A few weeks ago, I had the chance to hang out with the wonderful women of Be Bona Fide, Nikki and Laura, at the Pinners conference in Scottsdale. Clare and I have been following them for a while and love everything about their movement, which encourages authenticity and empowers women of all ages. Go read some of the stories they share on their blog and Instagram account. One of them had us crying laughing. We’re so excited to help announce the latest addition to their Bona Fide jewelry collection- the Shine-from-Within necklace!
The Be Bona Fide movement is something near to me and Clare. When we were first talking about what we would want the main message and themes of our blog to be, the idea of authenticity kept coming up as something really valuable to talk about. We think it is such an important message to share in a world that is bombarded by messages that continually tell us we aren’t enough. We see people’s highlight reels and like counts and good hair days but aren’t used to seeing people’s struggles too. To us, being Bona Fide is all about being authentically, wholly, unapologetically yourself. Which can be a scary thing with all of the pressure we face, especially as women to look and act a certain way-often perpetuated by social media. Be Bona Fide is about both honestly recognizing your weaknesses as well as celebrating and sharing your strengths.
Clare here! Erika and I have become pretty comfortable with sharing our weaknesses with each other but now, especially through our blog, we are working on sharing with anyone who needs it. How encouraging it is to hear that you aren’t alone in your struggles! We hope that by sharing our struggles and by showing our positivity and work on becoming better, we can inspire others to act even more joyfully and graceful in the face of hardship.
As weird as it sounds, the first step in letting your light shine is letting your darkness be seen. If you think of really motivational figures, you often think about how hard they had to work. Think of the hours Michael Jordan brought to the court or the struggle that Helen Keller went through to learn. Helen Keller and other inspirational people are moving because of the hardships that they dealt with, not solely because of their skills and talents they are known for. The people for whom things come easy to are not as inspiring. It is grace in the face of hardship that we admire. When I was little I used to admire Helen Keller mostly because she was SOO naughty when she was little (she used to steal other people’s food off the dinner table) BUT she went on to become this amazing speaker and women, overcoming incredible hardships. I could connect with her because her weakness was easy to empathize with.
Some of my very best friends are men and women who I met through college or teaching. The common thread is that both of these groups have seen me at my absolute worst. On the days when I was overworked and crabby I forced myself to rely on my fellow classmates and then later my co workers. By sharing my struggles with them I was able to find support and encouragement. Only once I had these networks of people who knew my worst but saw me struggling to show my best- was I then able to show them my best. By trying to always handle hardships with joy and patience I am able to show my light through the darkness. It may be a little tea light right now but the end goal is a bonfire.
Back to Erika!- It’s taken a while for me to have confidence in various aspects of my life and something I’m definitely still working on. I often doubt my abilities and whether I am qualified or capable to handle the things that come my way. A few years ago, my parents had to convince me to even consider applying for a PhD program because I just didn’t think I could do it. I’ve recently been working on trying to shake my self-doubt and more fully embrace my gifts. I think especially as women, we shy away from attention or recognition for our accomplishments or mistakenly think that humility is thinking less of yourself. I’ve gotten a lot of mixed reactions from the people I meet when I tell them I’m currently dedicating my life to obtaining a PhD in Math Education. Most of them involve some surprise and bewilderment, because, as a young female, this is just unexpected. I don’t really look the part. (By the way, I love helping to slowly shatter this stereotype, woo #WomenInSTEM!) To me, being Bona Fide is such an important idea because it is about embracing who you are and owning it. It’s about letting your whole person shine through so others can see the depth of all you have to offer-the strengths along with the struggles.
Sharing more of what makes you YOU has an incredible effect. When we do this, when we feel free to shine our inner light without dimming it to fit others’ expectations, something amazing happens. In the words of Marianne Williamson:
“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”
We have the power to ignite each other in an unspoken way to accomplish incredible things through our actions. I’m so grateful for my friends and role models that have silently encouraged me and pushed me to be more authentically myself, simply through how they live their own lives.
Shine the light that only you can shine! Be Bona Fide.