier to health; it is downright discrimination. It’s no wonder that women are more likely to develop an eating disorder or have a disordered eating behavior. There is so much focus on women’s body image that many pressing issues are

Advice to all the young female warriors

Out of all the advice, the most important advice I can give is to be true to yourself, be your own advocate. It may be hard to completely tune out the noise of ageism, sexism, and doubts, it’s going to be a lifelong battle, but you can come out on top.

  • Take the journey to discover your passion, talk to the women in your life, and build your network of strong women who lift you up.
  • Take advantage of mentorship programs, like Dream It, Be It.
  • Be open-minded, understand different perspectives, and be a lifelong learner.
  • Set boundaries, don’t strive for perfection, and most importantly, be patient with yourself and give yourself grace.

Amber Olson is a marketing professional by day and freelance writer by night. Amber has worked in several organizations in the nonprofit and public sectors, eventually landing in healthcare IT and marketing. This reignited her creative passion for writing and she has authored several thought pieces about healthcare access and technology. She spends her free time volunteering her writing services to causes and organizations she cares about deeply.

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