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Empower Yourself: 10 Lessons From The Life of The Notorious RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, aka RBG, was a powerhouse – a champion for women’s rights with a workout routine that would put most young men to shame. A symbol of personal strength and willpower, a challenger of norms that all of us can learn and evolve from.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, women’s rights activist, icon, pioneer, who was battling cancer for years, passed away at the age of 87 after putting up a noble fight.

She was a trailblazer as one of 9 women in her Harvard class. She went on to become the first female tenured professor at Columbia Law School and the founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. She helped to create the legal case for women’s equality and brought women’s rights cases in front of the Supreme Court. RBG was the second female Supreme Court Justice in history.

The great Ruth Bader Ginsberg has left women and men everywhere with a living example of how to get it done. Here are just some of the countless life lessons we can learn from this legend. 

1. Create A Legacy Of Strength and Build Women Up

RBG’s mother worked in a garment factory, and she instilled a love of education in her daughter. Even though her mother passed on from cancer the day before she saw Ginsberg graduate with honors from high school, the seeds of love for education were already deeply planted. 

RBG put her own education aside and financed her brother’s education first. Then, she curated an academic and professional career for herself that will support and inspire women for centuries to come. 

My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent,” Ginsburg said. RBG lived to exhibit fierce independence, ferocious will, and a strong belief in self – she did it with the grace of a lady, as her mom guided.

2. Don’t Wait to Create The Life You Want

The great Ruth Bader Ginsberg did not become great by staying on the sidelines and posturing for someone to recognize her strength, or for the right opportunity to fall in her lap. She realized early on that she will have to create room for herself. Ultimately, her will to create her destiny proved to be stronger than the will of those who didn’t want her to succeed.  

3. Only You Need To Believe In Yourself

There were people, like her mother, her husband, and her professors, who did believe in Ruth Bader Ginsberg. While the support was helpful, she knew the only person she truly needed on her side was herself. 

After graduating from Cornell University at the top of her class, Ginsburg married Martin, a first-year law student. She put her education on hold to start a family and waited 2 years for Martin to return from his military service draft before applying to Harvard Law School. As one of only nine women in a class of 491 men, she faced gender discrimination and was chastised for taking a man’s spot at the law school, but there was no stopping the great RBG.

4. Reframe Impediments As Opportunities To Rising Up Higher

As RBG’s personal struggles increased, she spruced up her will to match it. 

Martin developed cancer during her first year of law school. She took care of him in his sickness, raised their baby daughter, and kept him up-to-date on his classes. She simultaneously managed to keep her position at the top of the class at Harvard Law  School, ultimately serving as the first female member of the Harvard Law Review.

She moved to New York City when Martin got a job, finished out her last year at Columbia Law School, and served on the Columbia Review. 

5. Believe In Yourself First, Others Will Eventually Align

Despite her immaculate academic record, RBG faced gender-based discrimination. She couldn’t find a job until a Columbia professor put his foot down and refused to recommend any graduates before U.S. District Judge Palmieri hired Ginsburg as a clerk. Two years into her clerkship, she was offered jobs at a much lower salary than her male coworkers. 

Ruth Bader Ginsberg saw and felt the injustice women felt daily, and she was done with the cultural programming that kept women away from success. She said, “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made. It shouldn’t be that women are the exception.”

6. Tune Out The Noise, Don’t Lose Your Focus

Like anyone who has ever done anything worth doing, RBG knew to let the haters hate. She said, “When a thoughtless or unkind word is spoken, best tune out.” 

When you rise up to the full potential of who you are, people will have something to say about it. 

The simple success equation is that your belief in yourself and your path must be greater than any disbelief others bring forth. 

7. Stay Focused on Your Goal, Stay Open To Possibilities

RBG was a true rockstar. She not only jumped in with both feet but after an undying fight, she had the wisdom and courage to remain open to the potential of the unknown. 

She taught us, “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.” Now that’s strength.

8. Regulate Yourself And Rise to your full potential

RBG knew that you don’t have to roar to be heard. She had a slow but steady and calculated style, that yielded far beyond what kicking and screaming would have achieved. 

Her ability to stay true to herself and her purpose made her one of the greatest achievers of our time. She said, “If you want to be a true professional, do something outside yourself.” 

She was effective because she had control over her passion, her passion didn’t have control over her. She warned, “Don’t be distracted by emotions like anger, envy, resentment. These just zap energy and waste time.”

9. Change Begins With You, Don’t Stop Believing

Given the nickname of the great dissenter, RBG knew that change is a journey, not a marathon. She said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

Even though she lost the equal wage case Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire, she was not afraid to step out of the norm and read her dissent from the bench, calling on Congress to undo the law. 

Her grit and guts finally led to Obama passing the Fair Pay Act as the first piece of legislation he signed as president.

She showed us that you can’t give up on your dream because it hasn’t been done before, or because it might make waves, or because it doesn’t look like it’s really going to make a difference.

10. Work With The End In Mind

RBG had principles, values, and characteristics that she stuck by all her life. Each of these led her to a goal she had chosen for herself.

She was clear, “I would like to be remembered as someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability.” That’s exactly how she is remembered. 

An inspiration to us all, she will forever remain in the hearts and minds of badass boss women everywhere who don’t agree with others setting limitations on their potentials, who don’t take no for an answer, who also want to be remembered living into their full potential.

In her 87 years, she has created a legacy for all of us to follow. She has done her part, now it’s our turn, our daughter’s turn, to step up to the plate and pick up where she left off, and choose to rise up when we are put down.

Sanya Bari (@sanya.bari)

Therapist, Coach, Relationship Expert, & Lifestyle Blogger

SHE Magazine USA

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