Sabrina Ibanez: "Get Comfortable with Doing Things Your Way"

Wed, 03/22/2023 - 06:19
Co-presenting with FEI President Ingmar De Vos during the FEI Awards Ceremony in Cape Town (RSA) in November 2022. We are two very different people, but together we make a great team!

Guest columnist of this week is Sabrina Ibanez, Secretary General of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) and President of the Association for Paralympic Sports Organisations (APSO).  The month of March is known internationally as Gender Equality Month and this year’s theme – to #EmbraceEquity – calls on everyone to do their part to improve gender equality.

One key way to #EmbraceEquity is through allyship, because change can only happen when people actively promote gender equality and equity through supportive and collaborative relationships.   This month brings a series of stories from equestrian women talking about the people who have played a key role in helping them make their mark on the field-of-play.

"Get Comfortable with Doing Things Your Way"

what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn
that since day one
she’s already had everything she needs within herself
it’s the world that convinced her she did not

-rupi kaur

These beautiful words by the talented young poet Rupi Kaur contain a message that gets amplified every year on 8 March for International Women’s Day, and for the few weeks that follow as part of Gender Equality Month.

But then for the rest of the year, instead of tapping into the force that exists within us, most of us women spend an inordinate amount of time questioning ourselves.

Imposter Syndrome

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from speaking to other women in leadership positions, is that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable at the top because we all tend to experience some level of imposter syndrome.

Ibanez and former FEI press director Grania Willis
So if you’ve recently taken on a leadership position, my advice to you would be this: take the time to prove to yourself – not to others – that you can do the job. Because it’s only by feeling comfortable enough in your position that you will do the job your way and arrive at a point where you can say, “I’ve got this!”

Doing it your way means doing it as a woman, and not as a man. You have to believe that your way can be just as good, if not better. And if you’re in the position that you are today, it’s because people believe in you.

Our Own Harshest Critic

Ironically it’s often those around you who have more confidence in your abilities than yourself. As women, we’re often our own harshest critic.  

People are surprised when I say that I was initially reluctant to take on the job of FEI Secretary General. I was fortunate to have President Ingmar De Vos convince me that I could inject my personality and style into the position and make it my own.

He and I make a great team. We are two very different people with our own unique opinions that have been formed through our own personal and professional experiences. The diversity of thought we bring to the table is the reason why our working relationship is so effective.

We may not always see eye-to-eye on every issue, but we’ve always been open and honest with each other and we’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves and sort out a problem together.

From Ingmar, I’ve learned the importance of providing context to a situation, never assuming anything, and also to hope for the best… but always plan for the worst. 

My Mother

While Ingmar has been a big influence on my professional life at the FEI, I am undoubtedly the woman I am today because of my mother - the indefatigable Maria Conchita Ibáñez Judd.

Ibáñez at the 5th International Consensus Conference
on Concussion in Sport
She always told me, “Sabrina, they can take everything, but they can’t take away what you have in your head or what you’ve lived.”

My mother, who was actually Austrian, was a child born during the time of war, who went on to lead an extraordinary life, travelling the world and regaling people with stories she could tell in many languages.

She taught me the most valuable lesson I could ever learn, which was, “Don’t let school interfere with your education.” And by saying that, she gave me the permission to live life on my terms.

Being a women in a leadership position is about getting comfortable with doing things your way.

So, be brave.
Step out of your comfort zone.
And don’t be afraid to make your mark.

- by Sabrina Ibanez

Related Links
FEI Secretary General Sabrina Ibanez Re-elected to key Para Sport Position
FEI Extends Ban and Removes All Russian and Belarusian International Events from 2023 Calendar
Keeping a Clear Head: 2016 Berlin Conference Mobilises Top Medics Against Concussions