real life

ANTONIA KIDMAN: "You have the right to expect and assume respect in all your relationships."

Dear Antonia,

This letter is to my younger self, but on reflection, it is as much a letter to my current self because this knowledge and advice is still relevant today.

At fifteen, I remember feeling plagued by self-consciousness and doubt. This meant I tended to stay in my comfort zone in terms of who I would mix with, the things I would do and the aspirations I had for myself both personally and professionally.

Self-doubt and seeking the approval of others can be crippling, as I came to discover.

I fell in with a friendship group of girls who defined themselves by virtue of their popularity with the boys we hung out with. If a girl was popular with the boys, then she was popular with the girls.

Being popular turned on how we dressed, how we looked and how we acted, which required passively observing the various activities of the boys, rather than participating in them ourselves. You will eventually outgrow this group, but the experience will teach you that you should always back yourself and trust your inner voice.

Self-assurance, especially when it comes to relationships, is an attribute I respect and admire. While I’ve developed it with age, at times it still evades me (as it will you!). And that’s fine – it’s all part of the journey.

Fortunately, you will continue to grow up with a supportive family where gender equality is normal.

Your mother and father will instil an inherent strength that will help you stand up to people who may try to dominate or exploit you, but some people are highly persuasive and persistent when it comes to this – and it can be very difficult to resist the pressure.

Your parents will give you the tools to know how to deal with such situations and for that, you will be grateful. You have the right to expect and assume respect and gender equality in all your relationships, now and in the future. When you’re older, this will become the cultural and social norm too.

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Parents are raising their girls and boys to expect the same opportunities. One day, you’ll see the same fire and determination in your own daughters and sons.

Knowing who you are and what you stand for is a life-long journey, but some things won’t change. You’ve never been a silent bystander, and this will stay with you as you become a woman and a mother.

You won’t be afraid to articulate your convictions or rally for someone who is being treated unjustly. You’ll teach your own children that if someone treats them disrespectfully or if they see someone being treated that way, they should not be afraid to say that it is not acceptable.

Finally, be yourself and stay optimistic. Don’t change who you are or wish you were different. Nurture yourself and your family – be that caring, sensitive person you are.

Enjoy the little moments, because you only grow up once.

Take care and good luck.

Your older self.

If you have experienced, or are at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault, you can call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) 24 hours, 7 days a week.  For more information, visit Respect.gov.au

Stop it at the Start is a multi award-winning, three-year campaign jointly funded by the Commonwealth, states and territories to reduce violence against women and their children. The campaign aims to teach children about respect through parents actively monitoring the way they speak about certain issues. One in three women has been a victim of physical or sexual violence, since the age of 15, by someone known to them, and one in four Australian women has been emotionally abused by a partner since the age of 15. A woman dies at the hands of her current or former partner every week. It’s time to break the cycle. To learn more about what you can do, visit www.respect.gov.au

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