Corliss Lee sharing her story at World Council

A Journey of an Empowered Girl Empowering Others

Story published as submitted for the contest “Story of Change”.

Corliss Lee sharing her story at World YWCA Council


Corliss Lee won the first price of the contest and had the opportunity to share her story of transformative leadership at World YWCA Council that was held the 17 to 22 November 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Here is Corliss inspiring story….

Hello, this is Corliss Lee from YWCA Hong Kong. It is so glad to share with my transformation in my YWCA journey. It is a journey of an empowered girl empower others. 

I had never initiated to take up leadership roles. “How can I be? I am not smart, not pretty, not mature enough, not popular…

We used to say “no” to ourselves, but we always await someone to say yes to us. The “someone” can be our parents, our teachers, our friends etc. For me, it is a blessing for me to meet a lot of “mentors” in during my adolescence. They gave opportunities to me a timid girl to be voice out, they encourage me whenever I am in frustration and always support me get out of my comfort zones. They encourage me to ask questions and think differently, allow me to improve in my own pace and progress, and point out but forgive all my mistakes. In short, they encourage and support me, and accept me as who I am before I can accept myself. 

However, this does not mean that I did not ever doubt myself since then. When I face larger challenges, the sense of inadequate and insecure fills me up with self-doubt and self-denial. It is because even when the world says yes to us, we are still “faking” to be a leader. Lastly but most crucially, it is the moment we, ourselves who say “yes” wholeheartedly to ourselves that transform us into a leader. I do this by beginning to realize not only the potential and strengths that I have, at the same time, I admitted and embraced my shortcoming during the visit to UNCSW21. 

I still remembered what Celine C- Chavannes said when she visited the Safe Space in UNCSW21 “Does we stop ourselves because of self-doubt” and “it is okay to have self-doubt” This triggered me with a deep internal dialogue. I realized that the largest obstacles for everyone is self- doubt, it is perfectly common, but we shall not let self- doubt stop us from doing what we want. And how we can resist this negative consequence of self-doubt is awareness, and to give ourselves chances. 

Corliss Lee

These self- doubts are sometimes named “I cannot”, “I am too young”, “I am not as smart, as assertive, and as powerful as men” and most often “reality”. It is these perceptions that form the largest and seemingly the strongest power structure that hinder females from taking up leadership roles. Then, this power structure deepened our original false perception of self-doubt in return. That is when others are saying “you cannot”, we will accept “I cannot” without self-awareness. However, this power structure wall is not unbreakable. When we aware of this great wall, it only takes some courage, some determination and some acceptance. 

How many times have we doubt our abilities? Why do we have a tendency to doubt ourselves? I guess since when we are justifying and believing in those doubts, we are soothing our sense of inadequate and insecure. However, every time when we are rejecting this uneasiness, we are also rejecting to understand our true feeling, our true abilities and our potential. 

Therefore, to me, a leader is one who dare to say “yes, we can” to our own true selves, and by doing so, we can make changes. There are thousands of criticisms and skepticism when we try to do things differently, and therefore making us begin to doubt ourselves, a leader shall be brave enough to face uncertainty, determine that it may takes a little bit longer, and accept that it is okay to fail, and give ourselves another chance to try it again. A leader is so a person who response “yes, we can” despite everyone saying “no, you cannot

Aware that a lot of youngsters are also trapped in self- doubt, I choose a career in youth development. By encourage them to make change, such as taking actions to do good to the society and moving forward the SDGs , I wish I also create a growing environment for them like what my mentors did to me: to appreciate them and accept them as who they and accompany them when they are doubting themselves or the others are doubting them. I hope this pave an easier path for them, so one day they can also challenge their own self- doubts, and be a little bit more courageous, determined and acceptance to themselves. Therefore, they can also become the leaders of their lives. 

Making changes are never easy. But I challenge you to take a more difficult road, to get along with our own sense of insecure and say yes to break those self- doubts. 😊

Corliss Lee 

YWCA Hong Kong

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