How to confidently take up space in the world when you don’t fit in
This is a transcript of the podcast episode #17 by the same name. Here's a link to listen to the show or click below!
Hello i’m Dionne, a massive introvert, extremely shy and a big weirdo!
Today we are exploring:::::
Taking up space in the world, especially if you have ever felt Other or like your face doesn’t fit, be that living your life in a way that is different to the norm, whatever normal is….
Or perhaps you're a polymath who wears a variety of hats.
Or you have an idea to do something differently to what people have experienced before.
Or perhaps you want to challenge the way something is being done.
This episode is dedicated to those who are interested in creating their own spaces in the world and making their own rules, and also as a message of reassurance, solidarity and support for anyone who could use some on their mission. 💕
The process of stepping into yourself.
Cultivating the confidence to do you.
And embracing your inner weirdo along the way.
We’re going to get into the specifics in a minute, i want to remind you when this comes out i have a couple of free spots to work 1-1 with me in one of my creative coaching programmes. It’s called Flow, and it’s 6 months long and it’s were i get to support you on your mission in holding space for your work and your LIFE. Perhaps you’re looking for some support on your own journey, want an accountability from someone who gets it, who walks with you and digs into the mulch to help you get to where you want to go, but enjoy the process along the way. So if that speaks to you, head to my coaching pages.
And if you do dig this podcast, do us a favour and please give us a like and/or subscribe on itunes! What would really blow my tiny mind is a review of stars, cause that really helps us to be found by other like minded folks who might also dig it too!
Thank you so much to everyone who has left me reviews and ratings and sent messages of resonance following the last podcasts (💜) , i am so very grateful.
Finally, an entire transcript is available for this show along with added goodies (expect memes + a playlist, of course) over on my site, as well as all the shownotes and links to everything i’ve mentioned in the show are available on dionne.space/podcast and this is episode 17.
Now official business is out the way…….let’s dive in!
On: not fitting in. not following the rules
There’s often pressure by society to fit in and follow the rules. To be uniform. But if your face doesn’t fit, then it becomes difficult.
(to those of you out there who don’t fit in, YOU are my people) If you don’t want your face to “fit”, whatever fit means, you are also my people.
Who wants to conform? Not i!
But it can sometimes come at a cost. Or demand a different kind of energy. A big dick energy perhaps?
And cultivating confidence to have your own back. Which is hard if you haven’t had experience of doing that, or if you are shy! Like me!
So, over the years, i’ve spoken with a lot of different people about this topic as i’ve been trying to find my own way and create my own path. I’ve worked with a lot of different teachers, therapists, coaches and mentors to explore tools and techniques to work on just that.
And i know i’m not alone in this because it’s something that has come up for my clients time and time again over the years.
The big question is:
How do you create space for yourself when you don’t fit in?
And i think there are of course layers of other questions beneath that big question, like:
How can i show up as my full self?
Can i do me in my business and still make it successful?
How do i become more confident not just in myself and how i move through the world but in my dreams and ideas so i can take them seriously and make them real?
I think there’s a lot of this stuff that comes up if you are ever faced with the call to show up in the world, which, let’s face it, is all the time really isn’t it? Especially in an age where there is a lot of noise around when the demand to be seen feels more pressured than ever.
To fit in into the dominant monoculture.
To be doing what everyone else is doing in the way they are doing it.
Going to the same places to show you’ve been there and done that. Wearing the same stuff. Buying the same things.
...Which frightens me to be honest…
No shade to social media at all, it’s simply a tool, right? And we have a choice in how to use it. We all know that mediocre vanilla mainstream route that a lot of people choose to take right? Again, no shade, but posting the same stuff that’s been regurgitated to fit what’s hot right now. That looks identical to countless others. That reeks of mediocre, right? Is this too shady? You know what i mean right? I don’t mean any disrespect, because we all know the reason for the same old stuff getting copycatted and done to death is a clear sign of insecurity. By the way i have a whole podcast episode and a gigantic blog post on just that.
So copycatting reeks of insecurity. A lack of belief or trust in yourself that you have something to say. Sometimes the insecurity comes out in an arrogant way, a need for a dogmatic system or enforcing rules that must be abided by. We see this in some yoga circles right? I’ve spoken quite candidly about this over the years and my issues with dodgy power dynamics in the yoga + wellness scene and the world (an interview with me on Yoked podcast "You Belong").
It’s not just yoga + wellness though right, it’s something i’ve definitely encountered in every industry i’ve worked in. From music to art to film to health and more.
But there is another way that the insecurity lives in people, and that’s the crippling self doubt that keeps you from doing you. From living your life in the way you want to. It keeps you from speaking your truth. Holds you back from making the leap towards that dream you’ve had for as long as you can remember. It dismisses that spontaneous but very clear idea you have for a project you want to create. It stifles that excitement. The insecurity prevents you from taking up space in the world in the way you want to. And that, my friends, is a tragedy, because the world needs you. I say it all the time but it’s true. It needs you and your voice and you creating and living the life you want, not the one someone else has told you to.
