I am a quiet person at heart. I observe and absorb, and it means I sometimes judge to understand the world (and my place in it). Being a reserved child made me susceptible to feelings of disempowerment – I couldn’t use my voice. It grew to feel like oppression. Not speaking up became a habit that rolled into adulthood.
At high school and then as a young employee, I experienced the demeanour and language of many teachers and leaders as offensive. This led to disenchantment with all authority. I chose to detach from what I perceived as bad teaching and leadership. I also became negative of institutions and organisations and any form of authority that challenged my values.
Traits like this accumulate and intertwine. While I can’t pinpoint how this really started, I know it felt like not having a voice or being listened to. I was increasingly disgruntled with life. The only voice I had was in my head. I was a critical but silent heckler, contributing nothing.
In fact, I went a dangerous step further and detached from my thoughts and feelings. I become unaware of myself. Guilt grew. Shame grew. My life became stifled. I wasn’t fun to be around.
Blogging and social media helped me change.
At first I resisted, loudly professing I was born in the wrong era. Then I came to see social media as a platform to explore my voice, the very thing I felt I’d had stamped out of me – and to share it. The early days of blogging helped. I dabbled with a few platforms – all in other names, mind you. I kept my identity covered.
I was still a heckler. Using many personas, I tested my fledgling voice to channel anger at the things leaders were allowing, doing or saying. I wrote and wrote about the topic, over 10,000 words! I wrote about leaders around me stuffing up. I wrote about all the occasions I wished I could speak up but didn’t. I thought this writing would help make me feel stronger, better and more at peace, but alas it did not.
Then I had an epiphany. Even though I was writing about leadership, I was doing so from a position of disempowerment.
My lost faith in leadership was leaving me powerless. I had to ditch the critical heckler and evolve into someone positive and effective.
I changed my approach. Instead of exploring my voice from the perspective of “What’s pissing me off today?” I ask myself, “What can be better? What’s needed here? What can I say or do?” In finding my own voice I’m freeing myself from disempowerment about leadership. I give bad leaders less hold over me, which gives me space to become a strong leader of myself.
In connecting to my voice, and being honest enough to listen to it, I am gaining insight into others at a new level. My business involves work with others’ writing, business communications and profile raising. Now I am helping people become leaders of themselves and their field. My writing programs guide clients to tap into their own compass and put themselves into words.
A business owner wanted help with website writing. I realised her voice was critical and heckling. Instead of reaching for her own stars and inspiring others, she had set herself in opposition. The words reined in her own goals and dreams. I was able to point out her inner heckler and help her write an exciting website. She’s also empowered and using writing as a tool for self-discovery and aspiration.
I’m looking forward to sharing my own journey and discoveries. I’m excited to lead myself, before laying judgement on others. I am fortunate to work with the tool of writing; a transformative artform everyone can use to become leaders themselves.
Alex Christopher is a writer and mentor with a background in the arts, tertiary education and government admin. She’s the creator of Seaside Writing and Visibility Coaching.