An open letter to all women on International Women’s Day #BalanceForBetter

I’m probably best known as a British athlete who won Gold in the 400m hurdles at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics, but that hasn’t been the biggest challenge in my life. I am a mother to three amazing boys and for me, parenthood has been my biggest hurdle. I’m bringing up my three sons and realising I’m a role model and influential in their lives.

I’ve always admired other athletes especially Daley Thompson, Shirley Strong, and Ed Moses. I watched them achieve their goals as I grew up and knew I wanted to be an athlete since I was 14-years-old and compete at that level too. It was important for me to look up to both male and female athletes and gain inspiration and motivation from them.

Since retiring from professional athletes, I’ve enjoyed many media opportunities. Nowadays, as well as supporting numerous charities, I also run health and well-being programmes for corporates and deliver motivational keynotes.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many inspirational people during my career and I meet great business people in my current work. I am inspired by other business women who are working mothers with a great work life balance. I admire women for being a mother and still following their dream career. For me, it’s important to achieve personal goals as well as helping my family achieve theirs.

My life changed when I won Gold, and went on to win further titles and break records but the publicity that comes with the success is another challenge in itself.

In recent years with the rise of social media, people are being scrutinised more and more. I think women in particular are often being judged on their appearance and life choices. However, what we see in the media is only a small slice of what is going on.

It’s easy to look at another woman and see what they’ve achieved, how good they look, etc. but you don’t know what they are going through or the emotions that they are feeling. It’s important not to compare yourself to others and don’t take anything like that too seriously. Focus on yourself and your individual goals.

In my keynotes, I talk about how I break down my challenges into smaller goals I can accomplish. I never let my dreams slip and always keep going. Even when something is tough or I experience setbacks, I focus on the bigger picture and don’t let those things define me or hold me back.

I’d love for the next generation of athletes, men and women, to be inspired by my ‘work hard’ ethos and use this to achieve their dreams. It’s important to like yourself and be happy with yourself.

The mind is a strong and powerful tool – don’t put yourself down or take yourself too seriously.

We’ve got this ladies!

Love Sally x

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