Taking the Lead

What would you say to inspire your teenage self?

We asked nine Australian women leaders across business, the arts and sport to write to their teenage self. They were teenagers once, tackling issues today’s girls face every day around the world.

We want to show girls that they, too, have the power to achieve their dreams to lead.

Leave your own advice at the bottom of this page!

Amanda McKenzie

CEO, Climate Council - Read her advice

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Amanda McKenzie

To my teenage self,

Looking back, I'd tell myself three things:

1.Do anything meaningful you have to believe in yourself. Women often underestimate themselves. I did and still do sometimes. I would tell myself: “You are brilliant. You can do far more than you think you can. Don't worry just get out there and give it a go and don't be so hard on yourself.”

2. People will encourage you to take a safe and conventional path. However, if your dreams are down a less-trodden track, take it, and see where it leads. Keep listening to your heart, what motivates you, what you are passionate about, what you feel will create good in the world, and you will go the right way. There will be those who tell you that you’re going the wrong way. Listen to them, but don't let them deter you. Ultimately you must trust yourself and your own judgement.

3. Don't be afraid to take risks in your career especially when you are young. You're likely to have more financial and family responsibilities as you get older and then it becomes harder to take risks.  Embrace and build upon the opportunities that come along. That's making your own luck.


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Clare Bowditch

Musician and founder of Big Hearted Business - Read her advice

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Clare Bowditch

To my teenage self,

Here's the truth. I spent much of my teenage years alternating between feeling incredibly insecure, and acting incredibly brave. I wanted to be loved and approved of so desperately, but I wanted to be loved for who I was. I wondered where my place was in the world, and when I didn't find it, I decided to go ahead and make it.

All the while, I was kind of thinking of girls exactly like you: girls who will one day read this, and who need a reminder of what is possible in the world.

And so, I dare you. Go ahead and prove to yourself and me and to all those who came before and come after you, what is possible in the world for young women with big hearts who know that caring, and vulnerability, are in fact super-powers.

It doesn’t matter if this is something that happens in the privacy of your own family, your own city, or on a massive global scale: just dare yourself to be brave, let yourself love and be loved, and therefore really make the most of this life.

These are the times in history where that is more possible than ever before, because of the access so many of us now have to the technology of our times. The way it allows us to connect with each other and shine light into dark places like never before. We see the problems, we talk about the problems, and now comes the time for solutions. You are part of the solution, believe it or not. No matter how unworthy you may feel on some days, you, my darlings, can be a part of the solution.

So. Find people who understand you, people who light you up and tell you the truth but do it with love, and don't waste your time trying to get the approval of people who you don't even really like or respect or even know. Approve of yourself. Approve of yourself and your attempts at doing good that only you see. Give yourself a big star.

And remember that life is short, so go ahead and play and think huge and be unreasonable in your wishes: don't waste your time trying to be things you're not.

And for so many of you, when you're struggling with your body and the way you look and all the things this world tells us matter, and how you feel anxious and scared and uncertain and you don't want anyone to know, just go ahead and flip it; transform it; turn that energy into usefulness; let it all out; do something else with it; understand it's just you being a human who wants to be seen and loved. All that dark stuff, just go ahead and be an alchemist with it. Use it to help someone somewhere, even in some tiny way. Do think about all the brilliant women in this world who don't have access to food and shelter and education, let alone technology, and dream of and be part of building a world where we're better than that, where we know how to help each other, where we know how to make a difference.

And when all else fails, go outside, and spend some time sniffing flowers. Sounds simple, and it indeed is.

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Elena Tucker

Geneticist, winner of Women in Science Award - Read her advice

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Elena Tucker

To my teenage self,

I wish I could convince you that you need not be concerned that your interests, tastes and goals may be different from those of your peers. You should be proud of your differences and in time, you will find people who genuinely appreciate you for who you are and what you aspire to.

I encourage you to make choices based on what you enjoy and what you consider worthwhile – whether that be in a personal sense, or for the greater good.

Seek opportunities and say ‘yes’ to any of those that arise, even if they are outside your comfort zone ... especially if they are outside your comfort zone!

You will make a difference to people’s lives.

Elena

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Ellyse Perry

Australian sportswoman, cricket and soccer - Read her advice

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Ellyse Perry

To my teenage self,

Make a decision to stick with things that you are truly passionate about and enjoy doing them, even if they might not seem 'cool' or widely accepted by your peers at the moment. Once you leave school and your teenage years, you'll discover a much wider and diverse society to the one you know now.

If you truly love what you are doing, you are bound to be happy and successful for a lifetime. And you'll also find, as you grow up, that people come to admire most people with a genuine sense of enthusiasm and energy for what they are doing. Because they are the people who make the most positive difference to other people’s lives and the world.


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Lisa Wilkinson

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Lisa Wilkinson

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Lucinda Dunn

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Lucinda Dunn

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Melanie Vallejo

Actor - Read her advice

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Melanie Vallejo

To my teenage self,

Be brave.

Don't be afraid of failure – that’s when you’ll grow and learn the most.

Surround yourself with kind, interesting people from all walks of life.

Be interested in EVERYTHING.

Ask questions.

Speak up.

Think BIG.

The world is waiting for you.


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The Honourable Quentin Bryce AD, CVO

Former Governor-General of Australia - Read her advice

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The Honourable Quentin Bryce AD, CVO

To my teenage self,

Teenage years: those times of transition from girlhood to womanhood are enormously influential and important in our development as human beings.  I look back on mine with gratitude to my parents who gave the highest priority to their daughters’ education; not a common thing in those days. Looking back, memories are suffused with happiness and a sense of adventure but always carrying a deep shyness.

 

The advice I would give myself is about confidence – about the confidence to speak up, to ask questions, to stand in the front without feeling awkward, even embarrassed.  I belonged to a generation of ‘dutiful daughters’ brought up to speak when spoken to and never to ‘show off’.  Skiting was about the worst thing you could do!  I always go out of my way to stretch out my hand in friendship and encouragement to girls I see standing quietly in the backgrounds.  I say to them: be bold.  Have a go.  Believe in yourself.  Volunteer.  Stand tall and proud.

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Samantha Harris

Model - Read her advice

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Samantha Harris

Some advice I would give my younger self would be stay true and believe in yourself. Don't compare yourself to anyone we are all so different and unique in our own way and that's what makes us shine as an individual. There were times I would be down on myself because I was a little different to all the girls around me which made me sad. Looking back I wished I had not wasted so much time thinking about it. I am proud of what i have done and my achievements. I wish I could have reminded my younger self that through hard work and determination, I was going to realise my dreams. My other advice would be not to take things personally, sometimes people say things to hurt you or because they are jealous and that can be damaging to a younger self. Always keep a distance between what is real and what if fabricated, know what is right and wrong and follow the correct path.

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What advice would you give your teenage self? Leave your comment below.