Cheerleading all the way

Do you ever consider yourself a leader or do you shy away from the idea? Having encouraged and helped many people to take extra steps to reduce their waste over the years, folk are often surprised when I say that I don’t consider myself to be a leader.   I’ve always had a tendency to downplay such a notion with my self-deprecating humour.

Yes, I can tell a funny story about my old wasteful ways to encapsulate the positive changes I have made and I am now adept at posing with gigantic bins on tip-toe in the name of bringing more attention to recycling.  And I’m glad that I’ve overcome the nerves that made me feel like making a radio appearance was akin to having major surgery.   With each step, the rewards are enjoying hearing how people have been motivated to overcome their own hurdles in reducing waste.

However, this feels so much part of my everyday life, a part that I really enjoy, that I’ve never really thought about it as leadership, even when strategising how The Rubbish Diet can help others.   Well, not until I attended what I can only describe as a very motivating ass-kicking workshop run by Stella Creasy MP and her colleague Teresa Morton, called the Circular Firing Up Squad for women.  I’d originally read about the workshop plans in the Guardian and Red Magazine earlier in the year.  I was intrigued and signed up for one of their summer events.

It wasn’t long until I found myself in a large room in Portcullis House, with a group of others who had followed their own curiosity.  Then, without any notice, I was highlighted alongside a fabulous computing professor, Cornelia Bolyreff, as examples of women who’d achieved some great milestones and we were invited to talk about our experiences. It came as a surprise and something for which I wasn’t prepared.

However, it was also an instant reminder that just by having the courage to put yourself out there and get on with stuff that creates positive change, is actually leadership in action.  And that’s something that we can easily take for granted.  More of us are leaders in many ways than we give ourselves credit for.

Delighted but with a good dose of nervousness, I shared my story.  However, in my delivery, it became apparent how much I also have a natural tendency to underplay many of my own achievements.

I know! Slaps wrist. I am very guilty of this and I know that it’s something that many other women are too, too modest to put yourself on a pedestal, not wanting to blow your own trumpet and often afraid to push further.

How I’ve got away with so much, I really don’t know.

There you go, I’m at it again.

With a chance to reflect, I know I’ve ‘got away with it’ because I have many ideas in which I truly believe and accompanied by mammoth-sized balls of enthusiasm, I have worked non-stop to help many of them fall into place. I just don’t take the time to recognise this.  Instead I use the phrases ‘wow, that was lucky’ and ‘little-old-me’ to keep me in my comfort zone, even when and especially when complimented by others.  How many of us really stop to acknowledge and celebrate the challenges we have overcome in the constant juggle to meet the next goal?  If we don’t already take time, we really should. 

Of course I have plenty of days when I lack in confidence and fall into the trap of the fear that decision makers will say no to my notions, convince myself that they’re impossible and that I’m rubbish.  However, on more confident days, I imagine getting most of of the UK excited about emptier rubbish bins, then slamdunk my ideas into the relevant person’s inbox and wait for a chance to progress my thoughts.  And with a great team beside me, many of my ambitions are now being turned into reality.  It’s a great lesson in growing stronger together and that sometimes we should put the modesty monster in a rocket and fire it into outer space.

I found the Circular Firing Up Squad really motivating, particularly in reframing many of the milestones and cheerleading other women in their ambitions too. I loved how a group of women, mostly strangers, took time out to help motivate each other.   It was also an unexpected surprise to randomly catch up with another attendee, a fantastic lady who I met four years ago at an exhibition in London.

I came away very much feeling like this could be a new chapter. I’ve got a renewed energy to push further the work of The Rubbish Diet partnership, to finally make time to write a book of all my rubbish adventures, as well as persevering towards other personal goals of all shapes and sizes, whether it’s getting on top of my 10 year old’s bread-crusts or discovering how the Queen’s household manages its rubbish.

I liked the Circular Firing Up Squad. It was the kind of cheerleading bootcamp that I needed and it’s great to hear more workshops are being planned.  I hope my own musings can give more people a high-five to reflect upon successes and have renewed confidence to pursue their personal ambitions.  If you are in need of some firing up or can help motivate other women, do get in touch with Teresa Morton to find out more.

And of course, if you want some extra motivation to reduce your waste,  I’ll happily help you lead the way, as will any of my team.   After all, The Rubbish Diet with its growing support network is, in its own way, a circular firing up squad – even if it is for rubbish. And I know from practical experience, how motivating each other helps us reach our potential in ways that we could never have imagined.

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