June 2020 is the Female Wave of Change Storytelling month: Stories matter and we want you to share yours! Today Tanja Bogataj, Our Ambassador in Slovenia and Coordinator Balkan, shares her story of living her life #bepowerfulandfree
Living my life – Rising up to serve its purpose
“No bird soars too high if it soars on his/her own wings” -William Blake
One of the things that keeps my inner smile is the knowing that I’ve managed to keep that inner childlike innocent sense of “being Tanja”, and to keep on being in my truth, regardless of how hard it was or might be. It’s been challenged, tested, judged, and misunderstood many times. Looking back, I’m grateful for all of it. I guess I’m really becoming like a bamboo tree, as mom Yvonne Kgame, my dear mentor and teacher, says.
A journey of learning, unlearning and relearning
As long as I remember, I’m on a journey of learning, unlearning, relearning. And the learning never stops. It’s a journey to live my life and rising up to its purpose. Last three years I’m calling it a journey of being powerful and free while making a difference, and I empower and inspire others to do the same. One of the communities where I’m actively living this mission is also the Female Wave of Change. I’m grateful for being part of this inspiring, powerful and impactful global community where I can further develop, promote and implement my feminine leadership in practice and in collaboration with others.
Learning and becoming through living my life as best as I knew how to
What made me who I’m being today as a human being, women and leader in all roles I found myself in, I’d say it’s life, with few bigger and more impactful shifting points, and everything in between.
My mom taught me how to be and stay inner strong, reliable, and resilient for myself and others
I’ve been raised by parents who were always there for me, very supportive, but being also very clear on their values and what they wanted to teach me and my sister. I’m grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to develop good foundations and strong value system for my life. I’m especially grateful to my mom who taught me how to be and stay inner strong, reliable, and resilient for myself and others. I’m grateful to share many life experiences and learnings with my sister, and for our powerful bond which grows stronger each day.
Being exposed to different teachings and influences from early childhood on gave me the opportunity to learn how to face wins and losses with courage and compassion, and to take responsibility, persevere, and do the hard work. This shaped my character significantly, and helped me through life’s experiences and lessons.
I was denied and ‘not enough’ in who I am being at my core
One experience that changed me forever was the fact that I couldn’t stay with a man I loved and wanted to have a family with when I was in my early twenties, due to the religion and societal expectation. I couldn’t do much about it. He made his choice when the pressure and discomfort was too big. It was just a matter of time, and when his marriage was arranged it all went very systematically. It was like I’d be shifted to a side lane, and we’d continue for years in parallel still connected paths. It was hard to accept that I was denied and ‘not enough’ in who I am being at my core. It was even harder to understand that something from the outside had more saying than me or us, and that many others had more right to say what’s right and appropriate than us.
I’ve committed to myself to always stay true to myself
At that time I’ve realized two things, first, we really have only ourselves, one life, and second, everyone has a free will. Simple truth, and yet, not so easy to completely accept and live by. That was a point when I’ve committed to myself to always stay true to myself, regardless of how hard it would be, and how much I’ll have to sacrifice for it. It was a game changing moment of my life, and looking back, also for my life and its purpose. I was blessed with a gift of a kind of love and deep connection that people often long for their whole life, and blessed with a blessing in disguise, a major lesson on how to take responsibility for what this experience will be for me. I needed many years to completely heal from it, and it was mainly through working on myself, relationships and love that came after, traveling, studying, and to be frank, often with lots of overload of work.
I love children and I never thought I won’t be a mom
What has been shaping and reshaping me for years after were relationships, and the fact that I don’t have my own children. I love children and I never thought I won’t be a mom. It was challenging for me to listen over and over more or less well meant comments on how I have other things, how I’m successful, how I’m lucky to have the chance to fully live my life and travel etc. It’s true, and yet, all this was never my conscious substitute for not having children. It stayed many years at the back of my head, and in my heart, a sort of sadness, the questioning if I could have done it differently, and if I made wrong choices and decisions when listening and following my truth along the way.
Becoming a leader and serving
My professional path started after I’ve graduated from Law Faculty in 2000, and started working as an apprentice in the Ministry of Spatial Development and Environment of Republic of Slovenia. I remember my dad checking up on me first 14 days every day if I’m still there and how is it. I guess he was not sure how I’ll be able to stay there due to my ‘free spirit’. It turned out that I stayed for 18 years. I’ve done a successful career as a professional official, from apprentice to expert and adviser, and then several years at leadership positions, like Deputy Director general, Director general, and last three years as a State secretary. I enjoyed the most of it. I’m grateful for all of it. I think I couldn’t have learned elsewhere so much about human nature, and how we on declaratory level all support the common issue and what would be good, and in reality struggling with balancing between pursuing our own interests and common ones.
I was struggling at the beginning with why things are as they are and what am I doing there. As I usually do when feeling a discomfort, I put myself to work, and in parallel I studied a lot so I could understand better and find answers. Entering public policy sector, I’ve decided to study Political Sciences, and when I became passionate about leadership, I’ve done the second Masters from Management and Organization, and additionally many leadership trainings available in Slovenia, in Europe and in the States. All together helped me combined and developed a great combination of knowledge, skills and experiences I’ve been using successfully for my work and service.
I realized what’s my truth, and knew that I’m not willing to jeopardise my integrity
In 2011/2012 I became a certified coach, and since then coaching is very important part of me and my life, personally and professionally. I knew I’ll be serving as a professional coach at one point, I just didn’t know when it will be since I enjoyed working in the public policy and was passionate about the governance and leadership. The shifting point and clarity on ‘it’s time’ was when I at one point realized that with me doing my job as best as I knew how to, I’m also supporting a job and authority of someone I couldn’t align with regarding my basic values of integrity and responsibility on how to serve in public functions. I needed some time to step down and transit, but it was that moment when I realized what’s my truth, and knew that I’m not willing to jeopardise my integrity.
I couldn’t really understand why people were saying that I’m courageous when I left the governmental job three years ago to become a professional leadership and transformational coach. For me it was so clear completion of one period and a natural continuation of another. I’ve done extensive amount of coaching with my coaching mentor and coach to transit successfully. To me it seemed I had to be much more courageous to stay true to myself during previous 18 years.
Answers came after me, after being 2 years independent and among entrepreneurs. It’s a different kind of courage – a courage to stay open and agile to reinvent yourself and your service when and how is needed and not necessary when ready, and to be okay with the fact that although you do your best it still might not work out as successfully as you hope or wish for.
I got an additional confirmation at last New Years’ celebration, when both, my nephew and my niece, congratulated me with a similar message, how proud and grateful they are that I’ve listened to myself and now doing what I really enjoy doing, and that I’ve given them an inspiration and encouragement to do the same.
“Be Powerful and Free While Making a Difference”
I believe in the world where we are all feeling safe and free enough to be in our truth and to give and share our best to co-create a better world for all of us. I recommit to this vision and mission every day, and it’s my guideline for how I show up as a human being, and in different roles I serve, either as a coach, consultant, teacher, student, leader, co-creator, or a follower. Also this platform aims this vision and purpose. I believe with being and becoming who we truly are, we hold the space for each other, and we empower and inspire each other to be and give our best to the world.
Tanja gave Female Wave of Change permission to share her story also available on her website “Be Powerful and Free”