She is Serena Williams.
- Widely celebrated for her indomitable spirit, relentless pursuit of excellence, and unrivaled strength
- A powerhouse, a champion, and a legend
- Outspoken, brash, bold, and beautiful
Witnessing the evolution of Serena Williams has been tremendous. She began her journey as Richard’s daughter and Venus’ younger sister. Now her accolades are many – Olympian, 23 Grand Slam singles titles, and 14 Grand Slam doubles titles to name a few. She has faced professional and personal challenges, triumph and tragedy, and is no stranger to controversy. Despite unexpected outcomes and setbacks, she has faced each obstacle with ferocious tenacity. No longer able to wear that now infamous catsuit at the French Open, she twirled into the U.S. Open in colorful tutus. That clapback was genius.
Perhaps one of Serena’s greatest challenges has been her journey into motherhood. Her daughter Alexis was born September 2017, delivered via emergency C-section because the baby’s heart rate began to drop during labor. What ensued was an onslaught of medical complications from the development of multiple blood clots to a pulmonary embolism and a ruptured uterine incision.
Serena spent the first six weeks following her daughter’s birth on bedrest. She has been incredibly vocal about this experience through her tweets, interviews, and HBO documentary aptly titled “Being Serena.” Her transparency is refreshing for it echoes what we all know and experience as new and seasoned moms, irrespective of celebrity status.
In her post-match interview following a disappointing loss to Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon in July, she humbly and poignantly stated, “To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today, and I tried.” We all felt the rawness and the anguish in her words, the loss like a punch in the gut after working so hard to achieve that which was no more. She is different, not weaker, not less than, but beautifully and irrevocably changed by motherhood.
Inspired by her willingness to make sweet and refreshing lemonade while society continues to hurl lemons at her, I decided to share 5 lessons Serena Williams has taught #thismama.
1) No momma is immune
A mommy is a mommy no matter what. It makes no difference whether she works or stays at home, gave birth or adopted her babies, or is a celebrity mom or her biggest fans live with her, a mom will face tough parenting choices. Sometimes we forgo the work meeting to attend a school day performance. Other times we choose to skip out on soccer practice to train for the half-marathon on our bucket list. Daily life forces us to choose between ourselves and our children. Serena openly tweeted, “She took her first steps … I was training and missed it. I cried.” She missed her daughter’s first steps because she was training for her return to tennis after maternity leave. She had to give up witnessing a first to be the GOAT. And we all cheered her on and hugged her tight because, well, we’ve all been there, too.
None of us mommas get a pass, and that’s okay. We got this!
2) You don’t have to dim your light to allow others to shine
In a very controversial and bittersweet match earlier this month, Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open tennis final. Despite losing the match and being penalized for her widely criticized actions, Serena accepted her loss and warmly congratulated Osaka. She even spoke to the crowd, attempting to cease the booing as she didn’t want to taint Osaka’s victory.
We can still celebrate other women amid our own pain.
3) Remain true to yourself
Arguably Serena Williams is living her best life. Married to the love of her life and raising their daughter, she is facing obstacles with unfettered perseverance and is coming out on top. She makes no apologies for her strength, her gift, or her boldness. As far as Serena is concerned, you can take it or leave but she is “doing Serena” and that is incredible to behold.
Don’t be afraid to be who you are for anyone. Your children, your colleagues, your family – they all need to see the real, authentic you and not the version that exists to please others or make them feel more comfortable.
4) Purpose lies within your pain
Growth is often painful. It’s uncomfortable to stretch, to be pulled outside of your proverbial comfort zone. But without breaking free from the restrictive chrysalis, a caterpillar would never transform into a beautiful butterfly. Serena literally had to fight for her life following the birth of her now one-year-old daughter, but this journey has undoubtedly pushed her, challenged her, and transformed her for the better.
Pain is never the destination but rather the vehicle through which we find the strength and motivation to take our next step, and perhaps the best one yet.
5) Strong is the new sexy
For so long a woman’s value has been placed upon her physical appearance. Such a narrow ideal of beauty minimizes the full splendor of a woman and her innate strength. Serena Williams embodies that strength because she manifests physical prowess, mental fortitude, and emotional vulnerability. It’s not that she has never struggled or broken down under life’s pressures; but she’s not paralyzed by fear. Still she presses towards the mark, slaying her enemies along the way. And when she has a misstep, she dusts herself off and starts again.