Nearly a century has passed since the first women won the right to vote in the UK (in Switzerland they didn’t get it until 1971!), but it’s still hard to be a confident, successful girl.
In all my books, brave girls are tested. They lose their confidence, and suffer, and somehow have to find the will to get what they want, and make the world the kind of place they want to live in. I write about them because this is what it’s like to be a teenage girl, and I want my readers to know they’re not alone.
It’s hard. It’s hard when you’re under pressure to look perfect all the time, and you hate to fail, and people tease you if you try too hard, or love a subject they don’t, and if you’re too thin, too fat, too tall, too short, too nerdy, not nerdy enough, or just plain weird.
(All my favourite people are weird in some way. And proud of it. It’s part of the secret.)
I know a lot about being a girl. And a few things about being successful. And some amazing life hacks that make it possible to calm your nerves, take a risk and do something amazing that could change your life.
It took me years to learn the secrets. To learn that, in a world run by men for millennia, intelligent, enthusiastic young women, even today, are not always taken seriously. To learn that the way I talked, the way I looked, the things I noticed and was passionate about, were OK. To learn where to find my role models, and how to stand up for what I wanted when my instinct was to please people and ‘be nice’, the way girls are so often taught to do.
Now it’s my turn to share. Taking examples from scientists and movie stars, campaigners and the heroines of my stories, I’ve developed a talk called Winning Like A Girl that shows how girls can change their body language and their attitude to themselves and each other to get the success they all deserve.
It includes the time I accidentally cyberbullied a celebrity. (You don’t want to know … Or, wait – maybe you do.) It includes the Hidden Badge of Courage, tips on how to change your body chemistry in 2 minutes, and more. I’ve already had the joy of seeing a room full of Year 9s stand up, try out their power poses and shout out their power words. (And anyone who has faced a room of Year 9s will now just how scary, fun and joyful that would be.) If you’re at school, or you teach at a school, and you’d like me to come and share the secrets, let me know. You can reach me here.
It’s not about fitting in. It’s about being yourself and making the world accept you for the person you are.
I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say I can’t do it. I’m never gonna say ‘maybe’. I’m never gonna say, ‘I don’t think I can.’ I can and I will.
Nadiya Hussain, the Great British Bake Off