Coming from a poor family and after getting pregnant at the age of 16, it was with no surprise I had everyone saying to me exactly the same thing: you destroyed your future. Can you imagine how hard it is to hear that as a teenager? I guess it became part of who I was and I just started to believe it.
Eight years later I hadn’t graduated from college yet, didn’t have a stable job or a career path to follow, I was taking my second degree after dropping out the first one and I was still living with my parents. It really seemed like everyone was right and I had thrown my future away. You know, I was just following the future that was written when I was 16 years old.
I suddenly decided to take over control from my life. After moving to my own place, I started a tech company and a small side project for women, Jogo de Damas. It wasn’t easy. As a single mother, I had to struggle to raise my daughter, Tathiana, while building my company and my project. After many attempts, my startup failed and Jogo de Damas was all that I had and I was by myself. It was scary and I leaned in.
After 15 months, Jogo de Damas was a success! It’s a startup focused on providing smart content and hosting networking events for women about business, entrepreneurship and career. We are amongst the most important female focused projects in Latin America and we have been helping and inspiring women all over the country. Also, we are proudly the first “Lean In” partner in Brazil.
It’s overwhelming to realize how much you can accomplish once you change your mindset, once you lean in. For me, leaning in is to allow yourself to be the person you want to be instead of being the person others think you are. Lean in is to explore your full potential. We can be whoever we want, we can achieve whatever we want. Our past, our limitations, or economical background shouldn’t be used as excuses but as source of strength and will power to push us ahead. Daily.
I keep leaning in.
Deb Xavier is the Chief Inspiration Officer at Jogo de Damas, a Brazilian startup that provides smart content, products and services to women focusing on entrepreneurship, business and career.