So i want to share some stories with you about my own journey, as well as client aha moments, plus some actionable tips to cultivate confidence in yourself so you can go out there and take up space as your whole self.
Do you babes, especially when you don’t see yourself reflected out there in the mainstream.
A bit about my story
I’ve had a lot of experience at not fitting in. My entire life to be honest. But this isn't a downer. Cause this made me a shapeshifter and gave me perspectives of the world that i wouldn’t have if i fitted neatly into a box.
Being born into a mixed family where some members didn’t want me to be here, existing is a radical act. Going from school to school to start over cause we moved. A lot. Was good practice at being tossed into a space and required you to to scramble and find your footing.
Attending copious numbers of all white schools and experiencing extreme situations as a light skinned black girl and brown girl, gave me life lessons, albeit some of them excruciating. Then moving to the Caribbean where i was suddenly labelled the white girl was painful but played a big part of who i am. Colourism is real and i got a good schooling on my own light skinned privilege moving around the islands, and from that moment, i refused to be silent on how this matters and still matters in our world. Cause silence is violence. If you are not part of dismantling structural racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other ableist white supremacist patriarchal systems, then you are part of the problem. Know what i mean?
I need a sip of tea for the folks that just switched off there….
So my life to this point has often been about struggling to find my place in different countries, always searching for home yet knowing it never really exists in one place but is instead this myriad of spaces. Hence my site being called dionne.space fyi. Cause i like to play with the idea of space and creating spaces for people like me. Who want to exist and thrive in places that are accepting, safe, free and expansive, know what i mean?
This shape shifting and constant movement during my lifetime which was often coupled with dismissal, denial and people writing me off based on how i look, for having parents that were different colours, as basic as it sounds. And it gave me so much fuel. I got to do me, because i know there wasn't a space that existed for me to fit in anywhere else. I got to create my own spaces and sure, a lot of that was about survival. I usually wasn’t invited to other spaces, and if i was, it was made very clear to me that i didn’t belong, and it was usually accompanied with much criticism about what was wrong with me and why i was not qualified to participate. So yeah. Creating my own spaces was a way that i got to survive and feel safer. But at the same time codeswitching in order to transition between spaces and survive.
Code switching basically described how you learn the codes and conventions of something and use it as a tool.
PS interesting TED Talk here on the cost of code switching in case you're interested...
So for example, understanding the racist white girls who bullied me rules to live by meant i could always stay a step ahead. I knew where to go and where not to go at what time, what provoked them, what deflected them, and so on. But knowing them meant also knowing who i was, do you know what i mean? Like, what i stood for and didn’t stand for. Also, it gave me the opportunity to cultivate a safe space to befriend myself when i was being treated badly.
Being good with yourself, you know?
Cause i found by being true to myself, i was able to access resources to connect with lots of different people in small ways. And it also worked in positive ways too. I was able to connect with all these different subcultures. For example, i was a total dweeb aged 9 - arguably i still am, and i had this unhealthy/healthy obsession with 70s subcultures, particularly 70s style, drag, costume, funk and indie bands - hold on, this could still be now, but you get the jist. I lived on a council estate, a very white council estate in my earlier years, but was never allowed to play out with the other kids who lived there so i was a loner. And i’d be walking to school with all these other working class kids, some who were taking drugs back then at 9 and involved in a lot of crazy violent stuff- i mean - yeah, some who were really into some dark dark stuff, others who were still high on union jack white power aesthetic. It was a time. And i was a weirdo dork who liked magic and writing stories and had this very rich inner world where i spent a lot of time right? Cause i was alone, a lot.
MJ tangents are always relevant
Sidenote, did i tell you about my MJ fanclub? Did i mention it in the last episode about saying YES to joy and pleasure?
Cause you know i was at the exhibition at the Portrait gallery right? With my dear friend Andrea who - sidenote JUST launched her new podcast called The Age of Plastic which you have to check out - i’ll link you in the shownotes babes cause if you’re interested in making a positive contribution and making this world a better place (really resisting singing Michael Jackson here…) it’s for you!
And Andrea and i were looking at all the MJ memorabilia and guess what you guys…..
I had an MJ doll in the 80s and it was ONLY IN THE FLIPPING ART MUSEUM!
Shall we consider for a moment what that means?
MY TOY IS NOW OFFICIALLY A RELIC THAT IS IN A MUSEUM!
But you know, to me It wasn't a toy, it was an embodiment of MJ, his spirit encased in a plastic figurine that wore gold lame pants and a purple jacket with wispy lame accents on the shoulders it was LIFE! I will link a picture of it for you in the shownotes cause it made me emotional. Cause many people had MJ dolls right? But it was often in the thriller outfit, you know, red and black jacket, the purple and gold version that i had was a bit of a unicorn, no one would believe me or they discounted this particular outfit - they didn’t think these garms were any good, it wasn't the mainstream - it didn't fit.
