Leadership Lessons

Life has a funny way of putting you exactly where you need to be, even if it scares you and you don’t understand it at times.

This summer, I had the opportunity to do some pretty spectacular things…

Speaking at a World Pride event in Etobicoke, Ontario.

Marching in the World Pride Parade in Toronto.

Serving as Chairperson for a Pride organization for the Region I call home.

Attend a panel with delegates speaking about their experiences as part of the LGBTI community in Uganda and the Caribbean, having taken part in World Pride festivities. Having the chance to hear the Executive Director of Toronto Pride speak there too? Super.Cool.

Met some amazing politicians from Ontario, Canada.

Connected with a journalist I admired, respected and looked to as an activist role model.

Met and am preparing to interview Toronto-based author, Vivek Shraya.

Grew my circle of friends to include ridiculously inspiring people who energize me, simply by seeing their Facebook post; Confession: When I discuss plans with some of them, the way we can change little bits of the world together makes my heart swell with joy!

Ran 7k as a personal best and run 5k every other day.

Began writing for a Toronto-based arts and entertainment magazine, theBUZZ.

Gave others a platform to shine in news media for the talent they possess and create from.

…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I share that to emphasize that I had all of these awesome events taking place and I barely felt connected to any of them.

I said that I didn’t want to get too wrapped up in what I was doing to the point where I believed that I was somehow more special than anyone else; As it turns out, those noble intentions were born of an excuse to keep clinging to the need to devalue myself. Despite what fear tried to tell me, I haven’t turned into some egotistical maniac, nor have I become better than anyone. The only thing that happened? I realized that I was capable of so much more than what fear was whispering in my ear and I realized more of my worth along the way.

It scared me to think of writing this post and sharing with others the fact that some days, through what looked like the time of my life, I had to force myself out of bed to write, to engage and to complete my sometimes gargantuan to do lists. I worried that they might think of me as weak, less than, etc., but I’m sharing this because I want the world to know that even those who look like superheroes have their “wobble” moments and that it’s important for those who have or who had leadership positions, to speak about them.

We keep our struggles to ourselves because we think it somehow makes us stronger; The moment that others see you as human, after giving you names like superwoman, “an inspiration” or ask questions like, “I could see you running for some sort of office one day- have you thought about it?”, “so where do you keep your clones who get all that work done?”, “the community loves you- you see that, don’t you?” is the moment they’re no longer true, right?

It’s a terrifying thing to think that you’re letting expectations down, because you feel like an impostor, hoping that no one “figures out” that you’re not as brave as people think. There were moments I took multiple deep breaths, as though I was about to sneeze while holding that blazing hot, first cup of coffee in the morning because I didn’t trust myself and what I had to offer the world. I genuinely thought that with all my intellect, experience and wisdom gleaned from others, I would fumble, stumble and fall on my face. I remember thinking to myself (and still catch that negative tape playing sometimes), “Please don’t screw it up. You always screw it up somehow but please don’t screw this up,” like a child whispering a prayer before bed, that they hoped no one heard.

Guess what? I didn’t screw it up.

I was however, really unkind to myself and said some unnecessarily cruel things to my reflection in the process.

I was made very aware of the wide gap between what I believed about my worth and the things that others believed about me. Chewing on that for a few months left a bitter taste in every corner of the mouth which tried to utter the words, “But I really have no idea what I’m doing,” through much of the planning and organizing I was engaging in.

My beliefs had me justifying that I really didn’t know as much as others said or that I wasn’t the leader they thought I was and reiterating that I wasn’t/couldn’t/didn’t/shouldn’t became the affirmations I spoke throughout the day. Without fail, what you affirm about yourself becomes true. Before long, a depression kicked in because I was busy telling myself that I didn’t have those good things in me and “How could I possibly be an inspiration to others when I have no clue about some parts of my life?”

You believe what you tell yourself, regardless of the evidence pointing to the contrary. When you tell yourself daily that people are just really good at complimenting, rather than looking to the fountain of resources inside of you, you become numb and disconnect from the feelings you have about yourself and the situations you find yourself in; you cease to trust yourself. You numb yourself to avoid the bad, without realizing that it disconnects you from the amazing things that make you rocket out of bed in the morning for, excited about the day ahead.

And so the cycle of battling that belief began for me.

We’re taught that shining isn’t okay and that we have to stay quiet about the things we accomplish because when we shine, we’re violating a silent code if we said anything about it out loud. How dare we get excited about the platforms to speak and engage with the causes most important to us. Quite like my favorite Marianne Williamson quote I say now, “Who are you not to?”

Also, if you’re doing something in your life or if an opportunity presents itself to you, chances are you are capable of running with it (sorry but not sorry to burst your excuse balloon). You don’t go to a shoe store looking for a new washing machine, so what makes you think that this giant life you’re living, is that ridiculous? Life gives you opportunities you’re qualified for and that’s the beginning and end of it. No figuring out required.

Leadership is a journey which takes you through the beliefs you hold about yourself and forces you to hold all of them to the light for closer examination. It is a gift and one that I feel that everyone should experience, not because walking through fire makes you bold, but because it teaches you slowly what strength, courage and bravery really mean, while stripping away the beliefs you held that made you believe you weren’t strong, courageous or brave in the first place. You don’t arrive at it in this perfect state, nor should you ever hope to be “good enough” to lead or do big things in this world because you will be waiting forever. It is a leap that should be carefully considered, but if you feel ready, don’t just dip a toe in the water- leap, because it is the only way to learn.

The past few months taught me that not knowing doesn’t mean you’re not an inspiration; It doesn’t mean you’re not skilled, nor does it mean you’re incompetent. It usually points to strength because your worth is independent of the way others perceive you for not having all the answers and that is something worth shouting from the rooftops.

The thing about life is that you need a few answers and sometimes you won’t have a single clue so you’ll have to ask and not asking for help is the real weakness because it keeps those answers from you.

Reach out. I promise it will be okay.

People will admire you more for your bravery, than they will admonish you for not living up to their expectations.

And if they do admonish you?

It wasn’t a call worth taking and the world needs your work.

Let it go to voicemail.

ego

On The Wings of Miracles,

~Cheryl~

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