The dog runs the show…
Vegan Mum, now there’s a pretty accurate description! I am definitely both of those things, although I’m many other things too – a very amateur gardener (nothing that will be making Monty ‘Don’ his boxing gloves anytime soon), enthusiastic cook, wife, ex-customer service director and manager of contact centres, and companion to the most stubborn Lhasa Apso dog that has ever lived (there is no doubt who controls this household and it’s not anyone in human form).
And for more than a year now, I’ve also been a ‘Nansy’. (Does anyone else take issue with the word grandmother? It sounds distant and aloof somehow.) Covid ensured this remained a long-distance relationship for a while, but isn’t it just wonderful to know that they are healthy, happy and in the world? We have all had to re-evaluate so much during this time.
Plain Average or Instagram Star?
What else can I tell you? I’m 59 (at the time of writing), a little over average height, possibly just tip the scales at average weight on a good day (although I do suspect sabotage of said bathroom scales at times) and have some remnants of mousy brown hair amongst the grey. All very – well, very average I suppose…
It strikes me that we try so hard to define ourselves, searching for words, phrases and photos that help others understand who we are. Then to pile on the pressure, we are encouraged by lots of well-meaning gurus to present the ‘very best version of ourselves’ (a phrase I really take issue with). Online or offline, we are tempted to fill our CVs with superlatives, use photos taken in the right light, from the right angle, enhance our image with make-up and apps, or embroider our ordinary lives to make us look like Facebook A-listers…
What’s Rembrandt got to do with it?
But whether we choose to paint honest ‘warts and all’ self-portraits (and you’ve got to love Rembrandt), or more carefully-crafted ones, the majority of us will at some times in our lives face reactions from others that range from indifference at best, to the full vitriol of unconscious (or even conscious) bias at worst. Your self-portrait might be viewed through a prism of discrimination that results in you being included or excluded, relevant or irrelevant, the right fit or the wrong fit.
Bias – A Social Phenomenon
Many people experience the rough end of this social phenomenon because of skin colour, gender, sexual orientation (I could go on, but you can look up the Equality Act 2010 yourself – you should, it’s very important and an interesting read). It’s fair to say that I can’t pretend to understand the profound and devastating impact that bias and discrimination can have when people come up against it for different reasons, but I am able to describe my own experience.
Like many women, I have been subject to (and observed) my fair share of sexism both in work and in my personal life (although I will take this opportunity to stress the positive support I have also experienced). Then, there can be a greater misfortune. A damaging combination of sexism and ageism (whether you are young or old) is a mix that I, along with millions of other women, am all too familiar with.
However, whilst I am definitely shaped by things that happen to me, I can still choose how to respond. Believe me, I have made many mistakes, reacted badly, made life difficult for those who love me as I rail against the world. But along the way I have also learnt to be pragmatic, resilient, to worry less about what others think. I create different paths to follow and show that I will not respond to unjust behaviour with passive acceptance. In the words of the great Maya Angelou, “I can be changed by what happens to me. But I refuse to be reduced by it.”
All washed up?
So now, no longer part of the business world that can chew you up and spit you out, I run my own consultancy to help others navigate their way through the challenges of corporate life. You can visit Want 2 Consulting if you’d like to know more on that. But I also have this, my Vegan Mum blog. Being an ethical vegan, along with my best attempts at being a parent (and a Nansy!) are all incredibly important to me; beliefs and values that can never be swayed by the behaviour of others and that define me more powerfully than words or pictures ever could.