Sydney, New South Wales
As women, we need to start having honest conversations with each other. Then we can support one another in the ways we need; and there we will see a community of strong women.
It takes a lot of faith to walk away from a steady job and with no savings in the bank to follow God’s calling.
But that’s exactly what Sydney Adventist woman Shauna Ryan did earlier this year, a move she describes as “terrifying” but one that is inspiring women around the world.
Ms Ryan is the founder of Project Strong Woman—a platform where stories and images of “strong women” are posted on social media to uplift and empower. Whether they are a CEO or an artist, a cancer survivor or a single mum, the project celebrates women from all walks of life and sees beauty in every story.
“I definitely feel that God has called me to this,” she says. “I’ve worked as a travel agent, an event coordinator and a teacher; while I loved my time in each of those jobs, I never felt that it was my core purpose. It’s only since starting Project Strong Woman that I have felt the deepest sense of peace and calling on my life.
“Having to step out in faith and leave my job for this has proven to be the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. However it is also the most rewarding thing. I’ve had many people, both friends and close family, really question my decision but knowing this is exactly where God wants me to be is all the affirmation I need.”
Through the project Ms Ryan has discovered just how many women are struggling with low self-esteem. It has also brought home her own self-doubts and insecurities.
“As women we can be so hard on ourselves,” she says. “We are so quick to belittle ourselves, downplaying our stories and self-worth.
“When someone asks us ‘how are you?’, most times we respond with ‘good’—even if we aren’t! I think as women we fear authenticity or transparency because it may reveal us as weak. As women, we need to start having honest conversations with each other. Then we can support one another in the ways we need; and there we will see a community of strong women.”
Some of the women featured in the Project Strong Woman initiative.
Ms Ryan believes one of the most powerful things we can do is to share our story with someone else.
“To me a strong woman is someone who is aware and confident of who they are, comfortable in their journey and sees beauty in their story,” she says.
“In today’s society it’s pretty unique to be able to facilitate these types of positive conversations among strangers but I hope it can become more common.”
Prayer and conversation are the two things that keep her focused.
“Finances are my biggest headache but I remain trusting that God is leading me on the path that was specifically paved for me,” she said.
“So far He has been faithful (no surprises there!) and this journey just adds to my testimony. Also, the conversations I have with my friends are honest and inspiring. I thank God He has surrounded me with a solid group of friends and family who keep me questioning and keep me praying. I don’t think I could have got through the past few months without my close friends and without prayer.
“A mentor once told me: ‘God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.’ I have found this to be profoundly true in the workings of Project Strong Woman.”
Ms Ryan is about to go beyond the online realm by creating an opportunity for women to meet face-to-face through a conference she is organising.
Entitled “Love Yourself”, the one-day conference promises to be both intimate and empowering and will provide women with a new understanding of what it means to be a strong woman.
The conference will be held on Sunday, October 2, 10.30am to 4pm at Glebe Town Hall in Sydney. Special guests will include The Voice contestant Emily Rex, popular US poet/performer Azure Antoinette, and authors Leigh Van Der Horst and Sharon Witt, who will share their stories about self-love and self-worth. Tickets available with a donation.