The paper presented at the Pride Women’s conference 2017 with the theme “Women: Work, Relationship and Marriage in the 21st Century” by Ezeani Nneka Juliet
As a woman, who are you? You are who you are and no one else. Who you are now is who you have made yourself to be. Your values make you who you are. Your values build your character, your character becomes your personality, your personality becomes your identity, and your identity becomes your brand.
What is a brand? As it refers to human beings, it is a particular identity or image regarded as an asset.
Why is it necessary as a woman to have a brand especially as it relates to work, relationship and marriage in this 21st century? First, you can only give what you know you have. Be it at work, in a relationship, in your marriage… if you do not know who you are or what your purpose in life is, how do you know your worth? Place a value on yourself so that other people who come in contact with you can also value you. How do you expect people around you to really know who you are when you don’t even know yourself? “I love you’’, “I love you”’ will not sustain your marriage, if it was founded on a faulty foundation such as not knowing the true character of the other or not knowing if both your value systems align.
In society today, a number of women go into relationships, get married or take up certain jobs for very wrong reasons. The result at the end of the day is that they experience heartbreaks, job failure and separation from their partners. Once you, as a woman, build your value system, it becomes your identity, your brand from which everyone you come in contact with can decipher to a good extent who you are. This brand becomes a benchmark for all that you do. For instance, you meet a man who is interested in you, and would like to begin a relationship with you. You then weigh your value system with his value system and if they do not match, what should you do? Should you still go ahead with the relationship? You should be honest with yourself, step back and not venture into a relationship with such a person.
Do not undervalue yourself so as to get worldly pleasures or to fit into society! When you know who you are, and have discovered your purpose in life, you will not live a life of pretence. You will see that all aspects of your life will be balanced and wholesome.
With your brand, what people see of you is what they get, whether at home, in school, at work, in church, at the market place, in your relationships with friends, family, boyfriend, husband… you will be the same person. There is no dual or triple personality. If you are known as an upright woman, you are an upright woman everywhere! So woman, build your brand!
There are people we know who have built a brand for themselves and have become famous all over the world based on their brand, Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, etc. We have female brands here in Nigeria – Queen Amina, Mrs. Funmilayo Anikolapo Ransom-Kuti. Does anyone here remember Pastor Bimbo Odukoya? What was she known for? How about Mrs. Dora Akunyili? What was she known for? Do you think all these women sat down every day waiting for life to just happen to them? No, they took charge of their lives and made it what they wanted it to be. Years after some have passed on, their legacy, their brand still speaks… We can all strive to be legends like them. All of them have and had character that can be emulated.
Martin Luther king Jr, in his famous speech said that people should be judged by the content of their character and not by the colour of their skin. Your character is your brand, the Yoruba term for this is “Iwa lewa”, which means one’s good character is better than beauty or charm.
Your “Iwa Lewa” is what you are known for, what you are able to give as a woman to all those around you and to the society at large, what you will be remembered for.
We were all created for a purpose. Have you discovered what that purpose is? If not, the possibility is that you have been sailing through life on airplane mode, never really harnessing the true purpose of your existence. People live up to be 80 years and realise that they have missed the opportunity to become who they really were meant to be, through their indecisions, procrastinations, and the wrong choices they made in life. They should have pursued their passion, they should have lived more and loved more. They however end up in their last days of life with emotional guilt and regret and a lack of fulfilment and accomplishment of purpose.
The graveyard is full of unfulfilled dreams and great potentials that were never harnessed. Now, all of us seated here have the opportunity to reflect on our lives and decide if we are on the right path to a purposeful life, because the decisions you make in your life now will shape who you will be in the future. Begin now to write your own story. Your story should not be written by someone else but by you!
So, as a woman how do we begin to build a life brand?
First, make an evaluation of who you have been right up till this moment. Have you been living a purposeful, intentional life? Or are you always just waiting to see what tomorrow brings without being objective and intentional in your actions?
Secondly, set a new standard by building new strategies to drive your brand forward:
- Be convinced that you were created for a purpose. And that your life on earth is not by accident.
- Identify what your core values are and build up on the ones lacking. Work towards eliminating the vices in your life.
- Discover what drives you, your passion.
- Outline your vision for your life, the kind of life you would want to live.
- Outline goals you will want to achieve and build a realistic strategy to achieving these goals.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people with who will encourage and assist you to achieve your goals.
- Have a role model or a mentor, someone who inspires you.
- Courageously follow through your mission to your vision, because you will definitely meet roadblocks along the way which may make you want to give up, but always remember, ‘No retreat no surrender’, stand firm in what you believe in and brace up for challenges, because they will surely come.
- Be consistent in your brand. Never compromise your standard. Let who you are be what people see.
There are three main factors that can disrupt your ability to build a life brand:
- Your upbringing
- The environment in which you operate
- A significant emotional experience
We should however realise that limitations only exist in the mind. You can be whomever you choose to be once you can break free from the prison of the mind which tells you that you can never amount to anything.
As women we have the power to create, nurture and grow. To take charge of your womanhood you have to:
- Learn to love yourself, you can never truly love someone else unless you understand what love is and know what it means to love.
- Never believe a prediction that does not empower you.
- Do not wallow in self-pity, you are not your condition, your unfortunate circumstance does not define you.