Not sure how i made that storytime moment segway fit into the theme of this podcast but here we are.
In a museum.
The unpopular one.
But me loving it anyway.
And being ok with not fitting in.
Cause i was a loner that had this MJ fanclub that i used to run from behind the sofa and analyse his lyrics and draw very weird pictures of him and fantasise that he was actually there which would have been extra weird i guess, cause if he was there i’d probably have just made him a sandwich or a cup of tea or something and watched cartoons with him.
All of this to say:
I was a loner kid. A weirdo and didn't fit into what was popular or cool or mainstream. I never have. And it's ok! Because by holding space for myself and my weirdness, i could befriend this part of me that didn’t require validation from the outside in. Instead, i got to practice that from the inside out.
And that’s what i hope for you my friends. Do you relate?
Music + me
I grew up surrounded by music literally. Music was everywhere, in every crevice. It was an immersive experience, physical, aural, spacially.
Spiritually too of course. Cause we all know how healing that can be. Again, refer to podcast episode 16 for more on that!
Physically, the music posters on my wall weren't Bros or Kylie who were popular at the time although i did own the first Kylie LP - my bedroom walls and ceiling were adorned with Maze and Frankie Beverly - remember the incredible design of their records and graphics? The Isley Brothers, Rick James, Heatwave and so on.
And so it is. Nothing has changed really! Cause i’m still pinning them on Pinterest boards!
Music was part of cultivating that safe space, having this immersive experience physically, mentally, spatially, spiritually. Connecting to something that helped me feel safe and reassured on the inside, even if my experience in the outside world was anything but.
But you know the impact of music on our capacity for healing right? I spoke in depth about music and energy in podcast episode 16 so do check that out if you’re interested!
So yes, music and allowing space for my inner nerd to thrive was very much a part of learning how to and practicing how to take up space in the world.
It gave me confidence and reassurance and healing and a means of escape to another world. I think to be honest, just knowing that there are other worlds that exist is a very comforting idea. And again i’ve been very lucky in my lifetime to have moved around a lot. A lot of people are always shocked and almost sympathetic when they hear how much moving around i did as a kid, the traumas of being the new kid at school all the time, never being anywhere long enough to establish those lifelong mates from kids kind of friendships. And i used to be so envious of people that had that. But to be honest, over time i realise the blessing in the lesson of having to start again - over and over. To begin from nothing and simply just having to get on with it. This isn’t some kind of sob story / story of redemption here, just recognising my own privilege at being exposed to all kinds of situations, some more extreme than others, and knowing that however bad things feel, or however stuck you might think you are, that there is always more. There is comfort in knowing there are other worlds out there, so if you don’t feel you fit, trusting and finding reassurance that there isn’t just one way of being, or one particular lifestyle or kind of community. That there is space out there for you.
Creating space in the world as an introvert.
We are all just trying to do our best in the lives we have been given. For some of us it takes extra practice to even be able to contemplate or consider taking up space when we have been told we are too much or that we don’t deserve to.
I've always been interested in hanging out with the misfits. The oddballs. The ones who don’t fit neatly into a carbon copy version of mainstream human. I’m interested in stories and character. In being around those who bring themselves to the table, unapologetically. They build their own tables too! But also those who are learning to do just that. Cause i see myself on that journey too.
Cause i really think one of the secrets to life and “success in business” is learning to take up space in the world. And by doing that, stepping into yourself.
And that’s at the heart of what i’ve been thinking about lately.
The big question:
Are you stepping into yourself?
So i’ve been thinking a lot about my 20s and 30s too. The pressures that existed to do everything perfectly. Which i think many of us can relate to.
I think for so many of us, we go through our lives on our hustle and are working so hard for so many years, sometimes we don’t pause along the way to check in to ask if this is even what we want, or if we are even allowing ourselves to live our full potential. Most frequently, what i see is people who are grafting away, yet never feeling they are “there”. Do you know what i mean? It’s like we are waiting for this external validation from someone else to tell us that we have arrived.
We set goal after goal - copious goals, and we might never meet those goals but cause we’re still driving forwards we don’t pause to soak that in that process or acknowledge our achievements or to reflect on what that means, to check in on our direction to see if it’s still where we want to go, or be and linked to that most importantly i feel, checking in on ourselves in the moment. To appreciate the moments. To bathe in the process of becoming - actually let me rephrase that, the process of BEING. Cause we all know life is about the journey but how often do we hold space for that?
How often do we hold space to feel confident in stepping into ourselves?
Are you stepping into yourself?
Do you know what i mean by that?
Like, are you holding space for yourself to be who you are?
Are you taking up space as your whole self? Unapologetically? Owning it, as they say?
And i think about this a lot these days as i reflect. And i think a lot about all of the things i was taught. Really, my whole life taught not to think i’m anything
To not take up space.
For so many reasons.
Always been really shy but also really hungry for knowledge and excited about learning. Hardworking. Want to learn everything and do it all. But at the same time, to not get above my station.
Of course, i was super shy and a massive introvert, so it wasn’t in my nature to be this kind of cocksure big dick energy person! So when it came to me going out into the working world - i started working at 11 - i had a really strong work ethic. I don’t regret that but...perhaps it was just a different time. I realise i have this part of me that needs to go above and beyond. Which can be helpful sometimes, but others it’s just doing the most and being a bit extra and annoying. I was that annoying kid at school who would ask for more homework and things like that - it’s no wonder i was bullied!
I’m thinking about some of my earlier jobs in the 90s and 00s when i was working in the media industry. And around that time there was always this mantra you would hear from people, either through the institution of school or out into these media institutions and workplaces. You were being told there’s no jobs and there’s massive competition for everything. So if you want to go to university, be prepared to fight for your place because there’s 70 people fighting for one place and there was always this pressure to fight to receive even the lowliest opportunity. Not that i’m looking down on any opportunity i’ve had but i was that kind of girl that always felt “i’m so lucky to be here that i’ll do anything because i appreciate the opportunity”. So that attitude of going above and beyond all the time extended into my work and for better or worse it taught me a lot and i got to learn a lot but sometimes ended up hurting myself and perhaps put up with a lot of stuff that wasn’t good for me and was in fact toxic. Shoutout to the media industry in the 90s + early 00s!
You have to break your back to even get a foot in the door.
You had to do anything.
And i’m not sure if much has changed.
But what was always clear to me is that those people who held the power were very comfortable with it. But i never saw myself as one of those. I didn’t think you needed to be mean to be a boss and be out there doing stuff in the world.
And those interactions would feel like you are constantly thanking someone for mistreating you.
“You should be grateful to be here. To even be worthy to walk in these space and be amongst these people”
And this all contributes to a sense of worthlessness right?
You can’t really own it!
You’re not entitled.
And i see how even after leaving those media industries and then starting my own businesses in 2010 that i brought a similar attitude. Which was reluctant to own it.
For example, i remember after i’d been teaching yoga for years that whenever i’d receive feedback that was positive, i’d not take any of it and refuse to even call myself a teacher - it still feels weird. Even with coaching, i had such a reluctance to call myself a coach - more on that in this blog post about "announcing" my Coaching and the journey i took to open up and share.
I was worried what people would think and most of all, i didn’t feel i could step into that space.
I would dismiss my achievements.
Disown my talents.
And avoid claiming your space.
Now the tables have turned in a way since 90s + early noughties. Times have changed, the internet has enabled us to have more autonomy. We are able to create and put things out into the world without that authority figure. Of course, gatekeepers still exist but access is afforded to more of us. And accessibility is so close to my heart in everything i do. Now we are able to create things and put them out into the world. To compose our own narratives, create our own businesses, do our thing without the reliance of traditional gatekeepers which is incredible, right?
We all recognise how the internet has empowered so many of us to have a voice and create our own spaces in the world.
But noticing that thread that ran through me to prove myself and do things perfectly and always be humble and always be happy with the dregs. Never being allowed to step into my own space. And so much of this is about having the confidence to step into ourselves?
I want to tell you a story of a dear friend of mine.
Stepping into yourself
A couple of weeks ago, on a pleasure quest with a good friend, we were sharing a carafe of wine at one of my fave bistros as you do, it was late afternoon, the sun was getting lower and i turned to her after one of our epic chewing the cud sessions and asked her -
“ do you feel you can step into yourself as yourself?”
She thought about it, and we realised at that moment how far we had come since meeting all those years ago working at an Adult Education College - South London represent!
It is so close to my heart and i met so many wonderful people working there. All of us in a similar phase of our lives on our hustle. Working at the college in the day then onto our second and third jobs during the night. It was a time! Shoutout to Leke and Thristian and Kathy and Morgan and Andrew and Layla by the way. OK so yes, i asked her, “are you stepping into yourself?”
I was interested in whether she felt she could own who she was in all her glory and take up space. Cause i look to her as one incredible woman. I have so much admiration for her journey, Hackney born and raised and working tirelessly in community development and bring a true role model and excellent citizen. In fact, i’m trying to get her to come on the show to talk about her work and share some ideas with you all cause i know you’ll love what she has to say, but she’s been so shy and also baffled why cause i'm so in awe of her. Which is wild to me.
But it’s also really common.
I see this come up a lot for some of my clients too.
And it’s usually synonymous with those who are clearly brilliant but fail to see it in themselves. Something has made them play small or not speak on their achievements or step into a space where they can own who they are fully, and by fully i mean, accept all the great gifts they possess and celebrate them. And by celebrate i mean share them without feeling gross. Do you know what i mean?
Begone imposter syndrome! But i think it’s imposter syndrome and more. Cause you’re already doing your thing but there comes a point where you are called to step forward and really own it.
