I’m buzzed, I’ve got adrenalin pumping through my veins and I’m flying as high as a kite. There’s a sea of people watching me, and madly - I’ve chosen to get up and speak to them.
I’ve often been stopped by a certain fear, particularly when I’m in groups. I want to say something, I want to speak up and share my thoughts and opinions, to take part in the conversation - but at the last minute, my anxiety kicks into overdrive. I talk myself down, I tell myself that I’m not as articulate or eloquent as others, I tell myself that people aren’t interested in what I have to say. Then the moment goes and I feel relieved and disappointed all at the same time. Talking to a friend about the topic before the discussion didn’t help, as instead of using this to build my confidence, I used it as validation not to speak. I’ve always thought that I’d be able to suppress this, that I could push my desire to ask questions and express myself deep down inside me so that no one (even myself) would know that it existed. But it appears that this wasn’t particularly true.
I was at a women’s networking event, when I didn’t let fear stop me for the first time. At the end of the event, they asked for people to stand up and share their thoughts with the (rather large) group, and I saw that cloud of fear bubble up. I stared it down and trampled through it as I walked up to the platform. I almost missed the chance - I was the last person on the stage. It almost felt like an out of body experience. My hand was up and then I was walking towards the microphone, standing in front of everyone. I wasn’t prepared, my voice was shaky, I was out of breath, I hadn’t composed myself, but the moment I opened my mouth, the words just flowed out.
Attending the women’s march in London gave me the courage to do this. I know the theory, that doing something scary over and over makes it easier but that didn’t seem to make any difference when I tried it. I still ended up mostly staying quiet. After attending the march though, I felt like I was no longer alone in feeling scared and silenced. It wasn’t just me, I was no longer the only one fighting against the confines of the society that I have grown up in, I was no longer the only one affected. It was no longer just me holding the microphone. There were now millions of people from all around the world standing behind me, encouraging me, supporting me, lifting me up so that I could face the complex and inter-relating struggles and challenges that I face as a woman (albeit a white, cisgender one) living in a society that imposes a never ending list of dos and don’ts on me.
On my way home from the networking event, I walked through Trafalgar Square, where I had previously marched. The exuberant people walking every which way with their amazing and inspiring placards had been replaced by cars, buses and taxis impatiently zooming this way and that. But we had transformed the space. We had left our legacy. We had imprinted the spirit of the march, the hope, the community, the respect, the mutual understanding, unity and love into Trafalgar Square. It will forever be a transformed space for me.
As we go forward, we need to carry with us that spirit, because when we do, we’ll be able to change anything and do everything we want. That fear won’t hold us back anymore. Even if the fear is as simple as not standing up and talking during a women’s networking event.