Like many others, I was glued to the Olympics this year. The tagline for London2012 was:
“Inspire a Generation.”
Having been fortunate enough to be in London at the time of the Olympics, I think it is fair to say, you were inspired regardless of the generation you belonged to. Although it seems that the fever of the games was contagious, it was some of the life stories that overlaid some of the athletes that truly inspired and moved me.
London2012 is being hailed as one of the best for female athletes given it was the first time every Nation had a female athlete to represent them. An important milestone indeed. So for that reason, I have decided to write a handful of posts on those female athletes that inspired me and I am calling these posts “My London2012 Inspired Take-Aways.”
As there seems to be a lot of discussion in the media on the topic of a woman’s hair lately, I have decided to kick-off with Joanna Rowsell.
Without a doubt when Joanna Rowsell stood on th podium to collect her gold medal for cycling at the Olympics, sporting her bald head got as much attention as her gold medal. Without a doubt, you could not miss the glow of pride in her accomplishment , as well as the pride she extruded in who she is and what she represented. LOVED IT!
Now I have since learned that this proud and brave act was a result of a hard life journey. Joanna Rowsell suffers from alopecia; an auto-immune disease that results in hair loss. Joanna lost her hair at the age of 11 which resulted in Joanna being very shy as a child and spending most of her time at home away from other children.
Alienated by her condition, she was drawn to her studies as a place where she could compete and be accepted in society. She became an A-student. Joanna has shared:
‘Working hard was the only thing that stopped me from worrying about the future, about whether I would get a boyfriend or how I would face getting a job with strangers.
‘Then cycling came along and I applied the same work ethic. I worked through any worries I had about my hair and I focused solely on that. It made me who I am.’
So why am I inspired by a bald woman receiving a medal?
Well, Joanna’s journey included a period of isolation due to being different. She did not fit. So she poured her energy and focus elsewhere to ensure a hopeful future and a reason why the world should not count her out. I think many can relate to this. Being different can be a lonely journey. So hearing this story provides hope to those who are struggling by being atypical.
Secondly, she came to a point in her life where she stood on the world stage and by that one-act said to the world “This is who I am”. The authentically of that act resonated with so many including myself. Quite frankly it elevated her medal from gold to platinum in my books.
Getting to the point of knowing who you are and taking pride in your person, is a key step before confidence can be gained. It is also key to being authentic both in your personal and professional life.
Society has a way of belittling your natural image especially if it not aligned to what mainstream media suggest is acceptable or beautiful. So people like Joanna become role models by breaking the rules of what is considered acceptable while driving to succeed and bringing a sense of reality to us.
Love Joanna’s story. Love the message.
Take pride in being yourself.
Do you have a similar experience you can share? Would love to hear it.
In the interim, I am going to work on my next story. Stay tuned.
- Bald and bold (theage.com.au)
- Joanna Rowsell, who suffers from alopecia, on why she refused to wear a wig to accept her gold medal (dailymail.co.uk)
- Joanna Rowsell credits her gold medal success to best friend and fellow Olympian Lizzie Armitstead (dailymail.co.uk)