Wednesday, 14 December 2016

On not apologising for who you are

As some of you know, I have worked for the past few years as a lawyer in the City, an experience which, though sometimes difficult, has taught me a great deal, and for which I am immensely grateful. Some of you will also know that I will soon be taking off my lawyer's hat, and from January, will be (excitingly and terrifyingly) forging a different path, embracing a freelance lifestyle and going it alone.

It's therefore of little surprise, I guess, that thoughts of careers, achievements and success have featured heavily in my mind over these last few months. I have reflected frequently on my role as a lawyer, the successes I have had and the lessons I've learnt. I hope that at least some of those will carry me forward and help me as I embark on a new career, with all the completely new challenges that that will inevitably bring!

 I was asked recently to be involved in Danish design brand Georg Jensen's You Can Never Be Too Much You campaign, and it got me thinking about the some of the fascinating and inspiring women I know (and know of) and the wonderful and impressive journeys that they have made in the world, often defying other people's prejudices and perceived limitations to get to where they are. The campaign itself features five seriously amazing women at the top of their respective fields, each of whom has got there through hard work and gritty determination (they are Sarah Kendall, Dominique Crenn, Susanne Bier, Behnaz Shafiei and Cecilia Braekhus).

The campaign also inevitably made me think about the challenges that women face when they strive for success, and the pressure that many women in professional environments can sometimes feel to conform to a certain image, or to present themselves in a way that is "acceptable" to others. I have seen this at first hand in law and felt that pressure myself from time to time. I have sat through meeting after meeting dominated by outspoken men with forthright opinions, and felt unable to say what I think or feel. I have voiced my opinions (about how important it is to enable part time employees to become equity partners of law firms) and had them dismissed out of hand. I have watched women apologise for being too loud or too pushy, too opinionated, too demanding  (i.e. for just being themselves) time after time. I have heard the word "ambition" used like it's a dirty word about women, as if there is something shameful about wanting to reach the top or achieve your dreams.

Thankfully I have also seen the opposite too, not least at my current firm, where senior management is almost exclusively female, and 80% of the workforce are women. I have had the privilege to be surrounded by a host of strong, fierce women, speaking their thoughts, sharing their ideas and refusing to be anything other than true to their own characters and convictions. And as I've grown older and progressed in my career, I too have found the confidence to openly embrace and express my own personality, without apology, and not soften or mould myself into a certain image. Of course, this is exactly what the campaign celebrates - "You'll always be too much of something, for someone. But if you round your edges, you'll lose your edge."

As I leave the world of law and embark on a new path, there will be new challenges to overcome. Being one's own boss, trusting one's own instincts and relying on one's own inner resource requires just as much grit and determination as toughing it out in the boardroom or courtroom. I will have to fight to maintain confidence in my own worth, to champion my own voice and my own abilities, to stay true to my own intentions and not lose heart in the face of doubts or criticism. Thankfully, just as in law, I have many role models to inspire me - artists, bloggers, photographers and countless other creative women who publicly express who they are, what they think and what they want, without apology or embarrassment.

We are each and every one of us deeply complex and flawed, vulnerable and strong, strange and wonderful in a million different ways. And when we embrace those things, we achieve great things. Why would we, why should we,  ever apologise for that?

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Georg Jensen, but as you can probably tell, all opinions are my own and come straight from the heart. I love talking about this sort of thing and would so love to hear about your own opinions and experiences - please do leave me a comment and let me know what you think.


Please do have a look at the video too - I think it's great! 


  1. I love this a lot. And I wish you all the luck for your brave big step!

    1. Thank you so much Eva, and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post :)

  2. I'm so excited for you and this new opportunity you have. And I think the message of this campaign is so relevant and so needed.

    1. Thank you so much Esther - so sweet of you. And I completely agree! xxx

  3. Dear Mary

    I really spent a nice time reading your article. When I red that you are about tout leave your lawyer job to create your own activity, my reaction was "waouh, this woman is so brave !"
    Are you creating your activity in the craft area ? You seems to be so gifted in it !

    Your story is very meaningful for me. After getting a Master Degree in International trade, I have been working for 3 years now as an Export Assistant in a big french company. I didn't choose my studies with passion, I never really knew what I wanted to do so I choose the international trade area because of the wide job opening and because I was quite good in using languages.
    Good company, correct wage, a contract very secure, good atmosphere of work with nice colleagues...I should be happy but since several months I am full of questions and doubts. I feel that I am like "suffering" my job, that I am not blooming doing it. I look at my watch many times a day, waiting for the best moment of the day, when I am going back home...I think it is so sad to be like that at only 28 years old, after only 3 years of career !

    I realize I don't have a good knowledge of myself at all, I would like to do something else but I dont't know what for the moment. .
    It gives me hope to read experiences like yours, to see brave people leaving a "good ", secure job to create their own path where they can really be themselves.
    Talking about inspiring people,you are really becoming part of the women who inspire me a lot, I am very happy to have discovered your blog (furthermore, reading it and writing you is a very good way for me to improve my English skills ��
    You really seems to be a very beautiful person.
    Thanks a lot again for having shared your thoughts with us in this beautiful article ��

    Bises de Bretagne


    1. Anouk, what a lovely message - thank you so much for your sweet words and support. Maybe I'm brave, or maybe I'm completely mad!! Your work story sounds very much like mine - although there were aspects of my job that I really liked (including the security), I also felt that I needed to try a more creative life, or I would always regret. I'm so glad to have given you inspiration - I found lots of inspiration myself from bloggers and creatives, and that was part of what gave me the courage to branch out alone. It is scary and exciting! I look forward to getting to know you better and following your journey. Lots of love to you, sweet girl xxxx

  4. What a beautiful story and what a brave step you took here: to live one's passion fully is probably the most inspirational thing ever!

    Your article resonate quite strongly: in my last job as an office manager, I felt I was expected to do things "as a man", leaving all form of sensitivity and creativity aside for the sake of profitability. I remember the paternalistic and sexist reactions of the men who were in the highest positions in that company, when a woman tried to stand for her opinions. Apparently it was not acceptable for a woman there to raise her voice but I rose mine, many times, until I quit. When you feel you don't belong somewhere or that it is the end of an era, then it is time to spread your wings and fly away. I recently put up a blog about femininity and how to reclaim our inner power and live our lives fully as women, so I can totally relate to your experience. I am also planning on becoming my own boss: of course, I am afraid and questions keep coming in my head but there is one thing for certain: I made the right decision.

    You seem to have found your next creative haven and I wish you all the best. Love the video and totally support that campaign!

    1. Hello Amertine, thank you so much for your message and kind words. What a tough and difficult environment you worked in and I admire you very much for refusing to be quiet and raising your opinions - how brave. How courageous also to quit and become your own boss - we will be taking the same journey together! It is of course scary (I too have questions and questions in my head!) but it is also so exciting! I wish you so much luck my dear xxx

    2. Dear Mary, yes, it seems we will embark on a very similar trip indeed! Let's be confident, let's trust our abilities and let's get things done!
      I will surely follow your journey and wish you the best of luck for what is coming your way, can't wait for the details :)

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