Many women begin to find out who we truly are: our values, our life purpose and what we stand for, after decades of living by the beliefs and values we grew up with. I know because I am one of these women. I now run the social enterprise Moeloco, which donates shoes to children in India through sales of flip flops (thongs in Australia), but it took many years to find my true calling.
Some of the beliefs and values I was brought up with as a young girl are still important to me today: the value of family, hard work, respect and kindness. Others were very fear-based: money and security were everything. I also was taught to believe that a good person was a martyr, like millions of women around the world. As these beliefs came from the difficult lives my parents led, I have learnt that people often teach and speak from their stories, not ours, but we should never hold this against them.
For 19 years I had a design business, which I loved until I became burnt out, but being financially successful was all that mattered. Material wealth and retiring at 42 were my goals, and rescuing others even at a cost to myself was the other priority. I was the “good girl” and the “rich girl”; passion and health were secondary. The burnout I experienced was how I learnt that self-care comes first, not last.
After a ten year break of personal development and exploring my other interests, I had the epiphany that my true purpose is to make a difference, by giving back in a way that uses my other passions in life. If you feel the same way right now, if there is a cause or an idea that’s calling out to you, my advice is to listen, do not ignore it.
A few months later, I decided to start my own line of thongs, or flip flops as they are known internationally, which became the Moeloco brand. They would incorporate both my love of art and design, while helping to break the cycle of extreme poverty.
Each sale of ethically-produced flip flops donates one pair of school-appropriate shoes to a child in India who does not own any, protecting them against disease and allowing them into school. Through Moeloco, I am also now building a community to support current and future change makers. However, I could not have achieved this alone.
No woman is an island, as they say, and making a difference or beginning any new path is so much easier and more enjoyable when we work together. Many friends, family and even complete strangers have offered much-needed resources and services once they found out about the cause I have been working for.
Another important lesson I learnt from becoming a social entrepreneur is that not everyone will understand your true path in life, and that’s okay. I have been told that Moeloco had “really changed” me, by someone who did not understand why I would want to invest so much in helping people far removed from Sydney life. However, we are still close; we all have different ideas on caring and different paths, and this does not mean hiding who we are in order to please others.
On the other hand, I have made so many new and exciting friendships with people around the world, who are committed to making a difference. When you find out what your values and purpose are, the best friendships are likely to follow.
Finally, I must say that it’s never too early or too late to find your values and purpose. Just remember to be true to yourself, and never feel that you have to go it alone.