What I Learned About Leadership At WE Lead

What I Learned About Leadership At WE Lead

You are not what happened to you. You are what you choose to become.

On Saturday, November 4th, I attended Iowa State's first WE Lead: Women's Empowerment & Leadership Conference. While this was by no means the first women's empowerment and leadership event on campus, it was the first time all of the major women's organizations at Iowa State organized a conference together. In my opinion, this event was a major success. I had a great time learning about leadership and networking with several of the over 80 women who attended the conference.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I woke up at 8 a.m. to make it on time for breakfast, which started at 8:30, and I even thought about skipping it to stay in bed longer. I'm very glad I made the better judgement to go. I talked to a lot of Iowa State women, and it seemed like every person I talked to was open-minded and friendly.

I loved the conversations and the food I had while at the WE Lead conference. Our event chant, "Weeeeeeee!," was great, too. While all of this really helped with my enjoyment of the conference, the speakers were the ones who made it special.

The opening speaker, Vanessa McNeal, was truly inspiring. She started her speech by telling everyone to sit up straight, on the edge of our seats. Knowing her life story, one of Vanessa's friends asked how she would keep us focused at nine in the morning - her response: "Within the first five minutes, I'll have them all on the edge of their seats." She got a good laugh out of most people.

She wanted to start off on a light note because her life story was not a light one. It was full of many struggles that she needed to overcome, including sexual abuse throughout her most of her life. By telling us her story, she let us know that you can overcome anything and prove the statistical outcome (of what your life should be) wrong.

Despite the trauma she endured, Vanessa McNeal is an acclaimed filmmaker and public speaker. She told everyone to be fearless and accomplish their goals, even if no one believes in them. She truly inspired me to work on my long-term goals I have in animation, web design, and writing. Her speech gave me the boost of confidence I needed to really push myself.

You are not what happened to you. You are what you choose to become.
~ Vanessa McNeil

After listening to the keynote speaker, we had to choose one of three speakers to listen to: Lora Leigh Chrystal and Olivia Carrasco spoke about overcoming imposter syndrome; Brian Vanderheyden spoke about self-care while being a leader; and Rachael Barnes, Alexa Bueltel, Joi Latson, and Zoey Shipley spoke about women in student government. I chose to attend the information secession about self-care.

I can't speak about the probable success of the other sessions, but I did get a lot out of Brian Vanderheyden's presentation. He had us analyze our self-care using a chart to see what we did well and failed at when it came to self-care

I learned that I need to start taking more time for myself. I've been involved in quite a lot recently, and it's taken a toll on my mental health and sleep schedule. Brian Vanderheyden's advice to all the women listening was that reflection on the good parts of life is an incredibly underrated and beneficial way to relax and de-stress. Women who lead well know how to say no, delegate, and take time for themselves - all which lead to better self-care.

The final speaker was Margo Foreman, Iowa State's Director of Equal Opportunity. Among other things, Margo also talked about the importance of an online resume or blog presence. This made me feel really confident in the importance of the courses I am taking. She has noticed that the world is becoming more digital and that made me feel like my career path is a viable option.

Cover Image Credit: Hannah Monk

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Everything You Will Miss If You Commit Suicide

The world needs you.

You won't see the sunrise or have your favorite breakfast in the morning.

Instead, your family will mourn the sunrise because it means another day without you.

You will never stay up late talking to your friends or have a bonfire on a summer night.

You won't laugh until you cry again, or dance around and be silly.

You won't go on another adventure. You won't drive around under the moonlight and stars.

They'll miss you. They'll cry.

You won't fight with your siblings only to make up minutes later and laugh about it.

You won't get to interrogate your sister's fiancé when the time comes.

You won't be there to wipe away your mother's tears when she finds out that you're gone.

You won't be able to hug the ones that love you while they're waiting to wake up from the nightmare that had become their reality.

You won't be at your grandparents funeral, speaking about the good things they did in their life.

Instead, they will be at yours.

You won't find your purpose in life, the love of your life, get married or raise a family.

You won't celebrate another Christmas, Easter or birthday.

You won't turn another year older.

You will never see the places you've always dreamed of seeing.

You will not allow yourself the opportunity to get help.

This will be the last sunset you see.

You'll never see the sky change from a bright blue to purples, pinks, oranges, and yellows meshing together over the landscape again.

If the light has left your eyes and all you see is the darkness, know that it can get better. Let yourself get better.

This is what you will miss if you leave the world today.

This is who will care about you when you are gone.

You can change lives. But I hope it's not at the expense of yours.

We care. People care.

Don't let today be the end.

You don't have to live forever sad. You can be happy. It's not wrong to ask for help.

Thank you for staying. Thank you for fighting.

Suicide is a real problem that no one wants to talk about. I'm sure you're no different. But we need to talk about it. There is no difference between being suicidal and committing suicide. If someone tells you they want to kill themselves, do not think they won't do it. Do not just tell them, “Oh you'll be fine." Because when they aren't, you will wonder what you could have done to help. Sit with them however long you need to and tell them it will get better. Talk to them about their problems and tell them there is help. Be the help. Get them assistance. Remind them of all the things they will miss in life.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: Brittani Norman

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Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.


When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

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