We are all influencers.
We influence our children, our friends and family and our students.
We may also influence that budding entrepreneur, that self conscious young person, that new mum or trainee teacher. I am uncomfortable with the label of ‘influencer’. I get embarrassed and quickly end the conversation when someone talks about me leading the way or when another adult tells me how much I have influenced them. I don’t know whether it is my issues with taking a compliment or the idea that little old me can influence another grown person.
The odd thing is, I don’t react the same way in a professional or personal setting. As a teacher and a leader, I am comfortable and aware of how influential I can be to my team, my students and my colleagues. As a mother, a sister or an aunty, I am accepting of my influence on my children, my siblings or my nieces and nephews.
I’ve thought about my reaction and questioned what triggers it. Is it my cultural/religious values? Is it self belief? Is it social media? Is it comfortability?
And I don’t think it is none of the above. I believe it is because I do not want to be put on a pedestal, I am just another human being who is trying to live her best life. Plus I am aware of my own fallibility, I don’t want to feed my ego or corrupt my intentions. I also know how much work I have put into learning how to connect and stay anchored to my authentic self.
So I guess I am guarded against how momentary spotlight and external recognition can alter one’s soul/essence. My way of protecting myself was to compartmentalise my life, my work in the community would never overlap with my professional life. I was selective about the platforms I used to promote my work or build my network. I loved my YouTube channel but people’s praise used to freak me out. And although I would help and advise everyone who came into my DM, I was always surprised that people took the time out to watch my videos and connect with me. I am happy to report that this has changed, I’ve learnt to recognise/own my power, to celebrate my accomplishments and positive contributions. This pushes me to show up, to do better, to be truer to me and to use my strengths and intrinsic motivation to leave this world a better place.
In life, some of us have more influence than others and some are able to use their networks as social leaders to influence individuals, communities, structures and policy makers more easily. I believe that this is a privilege and a test.
It is unfortunate that some individuals gain this influence by being the loudest and most dominant voice. And it is even more disappointing and frustrating to see how some individuals use that influence or power to be gatekeepers and drown out any discourse which might challenge their actions/biases as well as hold them accountable or require them to be transparent. I believe it is our collective responsibility to continue challenging those dominant voices and to disrupt the status quo. Although this is not always easy to do.
I admire those men and women who use their influence and platforms to hold doors open for others. I love connecting with value-led leaders who ooze integrity and compassion. In fact the most influential people I know are those who build stairs for the rest of us to climb. But the most amazing thing about them is their genuineness and humility. It is beautiful how they don’t see it as a big deal, they see it as them just doing their part. Now that is truly influential.