F*ck being humble: International Women's Day
In celebration of International Women's Day, we met with Stefanie Sword-Williams, founder of the mentoring platform, book and event series 'F*ck Being Humble' to discuss her mission to empower women - not just today but everyday. A storyteller at heart, Stef has given a TedX talk on why the world (and most importantly, women) need to be a little less humble. Stef also uses her influential voice to be an advocator for change and is recognised by The Dot’s '100 Women changing the creative industry.'
Q: So Stef, can you tell us a little about your journey to where you are today? Was there a "moment" that prompted you to begin F*ck Being Humble or was it a gradual process?
A: There’s never a short answer to this question as it was definitely a series of moments! When I moved to London I attended lots of creative events but I was often presented with a ‘male, pale and stale’ lineup of speakers. As a 25 year old woman from the North I felt like I couldn’t personally connect with them and I knew others around me didn’t either. I realised the reason I wasn’t seeing young and diverse talent was because there is a huge stigma around selling yourself. People assume they have to have 30 years experience before they can be celebrated and we’ve never really been guided on the best ways to self-promote. At the same time, I was working in advertising and found myself becoming a career agony aunt amongst my friends as I knew a lot about pitching, selling, and promoting (and weirdly didn’t find it too cringey). All of these things spurred me on to create something of my own, so rather than wait to be invited to speak at events to share this knowledge, I decided to make my own stage. A place where I could share my storytelling expertise with people who needed it the most and celebrate emerging talent that I thought deserved the spotlight.
Q: As a female founded brand, it's important to us to empower young women in business; to amplify their voices and celebrate their talents. If you had two minutes with a woman looking to start or grow their own business, what advice would you give them?
A: Get an "it-will-do" version live! The reason I say this is because very often as women we feel everything has to be perfect before we can put it out to the world but in reality you can always keep adding to it. Don’t delay yourself by being a perfectionist and don’t be afraid to ask for help! Someone recently said to me that I’d done an amazing job building my business to this point by myself but I didn’t have to do everything alone, and it really was the positive reminder I needed to seek out more support.
Q: Self-promotion and harnessing one's own confidence can be a challenge. How do you inspire your own self-confidence and are there any rituals or tactics that you adopt?
A: I regularly ask myself what do I want my legacy to be? What positive impact can I have on the world? And what do I want people to say about me when I’m not in the room? These questions are really powerful ways to keep checking in on the direction I’m going and to help remind me of the progress I’m making. A couple of really practical things I do to build my confidence is ask for positive testimonials from my clients, photograph moments I’m proud of and store them in a folder on my phone, and keep a section in my iPhone notes of small and big wins that I refer back to when I need that reminder that I deserve what I’m asking for.
Q: In your book you talk about the importance of being able to laugh at yourself and how making mistakes can actually help you move forward. We love this idea of shaking off the need for perfection and actually normalising imperfection. Has there been a time when a mistake that you made impacted you in a positive way?
A: I once exhibited F*ck Being Humble at a huge creative conference in London and I misspelt my own brand name (forgetting to use the asterisk!). It took me two days to realise but rather than have a melt down, I just reminded myself of all the amazing conversations and interactions I’d had during that event despite the error on my branding. I actually ended up keeping the posters with the spelling mistake and putting them up at future events as a reminder to myself that I’m human and the small errors I will inevitably make do not define me.
Q: You are well versed in giving advice, but what is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
A: My old boss and very good friend who has been a huge inspiration in my career, Kat Towers, once told me that I should never be limited by the job title I have. She said, if you’ve got ideas to share you should pitch them irrespective of your age, seniority or how well established you are. I honestly believe it was these words that she said to me 6 years ago that has led to my success today.
Q: What keeps you motivated?
A: Getting to do a job that I genuinely love doing everyday and knowing that I’m making an impact. When I worked in advertising it got to the point where I realised I didn’t want more money or to sell people things they don’t need anymore, I wanted to finish each day knowing I’d done something important. For as long as I run a business that puts helping people at the heart of it, I always be motivated.
Q: Inspiring people to flourish must be generally pretty rewarding, what's the best part of your job?
A: It really is that feeling of knowing you helped one person somewhere in the world for the rest of their life. F*ck Being Humble isn’t just a clickbait title, it’s a phrase that people genuinely adopt and say to themselves when they need reminding that they are worthy enough. I feel so proud every time I get feedback from people sharing that they are starting their own businesses after reading my book, tripling their salaries using the learnings from our money workshop or leaving toxic environments after following our Insta page for years, it’s honestly just so rewarding.
Q: Let's talk about jewellery, what does your everyday jewellery style consist of?
A: I’m a big fan of hoop earrings, layered necklaces and lots of rings. I like to mix up delicate pieces and statement items depending on my outfit, but gold jewellery is definitely my go-to right now.
Q: Jewellery and fashion often go hand in hand as a means of personal expression, how important are tools of expression to you?
A: I love jewellery so much, it’s always been something that I think is integral to my outfits, without it I genuinely don’t feel myself. I like how you can use jewellery to create something that represents your own personality and individuality.
Q: Finally, the question we ask everyone...what is your favourite Maya Magal piece of jewellery?
A: I love my Lava Hoop earrings, they are perfect for any occasion!
If you're feeling inspired by Stef, ready to F*ck Being Humble or just curious to know more, click HERE.