What is it that empowers you most?
I love feeling like a capable, independent woman. Sure, I still live at home (I've been in university for 5.5 years, and I have 3.5 to go!), but I was raised to take care of myself. It was never my goal to meet a rich man who can also lift heavy things for me! I am instead empowered by my education and future career which will allow me to be independent; I am empowered by my physical strength and endurance; I am empowered by my integrity.
What is it that you love most about yourself?
As someone who has spent most of her life on self-improvement, this is a tough question! However, I guess I can say that is exactly what I do love about myself--I work hard to do well at the things that I love, because I love them.
What makes you feel most beautiful?
This is a tricky question for me, as it is for most women. As someone who struggled for too many years with disordered eating and self-image, I am all too aware of my love-hate relationship with my body. But it is honest of me to say that I feel most beautiful when I am dirty and makeup-less--after a hard run, ideally in a bit of mud too! It is then that I feel physically capable, and valued for it, rather than valued for my body and makeup.
Who is your biggest role model and why?
I always struggle with "role model" questions. Not that there aren't great female role models out there, but I suppose I would simply rather not completely identify myself with someone else. We're all unique, and we're also all flawed. Perhaps it would be fairer to say I find role models for individual aspects of my life; for example, when I ran track, my role models were my teammates. Some of them had such a hardworking drive to excel, but also knew when to listen to their bodies and take a break (this is extremely challenging for distance runners!). They had the right perspective about competing amongst school and friends, which was refreshing to be around.
Who are your favourite cultural heroines and why?
Cleopatra! Margaret George, one of my favourite authors, wrote an amazing autobiography finally depicting Cleopatra as someone more than Rome's mistress. She is instead described as a woman of fierce integrity and sophistication, a hallmark female in an age of patriarchy.
If you could pick one fictional female character to be for a day who would it be and why?
This is a toughie! But I think I have to say that if not Cleopatra, Pocahontas (the fictional, Disney version). Who wouldn't want to run around in the woods singing great songs all day with your pals, with some John Smith action to boot?
What is your biggest life goal?
My life goal is to find ways to incorporate all the loves of my life: music, sports, medicine and, of course, my friends and family. I find that as I am slowly forced out of the pseudo-adulthood I call university, I am being pushed to concentrate my life in one area--my career. But physician burnout is all too real, and I strongly believe I'll be a better doctor (and better person) if I am able to continue doing other things I love. How can I preach health, yet not be healthy myself?
What is your biggest accomplishment?
Some would say my biggest accomplishment so far is getting into medical school, but I would have to disagree. I think my biggest accomplishments are to be found in running. As a slightly chubby kid, I loved reading, singing and acting--I was the least bit an athlete, especially compared to my superstar siblings. However, in junior high I discovered I loved running and cross country skiing. Although hardly a natural, I worked terribly hard (to the point of several stress fractures, which are not recommended!) to achieve my goals. No, I never won CIS nationals, but I won my own personal championship by pushing myself to reach my potential.
What is your favourite quote?
I guess this isn't necessarily a real quotation, but I always liked the phrase "don't limit yourself". When I was in high school and a competitive cross country skier, my coaches asked us to all find a mantra or phrase to use when we were really bagged mid-race. I chose: "don't limit yourself". I find it still applies to my life, as it's always tempting to self-limit and give up, but I've always been amazed by what I have achieved every time I kept going. This also requires getting over the fear of failure, a difficult task for most of us! Who knew I would run that time? Who knew I would be in medical school? Who knew I would still find ways to sing regularly? If I had limited myself back then, I certainly wouldn't know it either.
If you could tell your 12 year old self one thing what would it be?
You were valued by others long before grades, times or appearances mattered. You are still valuable now, to the core, and now it is up to you to value yourself, always, as the dressings of grades, times and appearances will fade away.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism means forging your own path towards your ideal destination. Other people can come along for the ride and help you along the way, but they are not to steer you away from your own path.
Nicole is a Medical Student in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada