My best friend has called me brave many times over the years. Yesterday, a different person (my current coach) said the same. It felt weird to take it in, but I heard them out as they explained why.
I’ve dealt with not being included—with being excluded, not welcome—at many moments during my life. As a kid in my own family, at school, at work. Mostly it was for…, no, no reason gives that any validity. It was not kind, not right, and it was never fair. It never is, no matter your gender, age, sexual orientation, neurodiversity, physical appearance, health, (dis) abilities, cultural background, or race.
Feeling so profoundly excluded has made it easier for me to imagine the hurt and the unfairness to other people who are not experiencing inclusion or belonging. If this is what I encountered in my life, those even more significant, more frequent, and pernicious experiences are hurtful, unfair, and unjust. And just. Not. Ok. At all. Period.
In my own life, I have persistently identified, chosen, and eventually created my own inclusive spaces: my little family (with two kids that are genuinely kind to others), my crowd in schools with like-minded people (hi, fellow book nerds! Here’s to you, international coaches!) and my own business (with an impressive network of kind and intelligent professionals).
Paying it forward, I’m putting my coaching skills to work to inspire more inclusion and belonging for others.
The hardest thing so far has been to deal with my limiting thoughts—the critical voices inside my head. I erroneously presented these ideas as obvious, unshakable truths. The stuff that got me feeling excessively worried and hurt. The things kept me small, taking up as little space as possible, making the slightest sound.
This is why I was called brave: because facing those things has been flippin’ scary and hard. I did it anyway because the one thing that I find more frightening than facing my messiness is not seeing what is right in front of me, staring me in the face.
Consistently dealing with my speed bumps and monsters-under-the-bed without shying away is why my friend and my coach called me brave.
Honestly, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed and still need friends and professionals. Skilled coaches who helped me see clearly and feel my strength. It was scary initially to open up to others, but it got easier.
Having become a coach and gone through this myself, I know you can do it too. I know you can be kind to yourself about all the ways you’ve been holding back and overlooking what’s true. You can face them because there are things that are more important than playing small. And I know you don’t have to figure it out alone.
You are brave, too. And I’m right here with you.