From a small child, I consumed Oprah. That's it. While tucked away in my quiet attic bedroom away from the noise of my large family and the outside world, she was the only voice I had coming into my head. She was my role model and through slowing down my thinking and cutting off from the noise, it enabled me to believe anything was possible and to not be defined by stereotypes - all except one.
My father didn't want to know me and for that wee boulder in my life, I labelled myself incomplete. I grew up in the days when we were intravenously drip-fed the 'Peter and Jane' books at school. They were the Instagram and facebook of today depicting the oh so perfect lives. In trying to get back at my father I achieved extraordinary success in business alongside exceptional skills in broadcasting and public speaking. This was in the hope that he would see my name one day and squirm with regret. All at the cost of my physical and mental wellbeing.
In any case, driven to the brink of insanity in my quest to make my father pay, on one miserable rainy day in a pub in Balham I stopped. I pressed the pause button on my life and suddenly said to myself, enough was enough. I was perfect just the way I jolly well was.
The opposing external messages and stereotypes were so powerful, nonetheless, that I found there was only one way to cut through the negative messages in my mind - to get badass!
Holding the pen like a knife, I scrawled my father's name slowly on a napkin, went outside and burnt it. With each flicker of flame, I forgave him and forgave myself for choosing to give him this power. I cried non-stop from the release of what felt like taking a heavy rucksack laden with bricks off my back. Under the intense heat, the post-it-note label, that is, the incomplete label I had allowed society to place on my head for not having a dad, lost its glue and fell from my forehead too.
I now use the speaking skills I acquired to get back at my father to empower women to not be defined by their stereotype.
After becoming a single mother myself, with no family support, I single handily raised my son to be an A* student in all academic subjects. He is now one of the few black boys in a Russell Group University. Due stereotypes around black boys, nonetheless, this was only achieved by having to move him three times from schools with limited expectations of him. Once I had to move him mid secondary. In that school, despite achieving straight five in his SAT's and an impeccable behavioral record, he, along with the other black boys with similar ability, were denied the opportunity to do treble science. In the new school, although still a minority, they have their unconscious biases in check and rock a growth mindset. He did the treble science and in his GCSE's achieved an A* in physics, A* in biology and and A* in chemistry. All this took an impact on my health, nonetheless.
To further empower women, at age 50 I then totally transformed my health over 30-days by running every day in the rain and killer snow the media dubbed the Beast From the East and vlogged it. Looking nothing like the stereotypical park runner, it was to demonstrate growth mindset. To illustrate that age, outward characteristics, social status or the size of your butt, has nothing to do with ability; but rather, through the gentle art of placing one foot in front of the other, you can make the seemingly impossible, possible.
Ingrid Marsh, aka, The Badass Gal.