I feel this is such a big part of my own journey too. I’m working on it every day and it’s a cliche but very real that we can often see the greatness in others but lack the skill in owning our own goodness. Some will say it is a British thing but also felt in other countries like Norway. There i felt it deeply. Cause there, exists something called Jante Law. Which is this crippling set of rules or rather commandments to live by which in summary in a very general sense, tell you not to think yourself as special, or to try to strive to break the mould or do things differently. Not to think of yourself as being any good at anything. Not to dare stand out. Or think that you are special. In fact my friend Andrea sent me a clip about Jante Law recently which rarely gets discussed outside hushed rooms in Norway and it’s a useful summary of what it is. So if you’re interested in learning more about Norwegian culture and society, check it out. That is if you haven’t heard me speak about it over the years on my blogs and in articles. Cause that stuff is real. Anyway. I’ll link you
You can feel this Jante Law at work when crossing the street in Norway for example. It asks us to all be the same. So you can imagine, given my own history and experience on this planet and knowing i was never being accepted in Norway yet being called to assimilate to be more Norwegian, (if i had a krone for every time i’ve been told to behave more Norwegian i’d be set to be honest...). Anyway, you can understand, this didn't go down to well with me. I’m into challenging the rules. Asking questions about why we do things. To explore our own unique path. And to celebrate our differences.
Back to my friend and our very serious ponderings.
We realised the breadth of our experiences since that time at the college which was 13 years ago now i realise which is bananas! I drove my first HGV van when we ran an event at Brockwell park baby and all the places we went. Experiencing the harrowing bombings in London and spending lunch breaks together in that wonderful city, with the world at our feet and everything happening.
My dear friend spoke of her hesitancy to step into herself but that it was a necessary practice to do so.
Do you relate?
Cause no one is going to give you permission to be yourself more than you. In fact, it's your responsibility to do so.
To step into yourself.
By that i mean to step forward and allow yourself to take up space. Not to wait for someone’s permission. Or approval. Or validation. Which can be hard in these times we live in, right?
I mean in the 80s and 90s maybe it was easier to be a weirdo in ways. Less publicness and more private possibilities to dweeb it out. To be into stuff that wasn’t mainstream was an effort. You had to work to access information. To do your research. Now one can be part of a subculture purely on aesthetic. Do you know what i mean? That's not a criticism cause whatever, like what you like to look at....i’m waffling.
But i was thinking about a clip i saw recently of RuPaul in New York in the 80s which i can’t stop thinking about. And how Ru took up space and was just as captivating and clear in voice and vision as now.
I wondered how Ru had that kind of confidence to be undeterred to create space outside the mainstream rules despite some really scary and challenging times. You know, in some places of the world (i won’t mention any names), they romanticise New York in the 80s as being this idyllic time, i hear it so often in culture scenes, usually very mainstream and white culture scenes, but we cannot ever forget the art and creativity that was New York in the 80s was made by black and brown and queer people.
They weren’t allowed to participate in the mainstream and so instead created their own spaces.
Their own art. Their own rules as far as they could.
To me that can’t be co-opted or copied as an aesthetic.
It was real life and came from experiencing what it was like to be an outsider.
To be an immigrant or from an immigrant family.
To be poor and make so much out of nothing.
To share beauty from the ugliest situations.
I’m going off on a tangent here but you all know how my fave film is Paris is Burning so if you haven’t seen that documentary i really recommend you check it out to get a flavour of what i’m talking about.
But yes, this clip of Ru. Owning space from way back when until now. Inspires me for sure. And i find thinking about my role models and muses really helpful as they all share this similar thread of being confident in who they are and creating space for themselves to fully be themselves despite not fitting in according to the mainstream ideal.
But I mean, it’s a challenge in any age i think. To step up to the plate of confidence and take your helping.
There’s usually some kind of monologue that runs:
"Who am i to take what i want? To be perfectly content with who i am?
Its concieted to be confident! Be humble!"
...But confidence doesn’t mean arrogance.
I think confidence is about standing in yourself, your own authentic truth.
Having integrity and because of that there’s a knowing of self.
Which is an inner confidence.
You’re being and living your truth.
And i don’t think we should be shy of it.
Which is why i support people on that path every day. I want us all to flipping shine and be comfortable in our own skin. To create our own path even if it looks like nothing we have ever seen before. Creating and holding space for ourselves to live the life we dream of. To make it real. And to be doing the work in the world that lights us UP!
So yeah. A little reminder for those of you who might be looking for support with that, check out my creative coaching programmes where i work 1-1 with you to make stuff real. Even if you have no idea what the hell that is yet! I walk with you as we dive deep to get clear, exploring what you want, as well as creating a path to get there that is sustainable. There’s a q+a on my site dionne.space/coaching - where i talk about the kinds of things i’ve worked with people on.
