To the Activists who opened the door…
My Heartfelt Thanks
This post is Part C in a Three Part Series (Part A & B)
Sometimes living our truth – truly being who we are at work – can cost us.
And so we decide to hide who we are – we censor ourselves – put on another face – just to survive.
For a number of years I did so myself. And whilst the covering up, the ‘keeping me’ to myself proved quite a costly burden to carry, I learnt big time and did find a way through to ME.
Today, I share 5 ways to get from Survive to Thrive – if you’re hiding who you are.
Be a Two or Three Timer
Get something going on the side for you, where you can truly be yourself.
For me that meant connecting to activists who were working to make schools better places for same-sex attracted youth.
Initially that meant devouring whatever I could find on the gender and sexual diversity in schools. I was starving for this information – but little by little – more and more stones were unturned.
I then dared to reach out to some activists whose words and actions inspired me. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that some would write back.
There was a whole world out there – a world where I would be accepted – without any pretence. There were conferences happening where these ‘taboo’ topics were being discussed among other more ‘acceptable’ ones. There were books. There were groups…..
And so whilst I taught in one world – I found me and revelled in the delights of other worlds.
Within these worlds, I learnt a language of self acceptance. I learnt to be comfortable in my own skin – expressing who I am.
I learnt I was not alone – that others had been in my shoes. From these activists, I learnt a language of change and possibility. I learnt how to build alliances and to disrupt the business as usual in schools.
I was building a Personal Learning Network (PLN) that enabled, empowered, and incited me to start challenging from within. I was laying the foundation for my move into worlds where my voice could truly be heard.
Sometimes we think we’re all on our own within our school. We feel isolated and alone. I’ve often found that’s not the case.
Stop, look, and listen intently for pockets of support.
Look and listen for hints that indicate a possible ally is in the midst.
It might be a turn of phrase. It might be a topic they raise. It might be an event they attend. It might be a book they read, or a film they watch. Whatever, be an avid people watcher and listener.
Drop some hints yourself – if safe to do so, maybe in smaller groups. Then look for the nods, the smiles, and the acknowledgement that you’ve been heard.
Over time, this approach lead me to realise that there was a small group of like minds within.
I could be with them – sharing and developing ideas and strategies. And over time we started to shed light on issues deemed to be controversial and too ‘sensitive’ for primary or elementary school. We started to make change from within.
Know – it’s Not All About You
Don’t beat yourself up. Realise that this current time isn’t forever.
I was often hard on myself – chastising myself for hiding who I am – for not being out there – for not speaking up – for being silent. In my mind, it was all up to me.
Know this – the issues don’t just revolve around you. That’s far too heavy a burden to carry.
Little did I realise – what a monumental change would take place once I dared to step past the fears of risk and rejection – and connect with others like me.
Only then – did I start to see past me – and realise I didn’t have to do this alone.
Be Kind to You
Building up and celebrating you is crucial in an environment where you feel confined and hemmed in.
Schedule time for practices that lift or ignite you. Focus on those practices that show ‘you’ve still got it, ‘ that you’re still doing innovative things in your class.
Sometimes we can be so pre-occupied with what we’re not doing or saying that all our good work rushes by without any acknowledgement.
So reward yourself for all the innovative – creative – different things you do.
Reward yourself for the steps taken forward – no matter how small. See them as iterations.
We often say things to ourself that we wouldn’t dare say to those we love and treasure.
Stand up for you and challenge that negative voice that sometimes perches on your shoulders crowing away.
Build an escape route (if need be)
Earlier I spoke about being a two or three timer. That is, having something ‘on the side’ for you – where you can be truly you.
In so doing, you’ll be exposed to a world of possibilities and opportunities.
You’ll learn from others who are working in environments where they can be more open. You’ll find out how they managed to make that shift.
You’ll also learn of spaces that would welcome people like you.
It doesn’t necessarily happen over night – but at least you’ll start to see options, and start building connections that you can tap into.
That doesn’t mean that you HAVE to get out – you might prefer to hang in there – cos you see some possibilities – and you want to build things over time.
- Many activists continue to show the power of the long-haul – especially those connected to an empowering PLN.
- There’s also the finances to factor in, I get that.
What I know though is that sometimes the cost is too big. That the load is too heavy to carry.
And sometimes we can hang in there too long – losing ourself – damaging our health and relationships. Is that a price you’re willing to pay?
It’s up to you – and your loved ones. Do you see possibilities for getting beyond survive mode?
Cos surviving I’ve found generally sucks big time – especially in a health and well-being sense.
If it’s mainly survive mode on the horizon – start to plan your escape route – through your PLN.
- Looking for Support around GLBTI issues – check out Part A & B of my Survive to Thrive Series.