- Do not seek validation from people who you know do not wish you well.
- Learn to be the master of your emotions and not always be subjected to move with the crowd.
- Be true and stay committed to the new you, your brand.
By the time you take all these steps, you would have built a standard. You can then apply this standard to all aspects of your life, be it relationships, marriage or your job.
To sustain this standard however, never underestimate God in your life. He should be the foundation on which you stand. Seek for God’s guidance always.
- Groom yourself to be elegant and graceful. Take care of your health because you can only achieve greatness only when you are alive.
- Make new friends, visit new places, these can help you broaden your world view.
- Never stop learning. Take up another degree, go for trainings, conferences, seminars, workshops… expand your knowledge.
- Pick up a hobby, an interest, a pet, if you want. Don’t just live your life wishing… do something about it.
When seeking employment,
- You should know the kind of jobs that will not be acceptable because they do not match your brand.
- Make sure you have a job you love. Having a job you love ensures that you are productive in it and that you do not suffer a burnout after sometime.
- Be sure that your job does not affect your relationships especially with your family. The trend with 21st century women is that they become so career focused that they don’t have any other life except their jobs. The 21st century woman should strive to integrate her work and family life so that none suffers for the other.
You need to take ownership of your job and have a great sense of duty and dedication. You should exude confidence and poise because these will ultimately make your co-workers respect you.
Have a great rapport with your co-workers, and be such a person that their association with you could make them learn a thing or two. Aim to achieve your targets and set new goals for growth and more achievements. If you are not cut out for the 9-5 job, then become an entrepreneur, start your own business. Carve your own niche and live your passion.
When it is time to enter into a relationship, as a renewed 21st century woman who not only values herself but protects her dignity as a person at all costs, you will have to be intentional and realistic about the relationship you foster. In checking out the man, you are not assessing him based only on the size of his wallet or how tall and handsome he is, your assessment should first be based on his value system and how well it matches and complements yours. You are checking to see if both of you are intellectually, emotionally, socially, spiritually and lastly, physically compatible. It is helpful to focus on these five areas during the dating period. Your dating process should be a committed one, there should be exclusivity, just as in marriage. It will interest you to note that having self-worth will make you not to be easily manipulated sexually and not engage in premarital sex, which 95% of the time clouds one’s sense of good judgment when dating. Having self-worth demands from your partner that you should be treated with dignity, especially in these times where rape and domestic violence seems to be the order of the day.
In fostering your relationship, you should learn your love languages so as to be able to relate better. Relationships should be entered into with good intentions otherwise it becomes deceitful.
Apart from the five foundational factors I have mentioned, write down realistic attributes you would want in a man. If he scores 75 and above from your list, then you may want to give him a go. Always bear in mind that no one is perfect.
It is important to note that any relationship that doesn’t add value to your life but rather takes away from it is never worth it. The man who will tell you to drop out of school to marry him and bear children for him and that he will take care of you is not the kind of man who is ready for marriage. He needs to realise that you may have an ambition to be something more than just a housewife. In as much as you will never relegate your duties to your family, your ambition as a woman in life may just not be only to get married and have children. An intending spouse or a spouse should be willing to be supportive of the educational and vocational goals and ambitions of his wife.
In your marriage, there should be a sense of duty to your spouse and children. The home should be well kept, you should have bonding activities with your husband, such as date nights, playing board games, an evening stroll. Check to see if there are relationships or activities in your life that should be less important so your marriage relationship can be more important? Begin to work to reduce their priority. Staying happily in a marriage requires great commitment.
Communication in marriage is very key. One of the main causes of failure of marriage in the world today is lack of good communication. Be worried when you and your spouse hardly have anything to talk about apart from when it concerns the children. Both of you should take urgent steps to build the communication bridge. If not, your marriage may well be heading for the end.
Financial communication is also very important in marriage. The income and expenditure of personal and family accounts should be well balanced when one of you tends to be a spender and the other a saver, both of you should discuss the matter fully and find a solution that is acceptable to both of you.
If there are children, parenting of the children should be intentional and not left to your support staff. There should be fun recreational activities with your spouse and the children. These help to build the bonds within the family. Family love and devotion can only be fostered if there are deliberate actions to build such.
There are single women who have gone past the age society has pegged that a woman should get married, and are feeling unfulfilled and less of a woman. Listen to me, just because you took longer than others does not mean you have failed. You live a good life, you are successful in your career, you relate well with everyone around you. These are worthy achievements to be celebrated. When marriage comes, you celebrate that as well. Never allow any situation distract you from achieving your dream.
One may say only “Super Woman” can do all what I have said today! Well then, be that Super Woman! Who wants to be just regular!? The new you is highly valued… And as the best impact is made through service to others, much is expected from you Super Woman!
Is it too late now to start to build your brand and become who you were destined by God to be? My answer to you will be, once there is life there is hope. With life still in us, we can be who we want to be. The past is in the past! Now is what matters. Now is a good time to begin to make great impact with your brand, in your homes, in your places of work, in the church, with your friends, in your relationships with your families, and in the community. Let us women of the 21st century not just live to be statistics that are soon forgotten, rather let’s live to be trailblazers. Leave a mark in this world with your brand so that long after you are gone, future generations will know by the legacy you left behind that you were once here.
Thank you for listening. And may God direct our paths!