Have you ever been so moved by a book that you make different life choices?
I read my first book when I was 23 and it shifted how I perceived myself and my life.
‘A Woman of Substance’ by Barbara Taylor Bradford had such a profound effect on me. Looking back over the past 20 or so years, I can see how this book touched, moved and inspired my soul and has contributed and shaped me into the woman I am today.
The tale told was of Emma Harte, a young woman, from a poor family who worked as a maid for a wealthy family. Emma gave in to the advancements from the son of the wealthy family, they had a beautiful love affair. Emma fell pregnant and was quickly abandoned by her lover. In 1904 it was seen as a disgrace for a young woman to be single and pregnant. Scared, lonely and broke Emma flees and begins a new life alone.
Against all the odds and through two world wars, Emma created a life for herself and her daughter and built a thriving multi-million dollar empire as in her words ‘I’ll show them…no one will ever take advantage of me again’
This book had me gripped from beginning to end as this story resonated with me deeply.
As I reflect 20 years on, I enjoy seeing the lessons I have applied consciously and unconsciously to my life in the pursuit to be ‘A woman of substance’.
We all have times of struggle in our lives and we all make mistakes and I believe it is a choice as to whether we apply our learnings in everyday life.
Looking back, I can see that with any challenge I have faced, my awareness was key. In my awareness I recognised where I applied the golden rule; ‘Do unto others and I would have them do unto me’. Treating others with respect, kindness and to consider that they too have their ‘stuff’ they are dealing with.
While I recognised the importance of treating others as I would like to be treated, it took me many years to apply this lesson to myself. It was so much easier to be there for others, love others, be kind to others, consider others, respect and accept others than it was than to be any of this for myself.
Life experience has been my greatest teacher and even though there may have been times I looked up at the heavens and asked ‘WHY?’, I wouldn’t change a single moment.
Today I can appreciate my drive and determination have certainly been what’s powered me through and kept my momentum high at times. My tenacity and grace have enabled me to remain present and grounded in my current reality. I have learnt the necessity of focus and that when I set my mind on something, I become a formidable force.
Strong and resilient are two characteristics I would say are the result of my choices but most of all I would say learning how to love because I want to love rather than from a place of needing anything back in return, has been the most rewarding and liberating feeling.
To live a life of substance, I believe there are two main areas of focus:
Firstly, choose yourself. Learn to love and accept yourself just as you are. Too many of us live our lives for others, guided by others or because of others.
Secondly, live with integrity. This ensures all our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are authentically ours. Allowing us to instinctively listen, trust and follow our own inner guidance system true to our very own purpose in life.
Now that we are nurturing ourselves first, we are in the best possible place to nurture, support and love others. All while living with integrity, I believe is the best example of strength and living a fulfilled life.
Today, when my family refer to me as ‘A woman of substance’ it warms my heart.
“We are each the authors of our own lives. We live in what we have created. There is no way to shift the blame and no one else to accept the accolades.”
– Barbara Taylor Bradford, A Woman of Substance