It's been said that "behind every woman is a tribe of successful women that have her back"- I for one can attest to the truth behind this statement.
Growing up in today's society, women are bred to feel as though we are in constant competition with one another. Not for jobs or successful positions, but for attention from men, Instagram likes, and popularity. We're so often drawn away from mutually supporting one another, empowering one another, and providing encouragement when we need it most. Society has bred us to gossip about one another and to tear each other down over even the most minute mistakes.
But every now and again, there's a shining example of what it means to be a woman who empowers others. Over the past year and a half, I've had the pleasure of being mentored by my fabulous director, Ashley Grindstaff. In August of 2014, I drove the whole length of Tennessee from Memphis to somewhere I'd never been to called Johnson City, to compete in a pageant that I was sure I wouldn't win. To my surprise, and everyone else's I think too, haha, I did. I had no idea what a blessing it would be to be welcomed into her home and become a part of the Grindstaff family and to be mentored and encouraged every day by such an incredible family.
Over the past year and a half I've learned from watching Ashley what it means to really have it all. To have a family, maintain a social life, be the CEO of several businesses, be a public figure in her community, chair numerous philanthropic events, and somehow manage to be an incredible director to both myself and my co-crown.
Ashley has been such an incredible mentor. She has taught me so much about not only how to navigate competing in the Miss America Organization but what it means to be a public figure, a role model, and a business woman.
Learning from her has taught me that sometimes you have to give up some things to achieve what you want most.
Sometimes sacrifice is the most necessary ingredient for success.
Maybe it’s giving up your social life, maybe it’s sleep, but I’ve learned through these past years from Ashley that if you want something bad enough, you’ll give up anything to attain it.
Most of all, what I've learned from spending time with and being mentored by Ashley is that you can make such an impact by encouraging other women around you instead of tearing them down. One of my favorite pieces of advice I've learned from her is that how you make people feel says a lot about you. She's taught me to be gracious in speech, even when it's hard; to be mindful of little ears listening to your every word when you're around; to treat everyone equally, no matter who they are, what they do, wear or say, everyone should be treated with the same amount of respect. There's so many life lessons I could talk about that I've learned from her - my favorite being,
never underestimate the power of red lipstick and high heels -
but what I hope you take away from this is to find that mentor who cares about you and will pour herself into you.
Find your Ashley.
Find someone who encourages you and pushes you to be a better person, someone who surrounds themselves with positive people and radiates positivity into the lives of those around them. Whether it's a professor, a friend, your mom, or whoever that may be, find that one particular person who inspires you daily.
Ashley is the friend that I can look to for encouragement when I need it most, truth even when it hurts, and a smile and hug when I could really use both.
Never for one minute has she ever doubted my dreams or aspirations. I can always count on her to give me thoughtful and truthful advice, a rare attribute that I find so valuable in a friend.
I trust Ashley's advice with everything from helping me make huge life decisions down to what shoes I should wear tomorrow.
The point to all this being, find the friend who celebrates your strengths and triumphs, and who is there in times of doubt and sadness too. Support her the way you want to be supported! Start building a relationship where you strengthen each other and build each other up. Whether you're reaching out to be mentored, or to mentor, you just might be what someone is looking for- we all need that someone!
I'll leave you with a quote from Maya Angelou to sum up this post- "We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
To find strong female friends, we must not only become strong women ourselves, but motivate others to be strong too.