Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I’ve gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong!
I am invincible!
These are the iconic words of Helen Reddy’s anthem, ‘I am Woman’.
And they are very wise words indeed.
She summed up deep truths, profoundly and succinctly.
No wonder she became a legend and popular voice for the Women’s Liberation Movement.
And her message is still relevant for us today, women and men.
Let’s take the words of this song and apply it to personal development.
Oh yes, I am wise but it’s wisdom born of pain.
Most of us begin our personal development journey because of pain.
We had a problem, we refused to face it and resisted change.
The problem built to a crisis and then the pain of remaining the same was greater than our fear of change.
Finally, we sought help to change because it’s not easy or fast to do it alone.
And so begins our personal development journey.
But the key is:
Do we learn something that allows us to behave differently in the future?
Because that is where real wisdom is gained.
Otherwise we are simply banging our head against a brick wall.
Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome, not learning anything and blaming others for our problems.
Please note the change we make may need to be:
Standing up for ourselves, expecting respect and communicating assertively over and over again.
For anyone who has ever been disempowered this is imperative because the other party has a vested interest in keeping us in ‘our place’.
So yes, personal development is an incredibly powerful tool.
But only if we have the wisdom to apply it to the real world and get real results because we have changed our behaviour and communicated effectively.
This was one of the things I really loved about Helen Reddy.
Not only did she write extraordinary songs . . . she was willing to be proactive and live her life as an example for others to follow.
Do we always need pain to grow?
I think the answer to that question is also inherent in Helen Reddy’s song:
She says: ‘Yes, I am wise BUT it’s wisdom born of pain.’
She is asking: Why does she, as a woman, have to go through pain to become wise?
If there was less opposition to her rights, she could gain wisdom through experience and not just through pain.
So even though our journey to empowerment may have begun with pain it shouldn’t always be that way.
Once we have wisdom there are other ways to learn and grow.
We can make change willingly or even fight for change, instead of waiting for it to get so bad we are motivated by pain.
This is what it means to have a Growth Mindset.
We grow because we want to:
Because it’s inspiring.
Because it’s an adventure.
Because it’s exciting and fun!
And we band together, with like minded people, to ensure it happens.
Because then we become part of a movement and the ‘numbers are too big to ignore.’
Most importantly, we don’t care how people judge us because some people will, no matter what we do or how successful we become!
I’ve now watched countless videos and read numerous articles about Helen Reddy and the general perception of her was:
‘A bitter, abrasive, angry woman when younger, who mellowed as she aged.’
And I have no idea how they came up with that perception, because it is not what I see.
In every interview at every stage of her career, I see an articulate, intelligent and sophisticated woman who had a calm, cool, sparkling sense of irony even when the interviewer was being deliberately inflammatory and patronising.
But really so what if she was angry?
Didn’t she have every right to be angry?
After all, she had been lied to, lied about, publicly humiliated and underpaid.
Some righteous anger would be completely reasonable.
But no, she was always a picture of intelligent grace even in trying circumstances and yet they still wanted to depict her that way.
Why? Because it makes what she is saying easier to dismiss and undermine and she decided not to play their game.
In the 1984 interview for 60 Minutes, Mike Willesee asked her:
‘Do you REALLY . . . care about what Australians’ think of Helen Reddy.’
‘I care what Helen Reddy thinks of Helen Reddy. That’s what’s most important. I have to live with myself.’
This is one of the most important keys to personal empowerment . . . being more interested in how you feel about yourself than other people’s judgements of you.
And she says it so beautifully, with a large smile on her face!
Next she sings:
Yes, I’ve paid the price but look how much I’ve gained
It is so important to remember that there is always a price to pay for anything that is important in our lives.
The question is:
Is that price an investment in who we are, what we want and will it allow you to contribute something valuable to the world?
Many people fear risking change but they do not factor in the price of remaining the same.
There is a huge price to be paid for living in pain and fear, in sacrificing dreams for security and love for mediocrity.
The price is the death of the soul, another light going out in the world not because of others but because we smother our own flame.
So yes, there is a price to be paid for living our passion and purpose, standing up for our values and defending those who we love but the price is worth it.
Because even if things do not turn out the way we were expecting, we stoked the fires of our own spirit, we dared to follow our bliss and we ‘shone brightly’.
And the gift you gain maybe success and that is an incredible wonder . . .
And an even greater gift is guaranteed!
You become a human being whose soul you admire, whose grit and determination you respect and whose capacity for love and wisdom is profound.
And that means you can face anything.
It makes you strong.
It makes you invincible.
So it is worth it. It’s worth paying the price.
It is an investment in the light of your soul.