Also, if it’s not a great time for coaching right now, know i’m cheering you on - do check out my site dionne.space for tonnes of free resources like blog posts, downloads, videos and audio moments as well as the weekly Digest which delivers the newest fresh baked goods right to your inbox.
Or if you want to get together irl, you can come to one of my events - i’ll be in Norway at the end of the month for my autumn workshops (last few spaces!) and also, do stay tuned for something i’ve been working on behind the scenes wherever you are in the world with an internet connection!
So back to this question of whether you are stepping into yourself.
My dear friend and i have lots in common. We’re both mixed race (whatever “mixed race” is. I mean…..pffffft……..) and have lived within the margins of many things in many ways. She is also Other and understands life on the fringes.
She is super talented and visions and dreams but doesn’t necessarily see spaces for her out there or people out there who are reflecting that and taking up space in that way. What’s ironic is my friend is that for so many people!
Role models and mentors are vital for sure. And Layla is that for so many people. But it’s also necessary to have folks in our corner to support and guide us and hold space for us to see ourselves whatever age we are or whatever stage of life we are at.
So what’s holding us back from stepping into ourselves ?
Lack of role models who reflect us?
Of course we know life in the west isn’t the most diverse by any stretch. It’s rare to see any kind of diversity reflected to us from the mainstream. We have to be out here blindly trusting and creating the things we want to see in the world. But it also means there’s that very tired but real fact - as Other, you have to work twice as hard to get anywhere. Sometimes 10 times as hard.
There’s also the amplification of that very lonely place - self doubt - to deal with.
Cause there’s no manual or guidelines to follow, sometimes we might get scared we’re wrong.
This is making me thing of a chapter in a book that was released recently called Slay in your Lane - have you read it? I’ll link it for you in the shownotes.
Anyway, i recommend everybody read it for some perspectives from other people’s stories on their life journey. It’s always beneficial for us to have a range of different perspectives right?
I’m thinking in particular about the story of Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, space scientist and co-host of BBC2's astronomy show,The Sky at Night and the resistance and doubt she experienced which held her back from stepping into herself for a time.
I definatey relate to that feeling of being discounted and not believing in myself enough to question if i know the answer.
I’m also thinking about that Serena Williams video now too
Being confident and owning that space yet people still want to tear her down.
...I’m not really selling that stepping into yourself am i?
But i feel it’s necessary. Cause when you’re stepping into yourself, you're not relying on other people’s opinions of you. You’re trusting and knowing that in yourself. It’s not about the outside gaze or validation.
So that book is great and i really recommend it.
So there’s all of this stuff that gets in the way, sometimes it’s structural. Institutional and systemic like in the case of anyone black or brown living in this world. Particularly in white spaces.
Then there’s also the human level of self doubt or the lack of confidence that hampers our ability to step into ourselves and trust ourselves. Which of course can very much be connected. It can take longer for us to get where we want to go because we are fighting oppression left right and centre, then when we arrive we are also questioning if we are even allowed to be there, do you know what i mean?
That’s on my mind a lot and i’ve definitely spent time in many a room asking questions whether i’m entitled to even be in the space.
Because at some point in life, we have to claim who we are.
To own it.
To fuck the system and create our own spaces.
To stick a middle finger up to things being done a certain way that isn’t working for everybody, just because its always been done that way….
To enable all of us to participate
To create your own space to do you
To create your own mould
To banish self doubt
And have confidence in who you are and what you are about
Understand that there is no need for comparison.
To be your own validation.
To roll with people who appreciate you and your otherness and what makes you special. Those who don’t get your vision. Cause there will be people out there who do. And to keep your blinkers on from the naysayers. Those who don’t get your vision.
To practice taking up space regardless and allow other people to meet you there. Rather than feeling you need to adapt to fit in.
See this all the time in places like instagram. I go a bit crazy when i see the same old places and things showing up in that “popular” page. The business courses that promise you your first 4k bull. The yoga schools that churn out teachers that are encouraged to all be alike, do the same stuff and with the same limited dogmatic perspectives and not go on a journey of self enquiry. To have your own practice and develop your own understanding. To do your own research.
We see it in our societies. The advertisements and lack of diversity in all forms.
The way we are encouraged to assimilate and quash our dreams because they don’t fit the mainstream. Or because it hasn’t been done before. And so on.
It’s no wonder so many of us struggle with the confidence to step into ourselves and create our own space in the world.
My clients are a bunch of incredible humans. And they inspire me everyday to walk bravely on this path, and this topic.
A client story
For example. I had a client who would be so self depreciating about her work. She would belittle all of her achievements and deny any praise or compliments. At the same time she was feeling frustrated because she wasn’t getting the bookings for her business and struggled to see the correlation. Her natural disposition was one that felt undeserving of praise and reward. She was scared to take up space in the world as her full self and that meant that she was underselling what she was doing.
I know, the word sell still makes me feel weird too.
Let’s think about it in another way.
