Defining Success for Yourself

Defining success for herself, Emma finds her home in Richmond Public Schools.

Emma studied international affairs and came to Bossed Up Bootcamp shortly after graduating. She was working full-time as a nanny while exploring longer-term professional options. 

Always seeking to help others, Emma was drawn to human rights work. But the positions she was contemplating seemed entirely divorced from the communities they fought for. She didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk in a downtown high-rise, while fighting for the rights of communities halfway across the globe.

“I want to work in the communities I’m helping, not across the world from them,” says Emma.

Now one year out from Bootcamp and Emma says she’s found her calling teaching 8th grade civics in Richmond, VA. She admits that even a year ago, she didn’t see it coming.

“I was in denial! My identity was so wrapped up in being ‘an intellectual’ and having high ambition – whatever that means. It took me a long time to explore teaching,” says Emma.

Emma had fallen into the trap of allowing society to dictate what a “successful career” looked like, instead of defining success for herself. This is particularly troubling for careers in care (like nursing, teaching, childcare, etc.), which have been traditionally dominated by women throughout history.

“I love kids and I love working with them,” Emma proudly proclaims, “Child development is stimulating and fascinating to me, and it’s something I realized while serving as a nanny and at Bossed Up Bootcamp.”

Too often in western culture, these women-majority fields are undervalued, both financially and in terms of how much respect and honor we associate with them. This fact outrages me, the daughter of a nurse who works too hard for too little, which I explored further for PolicyMic.

Now Emma realizes, “I was in denial of my calling because I was allowing others’ values to cause me to feel shame.”

What careers are you NOT considering because of others’ expectations? twitter_button

When Emma was weighing the decision to leave DC and join the public school system in a challenging, underserved community, she worried she was leaving political affairs behind.

“Good god!” she laughed over the phone, “I thought I was giving up on politics, but I’ve found more politics here in a public school system than I ever could have had access to in DC! And I have so much more potential to have influence here.”

Emma uttered these words next, which more than anything, sums up what I believe “success” 1 year out from Bossed Up Bootcamp sounds like: “I’ve found my place. I’m having an impact.”

Her advice to other bosses-to-be on the same journey? “Self-love and acceptance is at the core of this. I needed to stop denying things about myself, stop seeing myself through the judgemental eyes of others.”

And finally, Emma says the support and community found at Bootcamp “was huge.”

As women, we too often feel that we have to go it alone – that it’s on each of us, alone, to get it together. That doesn’t have to be the case.

“The best advice I would give,” she says, “is to accept that you don’t have it all together. It’s okay! If there’s any little voice in your head that says, ‘Maybe I could use some help,’ let that be the louder voice.”


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