If you interact with me only online, you may be mistaken in thinking, I am super confident, sure and assertive. The truth is that extroverts struggle in a room full of new people just as much as introverts do, we just access our insecurities from different places.
Until yesterday I thought I was somewhat anonymous at my new school. A quick run in with my little in the morning and a smile, wave then I was out of there. As I closed the school gate, hoping to run to my car as quickly as I could for a radio interview, a school Mum caught me on the fly.
She said, “I follow you on social media”.
Cringe, “Oh gosh”
My heart leaped into my throat.
Then she went on to say… “I love what you write about, thank you so much.”
My heart eased, my insecurities wained and my heart pumped furiously in my chest. Her encouragement was the elixir I needed to get me through a radio interview, that I was worried about my content and its application. She had no idea that I was frazzled, throwing lunch together, dragging a two-year-old out of the gates and going off to sit in a car and talk to thousands on radio. Her encouragement was a balm to my soul.
We as women need to get better at championing one another. We never know the encouragement that comes out of our hearts and how that impacts another. When we become head cheerleaders, we have the capacity to change important and necessary things. When she succeeds, it does not dampen our success. When she wins, we all win.
Here are ten ways that I think we can become better at community over competition.
At the school gate
As I mentioned above, I would be categorized as an extrovert and I have lots of people I call my friends but joining a new school community is breathtakingly difficult. You notice the clicks, you hope you have the right day and uniform. You wince as you park, hoping you haven’t broken any silent rules. Women, we need to champion each other at the school gate. Even if it is as simple as a smile. An encouragement. Noticing change and tension. This could be the only kind interaction someone gets all day.
At the water fountain
There is nothing worse in the workplace than walking around the corner and hearing a conversation suddenly drop to a whisper and peter out. It is like the water fountain and kitchen in the corporate office becomes the feeding ground fodder for gossip. I have been on the receiving end of conversations that have not been kind or uplifting, misreading the situation and deeply grieving my soul. What if the water fountain became a source of encouragement. “How are you?”, “That project you are working on looks difficult, you are doing a great job”. It actually isn’t that hard to find something kind to say, when it becomes a language that you speak.
The greatest scourge of our society currently is the way we speak to each other online. I don’t follow many pages because my heart and mind are deeply sensitive to what I read. It is like it invades my heart space when the words hit my screen. I often say to people I am mentoring, especially young adults. “Could or would you say that on a stage in front of 1,000 people?” If you can’t, then do not write it down in words. I know an amazing writer and publisher, that writes encouraging words on every post she see’s. It is like her mandate is to encourage and uplift. Each and every time she writes to me, it is like water to a weary, dry soul. It is powerful.
The more we compare, the greater the difficulty there is to encourage. When you want “what she is having”, it is nearly impossible to gain perspective to be able to speak life and truth. There is something so sneaky about comparison and jealousy. It eats away our capacity to be able to champion the grace and success in someone’s life. I find that Instagram is terrible for this culture. We feed the need for perfection and tightly filtered screens fit for a Pinterest world. We compare our daily struggles with others highlight reels and we fall over by the weight of its incessant perfection. When we stop comparing our today with someone’s tomorrow, we release ourselves into a space of acceptance. This is the breeding ground for championing another. When we are not threatened by their space in this world and we are able to encourage. And when we encourage, we grow.
Believing the Best
Have you ever wanted to give someone a piece of your mind and then later been told a different side of the story, that changed everything? I have. In fact yesterday, I got an email and I reacted strongly. I started to stamp out a quick, snide reply. Then I deleted the email, picked up the phone and rang my friend. Straight away she said, “Can you please delete that email, I have had the worst day ever.” Sometimes we just need to believe the best and champion women who are trying to make a difference. If you know anyone who is doing something that hasn’t been done before it is hard work. We need to encourage and support women who are pioneering new spaces. We need to believe the best. Encourage those who are leading us into new days. You never know who needs encouragement. Pick up the phone and have a chat. It will make all the difference.
When she gets what you have been praying for
There is nothing harder than to see a friend receive the thing that you have been praying for. We have walked seasons like this. When friends have been believing for a change in circumstance and it seems like something just lands in another’s lap. When we dig deep and encourage each other from a place of sacrifice it changes us. Our hearts soften, our lives are sown and we take the higher ground. When we encourage from this kind of deep place, its shifts the weight of the in-between in our own lives.
Today I received an email from a lady I have never met about a book I wrote ten years ago. She was so kind and intentional in the email that she sent me. The thing she doesn’t know is that I have been sitting at my computer day after day, trying to write another book at the moment. And I am coming up empty. My brain is fuzzy, my two-year-old’s tantrums and the weather has been doing crazy things to my mind. When this email popped into my inbox, it was the motivation I needed to start again. To pull out my computer and believe again. When we champion other women’s voices, by writing the words we have been thinking it honestly makes the biggest difference. We will never know the difference that five minutes of intention have made. When we put words to paper and express gratitude, it is like we are giving a gift of inspiration to another.
Looking in her eyes
One thing I have been trying to change in my life is taking the time to look into people’s eyes. As I stand at the cafe waiting for my coffee or in the supermarket checkout. I am aiming to make it my impression, that I look into the eyes of the person who is serving me. I find myself saying this to my children often lately. Look me in the eyes. I want to tell you how proud I am of you. Look me in the eyes, I want to tell you I love you. We look down into screens so often, that we have begun to create a culture of looking down. When we look down, it speaks loudly with shame, indifference, and disrespect. When we listen with our eyes, we bestow respect and encouragement on another. When we look at each other and listen we exude encouragement.
I have made it my goal to notice when someone wears something new or has a haircut. Especially people who I am only just getting to know. It is a simple way to encourage without being too personal. “Hey, You look amazing, your new haircut is awesome.” “Have you done something different you look great.” When we notice a change, we let them know that we have truly seen them. I want to see. I don’t want to just go through life in oblivion. We can train our eyes to notice the good things, not the negative ones. It is easy to see when someone is stressed and say “Hey you look tired.” It is harder to notice when positive and progressive change is made.
When we think something nice why don’t you speak it out
Lastly, but most importantly if you think something nice just speak it out. You never know who needs to hear they look lovely, or that you are grateful or that you love them. Maybe you have been thinking of them. Say it. Don’t leave words unspoken inside. Imagine if women championed women like never before. What amazing feats could be enacted across the earth. Imagine a company of empowered, encouraged workplaces. Imagine a group of school Mums who fist pumped every Mum that crossed their paths. Imagine a whirlwind across social media if we filled it wiencouraginging kindness. I think it could be a revolution.
And it begins with me.
Thanks for reading