So I've had this post percolating about in my head for almost a week now, and every time I go to write it, there is this filter that goes up. I eventually talk myself out of it and just go do laundry or something of more benefit than having an argument with the lady inside my head who still cares whether other people will judge me for writing this post. But today I've decided to just be brave and write it and let people smirk behind their coffee cups or whatever else they decide to do, because it won't stop going through my head and just needs to be put out there.
This is an open letter to Taylor Swift.
Taylor, you don't know me from Adam (that's a saying, but seeing as you know Adam Levine pretty well now from your coaching on The Voice, it just seemed like the perfect turn of phrase, don't you think?). I am really, really not in your target demographic. And just to put it out there, the only letter I ever wrote to a celebrity was to the prolific fiction writer Louis L'Amour, who was my hero when I was a knobby-kneed 10-year-old girl who lived vicariously through every one of his novels. To be clear, in my mind's eye, I was never, ever the heroine in distress; I was always the cowboy who saved the day. So writing this letter now feels really awkward, like I'm some starry-eyed pre-pubescent fan. For goodness sakes, I'm a grown woman who is a founder of two companies, who has raised two children and is attempting to get the third child to 18 still in one piece. I've been married to my best friend for 26 years. I am SO not the normal demographic to be writing a fan letter, much less writing one on such a public forum.
But this just has to be said.
I am grateful to you. Not for your music, as much as I love it. And I do -- you're an incredible artist and visionary for your signature brand of music. And not for your philanthropy, although it makes me personally proud that a young woman is leading the pack when it comes to celebrities giving to charitable causes. It's not even for the kindness and generosity you show your fans, even though it proves you are still grounded and a total class act.
My gratitude stems from your willingness to make fun of yourself, to not take yourself seriously and serve as a role model for girls and women everywhere who, because of the fear of taking a risk and looking like a fool, hold themselves back from accomplishing their dream if only they had the courage to try.
As odd as it seems, I tear up every single time I watch the music video for your hit song "Shake It Off." It resonates with something deep inside that convicts me that I haven't yet been brave enough. I'm still scared of what other people think. When I see the joy you convey at not being nearly as adept as the professionals on camera with you, that you share the inside joke of your imperfections with the viewers, and that you celebrate your inadequacies and incorporate them into the celebration of the song? It's not just brilliant comedic timing. It's just brilliant. And it convicts me.
I'm not okay with my inadequacies to that point yet. I still look at the amazing women around me and wish I was as pretty, as smart, as funny or successful as I see them. I still beat myself up over my mistakes. I still struggle to feel comfortable in my own skin, to own my accomplishments and be proud of them and to not downplay what progress I have made just so the expectations aren't set too high.
This month, my wonderful cofounder, Jessica Eaves Mathews, and I -- along with an incredible group of women -- are launching a nonprofit called HauteHopes to help women in our high-poverty state to launch their own businesses with the proper mentoring, training and long-term support they'll need to be successful despite the disadvantages they currently face. My heart breaks a little every time I receive a private message or email from an absolutely deserving woman who just wants to make sure she should apply for our first scholarship awards. It reminds me every time that, as women, we shut the door so often before we even see what might be on the other side. Better to quit while we're ahead than to find out we're rejected. We don't like to risk failure or rejection or others laughing at our inadequacies, and so we choose to pay the price of being privately disappointed in ourselves because we weren't brave enough to try.
So thank you, Taylor Swift. Thank you for reminding me, and women everywhere, to be a little bit braver, a little more vulnerable, and lot more willing to celebrate and be proud of my own inadequacies. Thank you making me a little braver about accepting my own accomplishments instead of dismissing them when I receive a compliment. Thank you for reminding us all that shaking it off isn't just about ignoring the negativity we receive from others; it's also about facing the negativity we feed ourselves.
Jessica and I are beginning the journey of growing a new generation of successful women through HauteHopes, and we're going to encourage all of them to be just as brave as you have been, because when we are, there is no telling what we can do!