Sharing our stories can be daunting... even terrifying. Sharing our stories can also save lives. By getting vulnerable, we are able to touch the hearts of others, reminding them that they are not alone, they are not worthless, and that they are loved.
This world has no shortage of strong, influential women, and one of the things that I love about the following 10 women, is that they have been brave enough to share their stories openly - inviting us into their worlds of hurt and happiness, defeat and victory, failings and triumphs!
There are far more than 10, but these are the ones that really stick out to me, and ones that I hope inspire you:
1. Oprah - She was born to a teen mother, was molested by many different men, but still became a High School Honor student, and went on to become the Queen of media and eventually a billionaire.
2. Joyce Meyer - She had a really rough childhood and then rose to be an incredibly strong, outspoken, inspirational Christian evangelist. She and I feel the same way about sharing our stories.
3. Jenni Schaefer - She is one of my favorite authors. Her book "Life Without Ed" helped me to separate my eating disorder from myself and begin to fight against it. She shared her battle and victory over her eating disorder and changed the world of many people with and without the disease.
4. Henrietta Lacks - This woman was incredible. She didn't share her story directly, but her story and her cells have changed the way medicine will be understood for eternity. Henrietta was born very poor and ended up with cervical cancer as a young adult. During radiation treatments, doctors took cervical cells without her knowledge. Those cells were received by a doctor named Dr. George Otto Gey, who was able to identify a new cell line out of her samples. They are now called the "HeLa cells" and medical advances continue to be made with those cells years after her death. Though an ethical nightmare, her life and death will live on forever. The book "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot is remarkable.
5. Mary Kay Ash - You want to talk about a powerhouse? This woman is it. I am not an Independent Beauty Consultant, but I have so much respect for her and her company. During the rise of her empire, she wrote "The Mary Kay Way" which teaches all of the tenants of her multi-billion dollar business. This is what is said of her on the Mary Kay website:
"Recognized today as America's greatest woman entrepreneur, Mary Kay Ash stepped out into a man's world in 1963 to blaze a new path for women. She grew her business based not on the rules of competition but on The Golden Rule."
6. Anne Frank - What can you say about Anne Frank without wanting to bow your head in reverence and respect? I have always been interested in holocaust research, during my digging; there have been two people that have stood out to me: Anne Frank, and Oscar Schindler. The fact that we have Anne Frank's thoughts and reactions to one of the most heinous times in recent history is life changing. Her book "The Diary of a Young Girl" is vital because history not learned is history that repeats itself.
7. Helen Keller - This woman is truly a gifted, walking miracle. After a terrible illness at 19 months, she was left deaf and blind, left in a world of darkness. In working with her teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen learned to tap out words and phrases with her finger tips. She then learned braille, the typewriter, and eventually graduated college 'cum laude'. Helen went on to become a powerful educator and writer.
8. Claudette Colvin - I am so inspired by her story and by her strength. Nine months before Rosa Park's famous protest, Claudette was the first black woman to refuse to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. She was active in the civil rights movement in the 50's, then after moving to NYC, she became a nurse's aide and retired in 2004. Her story is told in detail in the book "Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice" by Phillip Hoose.
9. Katherine Graham - She was raised in the wealthy elite, had parents who were mostly unavailable to her, and then married an incredibly successful man who ended up committing suicide. Through all of that, in 1972, she became the first female Fortune 500 CEO as the CEO of the Washington Post Company (formerly owned by her late husband and previously by her father). Katherine was a trailblazer, and she wrote all about it in her autobiography "Personal History".
10. Haley Snyder - Yep, I put myself on the list (humbly of course). I haven't change the world (yet), but I am aiming to do so. I have a story that includes trauma that started at 4 years old and continued until age 26 along with 20 years of anorexia, and lifelong PTSD. I was faced with 2 choices:
a. I could have agreed with the doctors that said that I would be disabled forever with irreversible PTSD and other psychiatric issues - relegated to a group home or other psychiatric facility to decline steadily,
b. Or, I could reject their opinion, work harder than I ever had previously in therapy - learning skills, repairing relationships, educating my loved ones, and practicing living in society without crumbling. I could show them that you can live a beautiful life with PTSD and a past that could be crippling.
I chose option B. I also chose to share my story. It was terrifying and it took a long time to decide if it was a good idea or not. Sharing my story could implicate a lot of people. After much prayer and counsel by mentors, I decided I would share my side of the story, and let my perpetrators share their side on their own.
The point of my story is not the trauma, the point is that I faced pure evil in my life, and God brought me out victorious, as more than an overcomer! I am living a full life, doing what I love, meeting amazing people, and learning more than I ever thought possible.
If we don't stand up, get vulnerable, and share our stories, hurting women may never hear "You can do it", "You are NOT worthless" or "You are loved". By sharing, women all around the world can be inspired to rise above the ugly and live in the beauty that this world has to offer.