'My biggest journey has been learning to love myself,' Shradha Sharma says at the Women on a Mission Summit
Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, speaking at HerStory's Women on a Mission Summit
Love yourself. Accept yourself. Celebrate yourself. This was the biggest takeaway from YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma’s address to a hall full of over 700 women at HerStory’s first-ever Women on a Mission summit.
“The biggest journey I have made is in learning to love myself,” Shradha told the audience in a talk where she laid bare her own personal struggles and journeys as a girl and a woman who fought the odds, prejudices, and judgment that marked her life.
“The hardest thing has not been raising funds, or making money, or being successful. The hardest thing has been accepting myself as I am,” said Shradha, in her address that received a rousing response from the audience.
“As women, we celebrate and love everyone else so much. But it’s so very difficult for us to celebrate our own selves and to love our own selves. Let’s learn to celebrate our own selves,” said Shradha, who is a venerable name in the Indian startup ecosystem for her role in enabling the success of Indian entrepreneurs and changemakers by giving them a platform to tell their stories through YourStory and its broad suite of properties.
For Shradha, the hardest part of her journey has been reaching this stage, wherein she can say, “I’m okay and I don’t need external validation,” she told the crowd, even while adding that it's still an ongoing journey to learn to love, accept, and celebrate myself.
And yet, this is something women find extremely difficult to do, said Shradha, sharing her own struggle with the need for external validation and her journey to accepting the imperfections in her own self.
Nevertheless, “Aaj mein khadee hun stage pai, aur agar log kuch bhi bole, theek hai. (Today, I’m standing on stage and even if people ridicule, it’s okay with me),” Shradha said, referring to the strides she has made so far in learning to be comfortable with what others may see as shortcomings.
“But today, being in a position to say, I’m going to be very comfortable being the most imperfectly perfect person in the room has been my biggest journey so far,” Shradha said.
Also read: ‘If you want to create history, don’t be that good girl,' says Roopa Moudgil at Women on a Mission Summit
Build a circle of women champions
If there’s anything that has helped her make this journey, it’s the two Ms: Medicines and Medication, Shradha said in all honesty, drawing laughter from the audience for her self-deprecating humor, when she even spelt out the name of the medicine she takes.
Having said that, she also attributes her success in making this personal journey to a circle of women champions and supporters who have championed her cause and stood by her.
“The biggest champions in my life have been women. And we all need a circle of women who are your champions and will stand with you and tell others you’re a star,” Shradha said.
Today, women need to ask themselves: “Do I have a circle of women who are my champions? Who will stand with me? Women supporters, women sponsors, and women champions who will say 'she is a star'?”
“Ask yourself this. And if you don’t have a circle of women champions, create one. Cultivate your own champions,” she added, urging the women gathered at the summit to make a pact to stand by together, support each other, and champion and enable each other’s success.
Speaking in the same vein, Shradha told the women that gender bias is a reality, one that we must accept. The larger question, women must ask ourselves, she said, is are we doing our bit to ensure gender equality.
“The pledge we need to take today at the Women on a Mission summit is: we are going to be gender equal,” she said.
Women on a Mission summit is a HerStory initiative to bring together a community of women achievers and changemakers and celebrate their stories, while finding ways to enable more women to succeed.
Starting a ‘girl’s club’ of women on a mission
To be clear, the event itself was met with a lot of skepticism, Shradha said. “People asked us why there was a need to have a separate women's event. Isn’t that discrimination too, they asked.”
“The opportunity to dress up is, of course, one,” Shradha said in good humour, before asking the audience why they we needed such an event.
Agreeing with the enthusiastic audience of women, who shouted out saying they were at the event to inspire and share positive stories, Shradha said the event was about much more than that.
It was about creating a pact and of making a commitment by the women gathered there to stand for each other, help each other, and solve each other’s problems.
“Today, we are here because we are going to make a commitment to start a girl’s club. So many people talk about boy’s club, but today we are going to start a girl’s club,” Shradha said, drawing loud applause and hoots from the audience.
This event, Shradha said, is about “all of us."
“It will only succeed if all of us get together and make a pact to stand together, and say, we are going to win together. Standing alone is not a joy, and standing with everyone is joy. So, let’s be with each other,” she said.
A big shout out to HerStory's Women on A Mission Summit sponsors: Co-Presenting Sponsor Microsoft, Sequoia Spark, Innovation Valley, NetApp Excellerator,Servify, ZOHO, Meesho, Arctic Fox, DROR, and Gifting Partners WoW, &Me.