In my quest for growth I travelled all the way to San Diego to attend a seminar on how to bring a powerful and personal story.

During my stay there, I continued my daily sport ritual of running every morning, just like I do when I am at home in Belgium. As an entrepreneur, I really need my daily portion of running to be able to perform at a very high level, so I get up at five every morning to do just that. While in San Diego, instead of running outside like I usually do, I decided to go to the fitness centre of my hotel.

As I entered the fitness centre on my first morning, I was caught by surprise when I noticed the room was filled with no less than 19 TV screens! Weren’t fitness centres built for intense exercise and working up a sweat? How can anybody train his or her body seriously while at the same time watching TV? I never saw a top athlete training while at the same time watching a screen… My surprise grew even bigger when I then saw a lady of approximately 35 years old using the treadmill to walk slowly (and I mean very slowly!), clinging onto the handles for dear life to prevent herself from falling. Another younger lady was relentlessly texting on her cell phone while seemingly doing some stepping “on the side”. And these are just two of the many examples I can cite to describe “those new ways of doing sports”…

So I wondered: were these one-off instances, and was it a coincidence that they caught my eye? Or was there more to it?

One thing is for sure: I was really disappointed there were no women in that fitness centre doing a serious workout, whereas all men present were working up a serious sweat. My spouse, who is really into fitness himself, had already told me about these types of situations occurring at the gym where he trains in Belgium. And, to be very honest with you, as a woman, I was ashamed to now witness this kind of behaviour myself. What do you think crosses a man’ s mind when he sees women “working out” like that? Which picture are these men subconsciously painting of us, women, in the back of their minds? This is not to say that I believe there are no truly sporty women out there, who really train as if their life depends on it – I am convinced there are! But I am afraid these hard-training women belong to a HUGE minority.

Unfortunately, the same story seems to apply to women giving birth. For as long as mankind has been on this planet, women have been giving birth in a purely natural way. Yet, in the course of the last 20 years, the percentage of women in Belgium choosing to have an epidural anaesthetic to lessen the pain during labour has doubled, making for the fact that nowadays more than 70% of Belgian women are convinced they are not capable of doing without. Regardless of the fact that all are well aware of the fact that there is always a risk involved for both the mother and the baby… We, women, are these days so eager to give the impression that we are brave, but is this truly the case? Where is our fighter’s instinct? Why do we have so little confidence in our own powers? Why have we stopped trusting nature? Are we getting disconnected?

Unfortunately, the same story also seems to apply to the issue of burnouts. There are so many women who have to deal with this illness nowadays. But why? Are we, women, cheating ourselves? Is our lifestyle compromising our true nature? Are our fundaments not strong enough anymore? Are we doing too many things that are in conflict with our basic values and mission in life?

In the course of my 25-year career, I have met so many wonderful women, and most of them so powerful. But one way or another, we seem to be losing our power – at least, that is what seems to be happening in the world I live and work in.

I don’t want this to happen!

Every single one of us has the bodily instinct to move, to be active and to fight. Fulfilling this instinct is essential to our well-being. Yet, in the course of the last century, with every technological innovation, decade after decade, we have relieved ourselves of the burden of physical activity. And this has had a negative impact on our health, physical as well as mental. So even if in this day and age we work hard all day, it is our day-to-day type of living that “softens” our bodies. And it is that softness that is a modern-day killer.

So even though society is advocating that more and more women should rise to the top, I think it is of vital importance to first rebuild our foundations; otherwise, it will just be a matter of time before we, women, completely crash. And by rebuilding our foundations, I mean focusing on good health, having a solid marriage or a supporting partner, eating nutritiously and – last but not least – living our values: never ever compromise those!

I believe men and women are there to complement each other. And even though we, women, have the ability to bring new life into this world – something which inherently makes us so incredibly strong! – it is indeed the case that we, women, more often than not have to prove ourselves more than men do. We can try to resist this fact, or we can accept that this is just the way life goes and act upon it – with all the additional effort and perseverance this takes! Because it is only once we will have regained our inner strength that we can truly compete and fight for the good.

Look at history. Look at how our female ancestors fought for us to get a voice. Think of all those great women that showed what women are capable of: Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, Mary Kay Ash, Florence Nightingale, … And sometimes we don’t even have to look that very far: I can think of my own grandmother and so many other wonderful women that built great families with sometimes more than 10 children, and in addition to that worked hard on the land to earn some income. We cannot let this legacy wither away! On the contrary: we have to continue fulfilling the belief that women are extremely capable and put on this earth to do amazing things. We have to continue the great work of these women that went before us.

So as for me, I am very grateful for having to be that female underdog sometimes and having to go that extra mile, because it forces me to compete even more – and this, in the end, makes me so much stronger! And the same applies to you. So never stop working hard to keep that reputation high. Choose to become a role model, so that you can in turn inspire other women, and especially our younger generation. 

I am proud to be a spouse, a mother and an entrepreneur, all at the same time.

I am grateful to have a husband standing right next to me, respecting me exactly for who I am.

I am proud to be a woman. 

Nathalie Arteel

European female entrepreneurship ambassador

Entrepreneur – Motivational Expert