In terms of what you do in the world, be it work for someone else or for yourself. In order to progress, at some point, you’re going to need someone to have confidence in your abilities. So they can put their trust in you. That might be so you can be considered for a raise or a progression within a company, or so your customers can believe in you and support your work. Having confidence in your own abilities means you take up space in a different way.
This is a very basic example but bear with me. Imagine if you were getting on a plane and your pilot or stewards were behaving in a way that was insecure. That kind of energy spreads real fast right? On the most turbulent flights, one reassuring thing is to see how calm and confident the flight staff are. They know it’s all good. Ok this example is a bit morbid.
So my client and i sat down to look at ways to build more trust in what they were doing. We created a framework that was rooted in fact - cause somehow that’s harder to dismiss right? It meant looking at what my client had achieved. We broke it down to the nitty gritty, from the smallest to the biggest. I guess it’s similar to how you would do a gratitude journal. By taking your attention and energy to the stuff that’s working, you can increase your confidence and practice expanding that energy so you bring about more of it.
Know what i mean?
If i could tell my younger self anything...
I think it would be to own my own space.
Growing up as a woman and as a brown woman i was told from a young age, brainwashed in fact, with this idea that my life wouldn’t amount to anything.
That i wasn’t important.
That i should not ask for what i want.
Or dare to dream for anything.
That however hard i worked it wouldn't be rewarded so to settle and be happy with my lot. Which i guess in some ways, was advice that could have protected me. But i feel i have spent so many years living with this great guilt, as i see how i was defiant and hungry but that it was radical and broke the rules. That i didn't listen to the people who told me i couldn't do stuff. That instead i used the haters as fuel. The naysayers and those who wanted me to know my place as ammunition for me to keep pushing forwards. I asked questions. I went above and beyond. And in many cases that lead to burnout. But it also brought me to this point of learning to practice being enough. To be confident to ask for what i want and to go for it. But also to be ok to not do it all to the point where its detrimental to my health. That trusting my own voice and vision and stepping into that rather than looking for that outside validation be that through praise or the silence of your haters, know what i mean?
It takes confidence. And a trust in yourself i think which is something that i practice and something i work on every day. It is vital for all of us in our growth.
So with that,
A word or two on the importance of creating space for yourself when running your own business and you don’t fit into the “mainstream”
Ultimately, holding space for ourselves to step into ourselves is good for the WORLD. The world needs your gifts. It needs your weirdness. Your ideas. Your wonder. Your uniqueness. Your creations.
To those of you who might be running your own business or out there in the world and working on your confidence in order to take up more space, i want to remind you how important you are. And how much i admire you. And how much the world needs you to show up and do your work. By existing, you are doing the work.
We all know, there’s a lot of pressure to fit into ways of being and neat ideas of doing things.
Often i wonder to myself as i catch myself seeing the carbon-copied mainstream influencers, what is it about humans need to fit?! Of course, so much of this is connected to our biological need for survival. To not be ostracised from our tribes cause that meant a matter of life or death. PS i’ll never stop feeling weird about how middle class self proclaimed “girl bosses” use that word and make my stomach feel funny. I’ll never stop feeling weird about how the word tribe has been co-opted and used as a marketing tool…..anyway.
As a brown woman running various businesses, most of which are in industries that are dominated by men like djing and putting on music events and others dominated by white people - for example, the yoga + wellness + even coaching industries. Which is weird when so much of the stuff that’s being regurgitated comes from indiginous cultures or from black and brown people but there we go!
Anyway, there’s lots of folks out there that are ready to tell you how you SHOULD do things
What’s correct. What’s going to make you 6 figures. What will make you most popular online. And so on.
And sure, that might work for some people. Go ahead and do your thing. Maybe your face fits!
But here’s the thing i feel very lucky to have learned from a really young age. Actually at the age of 4 when i was first called the n word at school.
And ever since, whenever i’ve been ostracised or excluded, or told i’d never be anything, or that whatever i was doing, that i’d never succeed, be it in
Yoga - wherever i’ve moved and taught, the naysayers, people working in yoga who wanted to make me feel small.
And moving to various countries
And so on.
The resistance that i met from people who told me i'd never make it work. Never succeed in following my dreams.
The State of Independence
And there will be people in our lives that don't get it or want us to win. That feel threatened if we don't conform to their ideas on what's correct. The lifestyles they approve of.
And i’m not using my experiences to gloat, let me tell you. This is a proclamation. A song, about the state of independence. Yes! I’m Donna Summering you because we need it.
Ps did you know who did the backing vocals for that track? An all-star choir put together by man like Quincy Jones, no less!
Which included Folks like MJ and Lionel Richie, Dionne Warwick, Michael Jackson, Brenda Russell, Christopher Cross, Dyan Cannon, James Ingram, Kenny Loggins and Stevie Wonder. Can you IMAGINE?!
I know this is a tangent but i think it’s one that highlights a point cause all of those people to me are trailblazers. People who chose to ignore the rules and instead step into themselves. They created their own spaces. To do them. Unapologetically!
