Life is not always black and white. More often than not there’s a whole myriad of colours associated with it – some days can be very dark and gloomy, whilst others can be much more luminescent and inviting.
No matter the chapter or season, we’re all on the hunt to find our very own rainbow. Each will have its own individual look and personality, but they all share one thing in common – fulfilment.
As we navigate our way through life, it’s always reassuring to know you have someone you can lean on and be strengthened by. However, for one reason or another this isn’t always the case, even if we have a great network of friends and family.
We’re all so ‘busy’. Busy with appointments, busy with kids, busy with school, busy with work. The list goes on.
So how can we be re-energized, empowered and strengthened by others on such a tight schedule? Even if you only have five minutes of downtime, there is still a way for you to receive an exorbitant dose of #positivity. Yes!
Here’s the answer.
As you flick through your Instagram or Facebook feeds, why not click over to one of my favourite #girlpower pages, Project Strong Woman (PSW). As the name suggests, PSW is a platform that highlights the incredible strength that lies within every woman no matter their personal journey.
PSW has grown exceptionally in such a short amount of time, which is no surprise as its driving force, Shauna Ryan is a charismatic beacon of positivity, passion and strength. I recently had the privilege of interviewing her about this wonderful cause.
PSW highlights that ‘every woman is strong’. How has this ideology been received since its inception?
“There are many inspirational women around us. Being able to affirm an individual in any stage of life they’re in, is such a phenomenal thing. Since its inception I have approached all kinds of women and have collected many amazing stories. I love to listen to each story, take notes and then write it later.
When the woman reads what I have written they’re often pleasantly surprised that their story sounds like that. I want women to see their stories like I see them. Their sheer existence is remarkable.
Women don’t believe they’re strong as they have a perception that there’s no strength in their story. This is a lesson I learnt in the last few weeks. A strong woman knows who she is in her story. She doesn’t have to comprehend her full story but she at the very least just needs to acknowledge her existence. This makes her a strong woman. When I present women with their story, I want them to know that they’re strong and that their journey can inspire many other incredible women, as it provides perspective.
Men and women often think that a strong woman has to endure heartache, pain or other difficulties. There is strength in every story. My aim is to shift the paradigm of what we as a society think is strong.”
PSW originated from a challenge a friend gave you last year. Can you recall how this all happened?
“In February 2015 I updated my phone and was bragging about how great the camera was as I’ve always been fond of photography. So a friend of mine decided to set me a challenge where I had to take 40 photos of 40 different women in seven days. In that same week I had to post all those images onto my own personal Instagram page and use the hash tag #ProjectStrongWoman. I guess she wanted to see where this could take me. But in order to get me over the line she decided to bribe me with tickets to see Les Mis, which I couldn’t resist as I love musical theatre.
As I began to take photos of women I realised how critical we can be of ourselves in underestimating our own individual beauty. I became so passionate about the mission that before the challenge was even over, I had already managed to capture 55 images.
The final day of the challenge was a Sunday and my friend gave me one last task. I had to approach three new strangers, take their photo and get X amount of likes on each image. If I smashed this challenge, she also promised to take me to the opera.
This is how Project Strong Woman was born.”
As I scroll through PSW’s Instagram feed, there is no shortage of beautiful imagery most of which are black and white. What do you love most about this filter?
“Initially I didn’t put a lot of thought into the black and white imagery. It was simply the filter each featured woman preferred as they believed they looked more beautiful in black and white. As I came to realise this was a popular drawcard, I started to use this filter more often as a way of bribing women into taking their photo. Haha.
There is such symbolism in sharing a diverse batch of images. The black and white imagery is the one thing each photo has in common, as every woman’s story is so different. As a way of creating unity, each image is black and white as a way of showcasing each woman’s individual strength and radiant beauty.”
This October is PSW’s first ever ‘Love Yourself Conference’. What are you hoping attendees will get out of the day?
“I wanted to bring Project Strong Woman’s online community into real time in a real space. The full-day event is going to be held on Sunday 2nd October. We’re going to have circled tables and have facilitators scattered throughout the venue to encourage open discussions. As women, we generally enjoy sharing parts of our journey but we often feel that by doing so we’re tooting our own horn. The whole point of this event is to break down any barriers and allow every woman the opportunity to come together and share their stories. It doesn’t matter if they choose to stay in contact post the event or simply just celebrate each other’s stories and connections then and there, what matters is each woman leaves feeling confident and strong.”
For those interested in attending PSW’s Love Yourself Conference, how can they purchase their ticket?
“Every woman who wishes to attend can purchase their seat by heading to our website. I decided to do something very different and give each attendee the opportunity to pay whatever they wish for their ticket. There are two reasons for this. I wanted women of all financial statuses to attend, as the event is for everyone. Our presenters are going to bring phenomenal content. Every attendee is going to be 300% more inspired than when they first came into the room. Trust me.
The second reason is I didn’t want to put a price on something that’s new. I want to reach as many new people as possible. I really want Project Strong Woman to speak for itself.”
What’s next for PSW and of course yourself as the founder?
“I recently left the comfort of my full time job to pursue Project Strong Woman full time, so I guess I’m now an entrepreneur. I’d like to share my own story to inspire women everywhere. I am very passionate about ensuring each woman knows that they don’t have to do anything phenomenal to be a strong woman. I want to be everywhere that Project Strong Woman is.
I would really love to bring the Love Yourself conference on the road. The energy at the Sydney conference will be phenomenal. Ideally I would like to feature Melbourne speakers when in Melbourne. I’d love to create other networking events too – you never know; you just might meet somebody who’s a suburb away from you! It’s all about creating a network within each individual city.
I’d also like to encourage younger women aged between 18-25, especially those who might be at risk. I would love to tap into cross-generational mentorship.”
How can women get involved with Project Strong Woman?
“I encourage any ladies interested to go online. Just head to Project Strong Woman’s website. You can always get involved through our social media network on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Like what you see, comment and share. Just don’t sit there and spectate, respond to the featured women by giving positive feedback. Join the community in affirming a perfect stranger.
I love it when women post their own photos and stories on our Facebook page. Project Strong Woman is a platform for women to share their story. I encourage any man or woman to do this.
I’d like to grow Project Strong Woman as a business so if you are financially able, you can head to my Go Fund Me page connected to my upcoming conference. There you can make a contribution even after the conference as all funds go back into the project.
There are plenty of ways to get involved. You can always contact me through Project Strong Woman’s website if you have a collaboration idea.”
Even though life isn’t always as simple or easy as black and white, we are still all in this together. Be reassured that you’re not alone as there’s a community of women right at your fingertips, one that will no doubt give you the strength you need to find that rainbow you’ve always dreamed of.
Gianna Lucas xx