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  • Writer's pictureNicole Salter

The myth of the self-made woman

Strong woman statue

I have always thought of myself as a self-made woman. Not that I'm so vain as to think I have built some kind of salt empire or something; in fact, I haven't always been proud of what I've built, but I did believe that, for better or worse, I did it myself.

Large close-knit family - no. Inherited money? Ha! Helping hands along the way? Well, yes, of course, many people have helped and supported me in business, and I'm grateful - yet when you open a new business, you definitely will find out that a lot of people also won't, for various reasons. I haven't yet experienced a mentorship situation where I could genuinely say "I wouldn't be at this stage of my career if it wasn't for you". This left me still feeling rather alone in my new endeavours.

Oprah helped me see that we all stand on the shoulders of greatness

Then I heard Oprah talking on one of the Deepak Chopra 21-day meditation challenges. As I'm sure you're aware, Oprah's childhood was marked by horrible abuse and poverty; she could easily call herself a self-made woman, certainly nobody handed her fame and success to her. In fact, she is often ranked as such on lists of the most important self-made women of all time.

Instead, though, Oprah said something very interesting: she talked about her ancestors, saying that it is on the backs of their accomplishments that everything she has ever achieved was made possible.

You could say this hit me hard!

As someone who has been estranged and distant from her family for a long time, I don't know much about my ancestors, but I have often wondered.

On my father's side, my not-too-distant ancestors survived slavery, then living as second-class citizens in the segregated Deep South. I cannot even imagine the experiences that my own father, who was born in a small Alabama town in 1946, would have had to survive - given that black people did not even get the right to attend the same schools as white children until after he had already become a man.

My maternal grandmother survived not one but two horrific World Wars that had a direct and devastating impact on her in Italy. She finally came to Canada at age 40, not knowing a soul here except her husband and not speaking any English.

The courage of these few relatives that I even know about, is definitely humbling. They paved the way for me to be here and to accomplish whatever measure of success, however you define it, that I have been capable of.

The takeaway: you, the small business owner, are not alone.

I am grateful for the work and determination, the perseverance and courage of my ancestors, who have shaped my experience in ways I will never fully know or understand.

This is a subject for me to meditate on...and that's what the tub is for. Will you reflect on who you might have to thank for your current standard of living? Leave a comment below and let us know your 'aha moment'!

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