I leave for Toronto in a few hours, but first I wanted to share a message that I am passionate for: my Beauty with a Purpose.
As Julia Morley, the Chairman and CEO of the Miss World Organisation said on the Miss World Beauty with a Purpose website:
“Beauty with a Purpose […] is the heart of Miss World.”
And I truly believe that my heart lies in my Beauty with a Purpose: Refractions of a Reality, a breaking stereotypes initiative.
I am a female mechanical engineer, a mental health advocate, and a pageant queen, to name a few of the stereotypes that I am breaking daily. I am working to show society that it is okay to be yourself, regardless of what stereotypes exist and what labels are thrusts upon us. My desire to share my experiences, talk with others, and help society see how detrimental stereotypes can be gave me the courage to start an online community called “Refractions of a Reality,” where I share stories about who I am and the stereotypes I face, encouraging others to share their experiences as well.
What’s in a name?
I came up with the name “Refractions of a Reality” or ROAR for short, because I wanted something that combined all sides of myself. The technical and the real. The creative and the logical. I wanted a phrase that was easy to remember, while being something solid that I could take with me and that would serve as a symbol of ROAR.
For this representation, I chose a diamond because they have such a unique and powerful brilliance. This brilliance comes from a diamond in three ways: reflection, refraction, and dispersion. Reflection is when light hits a surface and comes back, like looking into a mirror. The remaining portion comes from the light traveling through the jewel; refraction is when light deflects through another medium, and dispersion is when white light spreads into its full spectrum of colour.
While I was considering names, the acronym ROAR was very powerful to me, and finally helped me decide on the name. I use the phrase “Let me hear your ROAR!” to share the stories of how someone is breaking stereotypes. This reiterates that everyone has sides to themselves that we sometime hide, but by sharing your ROAR, you are giving yourself the power to be loud and to be heard.
Now let me share with you some of the stereotypes I am breaking daily.
Being a female in a male dominated field has taught me so much about finding my voice, allowing me to speak up when I have an idea and to ask questions when I am uncertain. I have a unique perspective on problems, and I am able to apply the logical thinking that is a vital part of engineering to every aspect of my life.
My proudest moment in engineering was last November when I received my Iron Ring, a symbol of engineers who have studied at an accredited Canadian University. I now have a physical reminder that I wear everyday to remember the hours of studying, the many group projects, and my journey with mental illness before I completed my degree.
I am currently working as a Manufacturing Engineer in the Aerospace industry. I help the employees on the floor find better, faster, and safer ways to do their jobs, while continuously working on improvements and problem solving.
“Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure, but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends, but hating socializing, it’s wanting to be alone, but not wanting to be lonely. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzingly numb.”Author Unknown
Although finishing any degree is worth a celebration, finishing my degree meant I made it through the hardest period of my life – working through mental illness while completing my engineering degree. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety halfway through my degree, and there were many days that I didn’t think that I would be able to graduate.
I didn’t understand what depression or anxiety actually were before I was diagnosed. I took a term off university, went to group counselling, and had my doctor prescribe me anti-depressants. It took me three months before I was able to take the medication – I didn’t understand why I needed a drug to make me emotionally stable. Why wasn’t I doing enough? Why wasn’t I enough? It wasn’t until one of my group members said, “Sometimes asking for help isn’t a weakness, but a strength to know that you need help.” This is to date one of the most powerful and inspiring phrases I’ve ever heard.
I went back to my degree that fall, and three years later I am proud to wear my Iron Ring as an engineer and to have received a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.
Pageantry often brings to mind the classic stereotype that those of us who compete are familiar with – vain, not smart, and constantly answering ‘world peace,’ regardless of the question asked, but the ladies who compete are so much more than this simple surface scratch. Through my involvement with pageants I have met women of diverse backgrounds and career choices, from firefighter to med student, from flutist to teacher, with so many in between.
I have competed in 5 pageants since 2012, and I have learned that pageants are about so much more than outer appearances. They taught me self confidence, how to enter a room and put others at ease, and how to inspire others. They taught me so much of who I am as a person and made me into the person I am today.
At the end of the day, if I listened and believed all of the stereotypes I heard, I wouldn’t be proud to admit that I love science and math or that I can spend hours reading a book and devour them in one sitting. It’s still hard for me to talk about depression at times, but when it’s important or I can help someone else I will. I don’t let stereotypes define who I am or what I will do in the future. My career, my personal life, and my passions would be severely limited if I let society’s labels dictate who I was and what I could do.
Through my experiences, I learned what both determination and resilience truly are. I know that with determination I can accomplish many things and with resilience I can pick myself back up when I fall. Everything I have gone through has taught me so much about who I am, and who I will become. If I can help even one person see that who they are is important – not the stereotypes placed upon them, but who they are – then I will be contributing to showing others that their true selves are valued, making this platform so rewarding.
Thank you so much for reading about my Beauty with a Purpose and finding out just what Refractions of a Reality means to me! If you are interested in joining the community, you can follow ROAR on Instagram here, participate in the conversation by using #RefractionsofaReality, or sending me a DM and sharing your story – maybe you will be the next person featured!