Also what’s interesting about that song is the meaning of it.
Jon Anderson who was one of the writers spoke about the meaning behind the lyrics of it and what the word Oroladian means in a 2013 interview.
"The concept of the song is the state of independence that we are growing into," he said. "And Oroladian was the sort of mythical person that opened the remembering gate. It's a poem by a famous English poet*, The Remembering Gate. We start to remember our truth, we start to remember our reality. So each line is very, very positive. It's a worldwide collection of each line. It was the idea that it's easier to discern truth and life as a game. It's not as complicated as we make it in the West.
The Caribbean sense of freedom derives from the meditative state. Meditation, something to do with the Caribbean, is African, very Ethiopian, essentially. The music from Ethiopia created reggae, calypso, all these kind of rhythms. Ska. It all comes from Ethiopia.
I was really aware in my head about all that, so I was trying to do this worldwide oneness again, and that's what the song is about. "State of Independence" is all about how the truth will come."
(*The poem Jon refers to is On Passing the New Menin Gate by Siegfried Sassoon.)
Ok i know - that’s a tangent but ----- a great illustration of standing in your truth for the greater good! And truth and authenticity and integrity are part of our fundamental nature, it’s simple. So getting back to source is essential for us to find our space in the world but also to connect with others!
By holding space for ourselves we hold space for other people to be themselves too!
Which is really comforting, especially if we have ever felt shy or weird or isolated or scared to fully own it.
The Ugly Duckling
And i think a beautiful way of thinking about it is the story of the ugly duckling. We know that one right? It’s a universal tale that has been adapted in different cultures but essentially carries the same message.
If you’re not familiar with the story basically a Mama duck has some eggs that all hatch bar one. This one egg is bigger than the others and takes longer to hatch. Eventually it does and the duck doesn’t look like the rest of them. It gets teased and bullied for being different, and at first the mama duck tries to dismiss the difference and assure everyone around in the community that this alternative duck is a duck. This poor little indie duck can’t get any peace and is constantly asked to prove itself. It goes out into the lake to swim to prove its a duck. And it can swim and fly a little. But it’s still not enough. They still don’t accept this little indie duck. Eventually the mama duck gets fed up and says to the ugly duckling that she wishes it would just leave. So the poor little indie ugly duckling is banished and goes on a quest to try to find its people.
You can imagine, it goes on a mission and meets all kinds of creatures, and has little things in common but also differences which means it’s rejected.
Onward, the indie ugly duckling maintains the quest, until eventually, finding swans. Of course, the ugly duckling is a swan and finds its people. Its, um “swan mates”.
There’s multiple meanings of this story but for me the most meaningful is the reassurance for all weirdos out there, looking for their place, but also looking to step into themselves in all their weirdness. All their uniqueness. You realise i use weirdness to mean goodness right?
If you’re into this then you will LOVE one of my all time fave books which is called
She has a whole chapter dedicated to the ugly duckling and dives deep into all the layers of meaning
I want to close this podcast by sharing a passage with you about her interpretation of the story of the ugly duckling, being other and celebrating it.
That, my friends, is why i do what i do.
I am here to raise others up. To celebrate them. To reassure them. To help them find clarity and walk with them on the journey of owning who you are. To do you. And do it in a way that is real and authentic. Rooted in integrity. Its connected to everything. Work. life. Soul. feeling well.
Holding space for yourself as a lifestyle, you get me?
And to those interested i’m so excited to open up a couple of slots for 1-1 creative coaching 6 month programme where we dive deep into all of this stuff. The nitty gritty of who we are and how we show up in the world.
Creating the things we want to see in the world.
That might look like exploring options we haven’t considered before as we embark on changing our careers.
It might look like how we take care of ourselves and rehaul our entire wellness and self care strategy.
It might look like starting our own business, the one we dreamed of.
It might be about nourishing our creative spirit and making that work alongside our day to day life.
It might be all of that and more!
But either way, there’s no conundrum too big.
No situation too stuck.
Know you have the power to step into yourself.
To create change you want to see.
To practice courage and step into yourself.
So i really hope that you feel encouraged and also feel the love i’m sending you through these soundwaves - oh and of course, it wouldn’t be a mammoth episode without me sharing a playlist to accompany this episode sooooo you know what to do! Head over to the shownotes to get it! Or find and follow me on Spotify babes. My handle is mindionne. Yeah.
I meant to just plop a small show out for you but here we are again. The tangents, they just keep rolling up. But you know. I feel it’s all connected and i hope it’s useful and inspiring for you.
But i’d love to know what you think! So do get in touch! Tell me what you think about taking up space and confidently stepping into yourself. Feel very welcome and encouraged to share this podcast with someone who you think might dig it too, and if you’re feeling extra lovely, perhaps give me a star rating on itunes and a review! It really really helps other like minded folks find the show which is so amazing.
I love my people.
I love you. ❤️
Thank you for taking this journey with me.