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5 Ways to Live Unapologetically in 2020

by MARIANNE SCHNALL

 

When I look out at the world today, one of the positive, hopeful trends I see is the rising of women. Women are speaking up in all kinds of powerful ways—sharing their stories, running for office, advocating for gender equity and using their voices, and demanding a seat at the table where decisions are being made. What will it take for women to continue to own their power, utilize their talents and gifts, advocate for the causes they care about, and lead lives of meaning and purpose in 2020?

In my three-decade career as a journalist, I have had the privilege of interviewing some of the most iconic and trailblazing women of our time who have collectively had such enormous impact on the world and have also helped shape my own personal journey. In sharing their life wisdom with me, one important lesson these women have expressed is the concept of living unapologetically—owning your power, being true to yourself, using your voice, and having the courage to take risks and create change in the world. I feature a collection of those insights in my new books Leading the Way and Dare to Be You, and want to share five key takeaways to inspire and energize us all for the year ahead.

 

  1. Be Your Authentic Self

 

To live unapologetically, one of the most important places to start is to know yourself and fully embrace who it is that you are—to celebrate your uniqueness rather than trying to please and fit in or feeling like you have to conform, which is what our society often teaches us, especially as girls. As actress/activist Jane Fonda told me, “What we all try to do in our lives is amplify our souls—try to be as authentic as we can be and as whole as we can be, regardless of what people think or what society says we should be. We all want to die having lived—having been authentic, whole people. That’s the goal.”

Being authentic includes allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, which can feel scary at times. According to actress Amy Poehler, “vulnerability is power.” She said, “I like vulnerable and open people, and I think when you’re that way, you are actually being very brave. By presenting the real truth of yourself, who you really are, you change the molecules in the room.” 

 

  1. Use Your Voice

 

There are a lot of serious issues we face in this country and the world, and now more than ever we need to speak our truth, share our stories, ideas, and perspectives, and use our voices to advocate for ourselves and the issues we care about. For women, it can often take a while to come into a sense of our true voice. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once told me, “It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.”

So find your voice and use it to speak up and speak out. As playwright and activist Eve Ensler remarked, “Give voice to what you know to be true and do not be afraid of being disliked or exiled. That’s the hard work of standing up for what you see.”

 

  1. Find the Courage to Face Your Fears and Take Risks

 

Another key to living unapologetically lies in having the courage to take risks and make mistakes since it’s practically impossible to make progress toward achieving anything bold without doing so. Poet Maya Angelou once said that courage was “the most important of all the virtues,” and activist Gloria Steinem explained to me that it is not about eliminating fear but instead using fear as a sign and as fuel. As she put it, “Being brave is not being unafraid but feeling the fear and doing it anyway. When you feel fear, try using it as a signal that something really important is about to happen.”

Media pioneer Pat Mitchell likes to reference her grandmother’s advice the first time she fell and hurt herself. She said her grandmother told her, “Honey, at least falling on your face is a forward movement.” Mitchell continued, “That came back to me many times as I failed to get the job or failed to do things perfectly or whatever. You have to be willing to be brave enough to risk falling on your face, to risk failing. Everything we do is about taking risks.”

 

  1. Take Care of Yourself

 

One vital area that can often get overlooked—particularly for women who are often juggling multiple roles and responsibilities—is taking time to recharge and to prioritize our health and well-being. When we prioritize our own needs—getting enough sleep, taking time alone for stillness and reflection, taking care of our bodies—we can actually be more productive in all areas of life and be more present for our work and friends and families.

As actress Kerry Washington told me, “I try to put myself first. If I don’t put my own physical and emotional health first, then I’m not really useful to any movement, to any work of art, to any creative endeavor. I have to be aware—not selfish and self-absorbed and self-obsessed—but I have to be self-aware of what my needs are and be willing to take care of my own needs.”

And Arianna Huffington—who founded her platform Thrive Global after becoming so exhausted from overwork that she collapsed and hit her head on her desk and broke her cheekbone—told me, “The better people are at taking care of themselves, the more effective they’ll be in taking care of others, including their families, coworkers, communities, and fellow citizens. When you’re on an airplane, you’re told to ‘secure your own mask first before helping others,’ even your own child. After all, it’s not easy to help somebody else breathe easier if you’re fighting for air yourself.”

 

  1. Lead in Your Own Way and Create Change

 

Ultimately, living unapologetically means sharing your unique gifts with the world—gifts that will help shape your own life, as well as the world you want to live in. In doing so, it is important to remember that there are many ways to be a leader beyond formal roles such as an elected official or a CEO. We can lead and create change in the way that we live our daily lives. We can also model new paradigms of leadership and power in the way we use our influence to uplift marginalized voices and serve others. As media icon Oprah Winfrey said to me, “There are multiple levels of leadership. Your leadership in your own family, your community, how you lead your life, how you present yourself in the world as one who is willing to use what you have to give to others. That to me is the defining meaning of what it takes to be a leader.”

In 2020, let’s remember that each of us has the power to create a better world, as long as we believe in ourselves, find our courage, use our voices, and don’t back down. Perhaps renowned primatologist Jane Goodall said it best when she said, “If we all give up hope and do nothing, then indeed there is no hope. It will be helped by all of us taking action of some sort. Cumulatively, our small decisions, choices, and actions make a very big difference.”

MARIANNE SCHNALL

Marianne Schnall is a widely published journalist and interviewer whose work has appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine, TIME.com, Forbes, CNN.com, Refinery29, the Women’s Media Center, Huffington Post, and many others. Schnall is the founder of Feminist.com, a leading women’s website and nonprofit organization and WhatWillItTake.com, a media and event platform that engages woman everywhere to advance in all levels of leadership and take action. She is the author of What Will It Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations about Women, Leadership & Power, Leading the Way: Inspiring Words for Women on How to Live and Lead with Courage, Confidence, and Authenticity and Dare to Be You: Inspirational Advice for Girls on Finding Your Voice, Leading Fearlessly, and Making a Difference.