A message to my younger self

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As part of our International Day of the Girl Campaign, we’ve invited many amazing women to share their experiences of girlhood with guest blogs. Positive role modelling is an important part of building and maintaining girls’ confidence in themselves.

You can take part in the campaign by taking a minute to share advice for girls today on our virtual wall.

But first, meet today’s guest blogger, Anne Usher, keynote speaker and gold medal winning Paralympian.

A message to my younger self,

You might find it hard to believe what I’m about to tell you, given your fragile self-confidence, but will you stand in front of a mirror? I know it’s not your favourite thing but trust me. 

The reflection staring back at you? She isn’t the oversized, shy, quirky, stupid and useless girl you’ve convinced yourself that you are.   

Brace yourself – she’s a soon-to-be multiple World Champion in four different things. Yes really! 

While it’s easy to think that everyone is better than you, resist the urge to copy them. Trying to be like other people is draining and futile.  

The person you should want to be is staring right back at you. She is authentic and unique, she’s not a fake patchwork drawn from people you’ve perceived as ‘successful’. 

Your youth will be hard. You will feel different from everyone, be ridiculed by your peers and told off by teachers. It will feel like you are all alone in a dark maze which has no exit. 

While ‘easy’ is what you wish for, know that the challenges you face will shape you. Embrace every setback as a learning opportunity.  

Remember to open your mind after every failure, in order to see a new way around. Be bold, be different – say yes to any new paths you see. These scenic routes are where the magic will happen!  

Although you’re currently burdened by your self-perceived flaws, future Anne learns how to see them as strengths.  

Your supposed ‘bulkiness’? Your size and muscles will be your power and endurance. You will find that, despite hating PE at school, the world of sport is where you belong.   

Your physique is a blessing not a burden. Your shyness and social awkwardness are the cradle of your compassion, and kindness.  

But let go of the urge to please others. It won’t validate you. Instead, use your kindness upon yourself, treat yourself as you would your best friend.   

Contrary to your current belief, you are not stupid. You’re grappling with dyslexia, which you have skillfully concealed with coping strategies.   

A day will come when an observant university professor will recognise this and be amazed at your accomplishments. Meanwhile, your quirkiness will be diagnosed as ADHD.  

Instead of suppressing it to fit in, you’ll learn to harness its power, turning your so-called ‘oddities’ into assets. Your resilience, creativity, curiosity and zest for challenges will be admired. 

All your attributes contribute to you being selected to represent the UK on global platforms across five different categories of World Championships over five decades.   

Science, Ultra-endurance mountain biking, Sprint Kayaking, Sprint Outrigger Canoeing and Distance Outrigger Canoeing – you’ll stand on the World Podium in four of these events, clinching the title of World Champion ten times!  

Right now, the world does not seem a very kind place to you. But the only thing which is static is that nothing ever stays static.  

Things will change and you will succeed in life. You will run your own business, find your soul mate and be blessed with four wonderful children.   

Just keep looking up, surround yourself with positive people and know that you already have the unique skills to make everything okay.  

With admiration, Anne  

Thank you to Anne for sharing your story of girlhood. We hope all women reading this will join in by sharing their stories and advice on our virtual wall

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