Dear Friends, Do you ever feel afraid of being judged? Do you ever feel uncomfortable when posting, on social media or online, a photograph, a video, an article, anything that has part of your heart and soul in it? Why are we so scared of showing people who we are? What is it about our psyche that tells us that being vulnerable and open is bad? We have seen that audiences, viewers, social media users, all respond to stories that are authentic, that are honest, fragile, transparent. Yet every time we hit send or publish there is that fear of the world crashing in around us. There is that fear that with publishing a part of ourselves, we have created an opening for others to judge us, criticise us, rip us to shreds. However, I realised it isn't the voices of others that we are fearing. It is just that one voice that we fear the most. The one that belongs to us. I spent my entire professional career, up to this point anyway, being on television. As a correspondent and anchor I was out there for the world to see, literally. Every time that red light would go on in the studio and I was "on air" I was like a floating target for people's opinions. For the most part, I got off relatively unscathed. Viewers of my shows were kind, supportive, and generally really nice. While it irked me at times that people focused on my looks--everything from my hair and my clothes--and not on my work, I was thankful for the fact that viewers were responding in a positive way to my presence. I was more concerned about being critiqued by the bosses at the network. But that goes back to when I was a little girl being told by my parents to always "be a good girl", "don't be too loud", "don't be too opinionated". Maybe it was an Asian thing where girls weren't meant to be strong-willed, which I was. And still am. In my early days, when I started reporting at the local news channel in Toronto, every time I filed a story or did a live report I would brace myself afterwards for a critical phone call from my news director. If 30 minutes would go by and I would not hear anything, I would then relax knowing that that day, I did ok. That fear would start to dissipate with every story, every live report, every show because I was gaining confidence in my ability to actually do the job. But because I was still quite inexperienced there was always that little bit of insecurity that rested deep inside. It was that irrational voice inside suggesting that the executives will soon realise their mistake in hiring me. Towards the end of my time in television news I was strong and confident in the knowledge that not only was doing my best all anyone could ask for, my best was actually pretty darn good. I had to build that self-confidence. I did so with the knowledge that every day, with every shift, every interview, and every time I fronted breaking news coverage, I didn't falter. And that confidence, that strength, had to come from within because that's where the true power lies. When you lift yourself up after all the struggles, the rejections, you build a strength where no one can take you down. I also learned early on in my career to never believe my own press--the good or the bad. That's giving someone else the power to define your value. The only thing I held on to, and still do, is how I feel about my work and about myself. Opinions from others will vary. And those opinions are filtered with that person's perspectives and experiences in life. So the other thing I learned from that was, when it comes to criticism (good or bad), always consider the source. Today I don't have that corporate bubble around me. I don't have a big brand as my safety net. All I have is me. Any time I publish a blog post, or share some thoughts on social media, it is all me. Do I get that pinch of nerves every time I put myself out there? 100% Every. Single. Time. But I do so because I believe we all have value, we all bring something different to the table. We all have a voice, a story to share. So, whenever I think that maybe I shouldn't write something or occupy any particular space, I hear the writer, actor, and producer Mindy Kaling so rightly saying in her book, "Why Not Me?" Why not you? There is enough space in this universe for all of us to share our stories, our art, our gifts. It's when we realise we have a right to be in that space that's when we start to change that voice inside us warning us of the criticism, to instead turning up the volume on the cheerleader inside us urging us to take the plunge. I recently watched Michaela Coel's 2018 McTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival. Michaela Coel is the brilliant writer and actress behind the immensely successful television series Chewing Gum and most recently I May Destroy You. In the speech she describes her life as her inspiration. Her life, however challenging it will have been, is filled with valuable nuggets, stories that are now television gold. She described growing up in a council estate in East London where judgement about where she was from, what she looked like, and what she didn't have was always there at the ready, "I changed the narrative, by twisting it to my favour," she said. "Like any other experience I’ve found traumatic, it’s been therapeutic to write about it, and actively twist a narrative of pain into one of hope, and even humour. And be able to share it with you, as part of a fictional drama on television, because I think transparency helps." When we are putting ourselves out there, it may seem we are vulnerable to outside criticism, yet we have the control over the narratives we choose to tell and the voices we choose to hear. The confidence and power lie within that honest, authentic place. That's what connects us to others. It's often when we think about sharing things that don't really say anything about us, that aren't real, or where we feel we ought to present a certain ideal of ourselves, that's when we fall into the trap of the "should". The playwright Young Jean Lee says, "I think that all of the wild vision and creativity come from just having freedom to do whatever you want and not have something in your mind like, “This is what it’s supposed to be like." And it works for her. Young became the first Asian American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. It it weren't for people putting themselves out there we wouldn't have the great storytellers, artists, creatives, scientists, you name it, out there. You wouldn't have a designer like Joe Doucet who challenges design concepts by looks at reframing problems in order to find solutions. Or David Harry Stewart who challenges views in marketing and advertising
by seeing that brands need to capitalise on a market that has the influence and money to spend--the over 50s. Or Morgan Mercer who is using Virtual Reality to educate corporations about sexual harassment and systemic racism--literally putting people in another's shoes. Or Sophia Roe, the wellness influencer who isn't looking to sell expensive supplements or miracle solutions. Rather she's looking to strengthen communities often ignored in the health and wellness industry saying, "Here’s the thing with wellness—you are only as well as the equal sum of your community. You might be this yoga-going vegan taking tinctures and all this stuff, but if your neighbour is starving then so are you." It's that stepping out of the comfort zone thing. And the comfort zone for so many of us is to either not share our stories or keep believing the voice of fear and judgement. Yet here's the thing about that comfort zone, the more we explore what is beyond that zone, the more we become familiar with it. It's as Li Li Leung, President and CEO of USA Gymnastics, said recently in an interview with The Female Quotient, "My philosophy is to put yourself outside your comfort zone. By doing that you purposefully expand your comfort zone." The zone, like our self-confidence are muscles that need to be worked on every day in order to feel secure and strong. The world is big enough to include us, every part of us. Colin Wright wrote in his book Act Accordingly, "There are as many perspectives as there are people." It's a great statement because not only does it help us to realise that there are many people out there whose stories we should know about. It also shows us that our perspective is important too. So why not share it? Maybe, as the life coach Mel Robbins said once, "someone in the world needs to hear what YOU have to say." And while there are a lot of opinions out there too, I've learned to trust the voices of those I respect. And at the top of that list is mine.
“When you love and accept yourself, when you know who really cares about you, and when you learn from your mistakes, then you stop caring about what people who don’t know you think.”