Dayenny de Souza says that helping other people invigorates the soul, but it’s also important to focus on regular self-care, personal health and wellbeing. She advises her younger self about getting the balance right.

Dear Dayenny

As I write this letter, I imagine myself as a 15 year old being asked what I want to work with for the rest of my life. Luckily, I was raised by a psychologist who taught me to focus on my strengths and things I enjoyed doing. My background is Brazilian. I was raised in Rio de Janeiro, a big city full of opportunities and culture. My childhood was filmed with visits to the museum and science fair. Today, I understand that this is not a reality for many and, despite coming from a working class family in Brazil, I had opportunities such as scholarships that helped tailor my career. Here are my thoughts if I had the chance to travel back in time and tell my younger self what to focus on.

Family and cultural foundation

Don’t forget where you come from, but don’t let that limit you. Your family is your safe harbour and even from a distance they will keep you strong through hard times. Always make time to catch up with them and help them as much as you can.

Setting boundaries

You love helping people, but you don’t know how to set boundaries. Learn to help people in terms of your availability and possibilities. This will be a big and ongoing lesson. Keep working on it. Volunteering keeps you grounded and reminds you why you chose to work in architecture. Remember that. Life gets busy, so use your available time to help others and your soul will be invigorated, which will help throughout hard times. 

Empathy and the good girl act

You care and that is not a bad thing. Your feeling of not fitting in will not go away with age, but you will come to accept it. Don’t try to change to please others. Drop the good girl act. The challenges will come, and you will get better at problem solving and prioritising. Be proud and confident. Read about imposter syndrome. Don’t be afraid of speaking up.

Financial literacy

Learn how to manage your finances and surround yourself with likeminded people. Take money lessons. You are good with money and have a business mind. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

Communication is the key to success

Learn to communicate your needs and ambitions. You have great communication skills – use them often.

Focus on your strengths

Focus on your strengths rather than weaknesses. Your determination can be a burden sometimes. Learn when to stop and focus on things that deserve your energy. Don’t waste time on things that you can’t change.

You are an analyst by nature, and that is a good thing. You love learning new things and researching. Use these skills to work on causes that you believe in.

Motherhood will not end your career

You will want to be a mum, and there is nothing wrong with it. Don’t let an infertility diagnosis make you start to reconsider it. People told you that your career would end, but that’s not true. You will become more disciplined, intuitive, compassionate and empathetic.

Your desire to make the world a better place will only increase, and you will have more strength and determination to do so.

You love your job, and when you become a mother for the first time you will have something that will be more important than your projects. You will learn how to deal with stress, practise meditation, exercise, and use alternative medicine. Take care of yourself. This is priceless.

Boredom is part of life

Every experience you have along the way is shaping the architect you will become – even the most boring and challenging ones.

Self care and counselling

Be kind to yourself and invest in therapy. 😊 Your future self will thank you for it.

Your dream of travelling the world will come true. I know that now it seems impossible but keep believing and working towards it every day. Little by little you will get there, and it will be amazing. I can’t say it will be easy, but it will be worth it.

First week at the University of Newcastle as an exchange student.
First week at the University of Newcastle as an exchange student.

Don’t neglect yourself

Nothing… I repeat nothing… is more important than your health. Don’t neglect yourself. There will always be another project and deadline to meet. Find hobbies and interests outside work to keep everything in balance. Taking your mind off the project helps to see things differently when you come back.

Growing as a woman in a sexist world

Your body consciousness is a result of having to hide your curves while working in a male-dominated industry in a conservative country. Don’t hide yourself forever, but protect yourself at all costs. Being pretty and intelligent was not a match in your culture.

It seems a bit weird how some places may feel uncomfortable because of your gender. The world is still adjusting for equality. Women along the way will help you to feel better and stronger. Surround yourself with likeminded women and information, and things will make more sense. The discomfort and red flags in your head will all make sense eventually. No, you are not crazy.

Hopefully these thoughts can help someone on this journey.

Dayenny on site
On site.

Dayenny de Souza is a Brazilian architect who migrated to Australia in 2017. She is studying a PhD in Sustainable Design at the University of Newcastle while working in a practice in Newcastle, NSW. Her design approach focuses on sustainability and knowledge from First Nations. Her passion lives in nature and low technology techniques, dreaming of it becoming more accessible and common to build..