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Kelly Parisi

Former Lean In, Communications

Palo Alto, CA

I learned back then something that I take with me always: leaning in is about believing in yourself and making real choices.

Like so many people around the world, I was raised by a single working mother. My mom, Sandy, raised my twin sister and me on her own until she married my step-father when we were 9.  She worked hard to ensure that we had a roof over our heads and food on the table.

My mother instilled in me at a young age that you can and MUST take care of yourself and your ambitions. She was a hairdresser (a noble trade, and recession-proof -- as she would tell you; markets crash, but hair always grows!). She also made her job something that stirred her soul. She was a therapist, confidant, comedian, entrepreneur... she poured her whole self in her profession and was proud of the work she did.

She passed this passion for work on to us, too. When my mom opened her own salon, my sister and I were among her first employees. We'd sweep hair, make appointments, get coffee, fold towels -- you name it. From there, I was very fortunate to go to college (and an amazing one at that!). But I was scared of my future. I had no roadmap, no professional role models to guide me in a particular direction. On countless occasions I felt out of place, afraid that I might be "found out"... that I was an imposter.

But if I learned anything from watching my mother lean in, it was that a little grit, courage, and self-determination can help you chart a different life for yourself. I learned back then something that I take with me always: leaning in is about believing in yourself and making real choices. It doesn't mean you have to be the CEO of a corporation. You can be the head of your hair salon or household -- as long as you're doing what's right for you. Having no barriers or limits to our talent or ambition. That's what leaning in means to me.

There is no silver bullet for that feeling of being an imposter and questioning my own power. I still get it sometimes. What propels me forward (with rocket boots) now is my desire to pass Sandy's example on to my daughter and son. The other day, my four-year-old daughter proclaimed at lunch that she wanted to be an astronaut, scientist, or a Girl Scout. She's already leaning in by realizing that she is in the driver's seat of her own destiny.

And that's what I want for women everywhere -- multiple generations of women who do what they love, fulfill their ambitions, and take control of their destinies.

 

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