I used to think being a successful woman meant being in a great job, where i'd get recognition from people around me and my family and i'd achieve great things. The first time i saw a trading floor i was 20 and I was excited by the fact there was barely a handful of women amongst a sea of men in white shirts. I decided I could be that one asian woman working on a trading floor. I was determined. I knew they only accepted the best of the best from the top 3 unis in the country. I knew I had an ABC for A-level instead of an AAA, and was enrolled at a pretty basic university to study Economics, but I also knew I could do it if I 'hustled'.
I decided I could be that one asian woman working on a trading floor. I was determined. I knew I could do it if I 'hustled'.
'You'll have to convince us you're not stupid, whereas most people don't have to do that because they study at Oxford,' was the opening remark in one of my first internship interviews. I was struck by his frankness. I immediately wasn't comfortable but I took it as 'this is an opportunity to prove myself'. A panel of 6 male traders and one woman sat opposite me. They hurled numbers and political 'what ifs' demanding to know what I would do, what positions I would take in various assets and why. Curve ball after curve ball. I didn't flinch but I could barely breathe. I hid my fear. I shoved it so deep inside my gut and eventually I walked out with sweaty armpits in the baby blue TM Lewin shirt I had bought just for the interview. I was convinced there was no chance I'd be hired. An hour later I received an email saying they wanted me to join their team. My first reaction was, 'is this their way to torture me?' My stomach dropped but my head told me I had succeeded. I had won. I was on my way up. Of course, I accepted the job.
I hid my fear. I shoved it so deep inside my gut. My stomach dropped but my head told me I had succeeded. I had won. I was on my way up. I accepted the job.
I lived that life for a long time. Burying fear and intimidation because I wasn't recognising my emotions or inner state and because I didn't want to change my situation, my life or everything I had 'achieved' and invested in. I convinced myself the discomfort of it all just came with the territory of being a successful woman. Years of accepting whatever was said to me by senior and older men, of swallowing my initial reaction and pushing through. Of saying yes when I wanted to say no. Of going home to pump weights in the gym because I couldn't bring myself to say I was angry because I simply didn't know why I was angry or whether I was allowed to be angry. I thought my feminine power was based on success and equanimity with men. It wasn't just about keeping up, it was about being worthy to compete. Competing began to define my world, my relationships and my identity.
Feminine power was me getting a big bouncy blow dry and clutching a purple louis vuitton bag. I hated having my periods, having to sneak off the trading floor with my bag of pads and tampons and wipes, surrounded by a sea of men who wouldn't hesitate to have a dig at any opportunity they could. I started making excuses to stop my period and there were plenty - holidays, parties, date nights etc. Eventually I was running packs of pills back to back convinced I didn't need bleed. Blood was inconvenient and messy.
I convinced myself the discomfort of it all just came with the territory of being a successful woman. I lived a life where I thought my feminine power was based on success and equanimity with men. Competing began to define my world, my relationships and my identity.
Where was my body in all this? I'll be honest here, I didn't have a body. I lived through my mind. It was sharp, many steps ahead and kept me safe. I was always thinking - you couldn't turn me off because that my was reality and not thinking for me, would have felt like death. Why would I need my body? I only used it to get me from A-B, to hit the gym and only noticed it when it was ill or injured. I didn't know what listening to my body meant, I didn't know what my heart was or that it was intelligence. When my body began to bite back, collapsing, panic attacks became a monthly feast for my anxiety, bed ridden and exhausted after spending 12 hours in physical pain, that's when I started paying attention to my body.