I remember the first time I told some family friends that my dream was to run my own business.
I was 15, filled with hope and passion. I felt so proud to tell these people I’d just met how I’d been running 25 websites and had just been offered a freelance web design job.
I also remember that day very vividly for a heartbreaking reason. Because my Mum laughed in my face at my dreams.
I want to say that my childhood was like most. But no, it wasn’t. For years, I kept secret the fact that I was being sexually abused. But rather than let the secret eat away at me and define me and my future, I put all my efforts in making something of my life.
I consciously made a decision to live a life that I could be proud of.
It was 1999 and I had just built my first website. Whilst my friends were busy talking about boys, make up and clothes – I remember only being slightly interested in that – I was at home working on my websites.
As the years went by, one website became 5 then 10 then 20 then 25 websites. I taught myself how to code HTML, learnt some CSS, was handed a PERL book by my cousin’s husband, and spent time outside school keeping my websites updated.
I ran my websites like they were my own business. It never crossed my mind that I exhibited a level of self discipline that most people my age didn’t – especially one harbouring such a traumatic secret.
As a 35 year old woman now, I can’t help but feel proud at the pre-teen version of me who aimed high, no matter how hard my life’s circumstances were at the time.
Here are the 7 ways that nobody believing in my dreams taught me to believe in myself.
1. It developed my resilience.
Having my Mum laugh in my face at me, at my dreams – should have broken my spirit. It didn’t. Not permanently anyway.
I went through most of my childhood continuing to just believe in myself. Even when I was called stupid by her, I pushed on and I didn’t let those negative voices keep me down.
I believed in myself to the point that one of my websites was even published in Girlfriend magazine – a very popular Australian female teen magazine!
I remember standing in my local deli, flipping through to the right page, my eyes wide at the fact that my website was printed in a magazine I’d read for years!
2. It pushes you to challenge yourself.
I later secured a spot in University, then I went on to start a family and I worked and studied from home. With my secret now out, I felt more free and liberated to finally live life as I wanted. I continued to display and express my entrepreneurial spirit by juggling family life with work and study life. That 15 year old passionate me who ran 25 websites was still in existence as I breastfed my children at 1am and wrote an article at the same time.
3. It inspires others to believe anything is possible.
About 7 years ago, I googled my name purely out of curiosity (a common activity I’d do to see where my writing had been republished) and to my surprise, I came across a book that had been published about girls who designed websites.
I found my name in there.
The book was about hard working, ambitious teenage girls who designed websites. And my name was highlighted in the extract.
The author thought a teenage self taught web designer was important enough to write about.
It floored me to see my work acknowledged years later as an adult.
4. It developed my character.
In life, we will be confronted by setbacks, roadblocks, barriers to our success and our goals. These barriers may even take on the form of a loved one like a partner or a family member. Or a friend. Or a colleague.
For me, it was my Mum. She spent many years telling me I wasn’t good enough, that nobody would want to marry me, that I wasn’t smart enough to even start my own business.
Despite how much those words hurt when they were first spoken, I kept pushing on.
5. It helped me to accept that failure and rejection is a normal part of life.
I kept pushing on even when I struggled to find work after I finished my studies.
I kept pushing on even when one of my past employers didn’t renew my contract.
I kept pushing on even when my marriage fell apart and I had to learn to financially provide for my 3 children alone.
I kept pushing on when I realised that my change in career was everything it needed to be because now, I can finally put my childhood dream to fruition.
6. It made me realise that my own self belief is most important.
I am now running my own business again. My successful freelance writing business that I had whilst I was still married.
I have also just finished writing my first book after years of working hard on it. I am currently searching for the right book publisher.
As well as juggling my day job, I am consistently taking steps towards the life I want for myself.
Don’t ever let anyone or anything stop you from working towards the personal and professional life that you want for yourself.
Dream big, work hard, and never give up especially in the moments when you actually so desperately want to.
7. It helped me to appreciate the good.
Now I am happily engaged to a man who is just ambitious as me, who tells me that he is with me because I am so “smart, beautiful and amazing”.
I’m okay now because I don’t let others’ opinions of me define how I see myself. I love and appreciate the encouragement from my loved ones but I don’t need it to validate myself anymore.
There is always going to be people who don’t believe in you and your dreams – but if you always hold that belief in yourself then you have a much better chance of achieving the life you want for yourself.
I’m glad that whilst many people in my life didn’t believe in me, I continued to believe in myself.
It’s that self belief that has made me the empowered woman I am today.