Today I spoke at the Executive Assistant Network Conference in Perth, sharing parts of my life journey with the audience and explaining HOW I’ve inspired others to take action.
Inspiration is something that evolves when a person does something that the rest of us say can’t be done, or when someone pushes boundaries or limitations when the rest of us just see hurdles. These are the people whose self-belief and determination set them apart from the rest of us. No matter how many doors are shut in their face, or how often they hear the work ‘NO’ – they still keep moving forward, striving to achieve their goals.
But how exactly does someone inspire someone else or a group of people to take action?
Well, it’s not as simple as telling people what to do.
If you’re an inspiring leader of any type, you can’t simply order people around and expect them to do what you want. Sure, they might follow your direction while you’re still watching, but as soon as you are no longer there, people will always go back to doing what THEY think is important.
To lead and inspire, you must be able to communicate with people, you need to connect & cooperate with them. Because, it’s about tapping into people’s values and desires.
Being an inspiration involves changing the way people think and feel about themselves so that they WANT to take positive action.
Throughout my life I have heard a lot of “No’s” and a lot of “you can’t do this” or “you wont be able to do that”.
I certainly didn’t have the easiest start to life, but I feel that it was made all the more difficult due to societal opinions and discrimination, regardless of whether it was verbalised or not.
I was born with a disability, and as a toddler, suffered an horrific kitchen accident which left me with third degree burns to 15% of my body.
Thankfully, from a very young age, I had the desire to prove people wrong, an innate ability to push the boundaries, and prove to the world that my physical appearance wasn’t going to limit me.
I went on to represent Australia in the sport of swimming, wearing the green and gold proudly for almost a decade.
But of course that part of my life doesn’t have the fairy-tale ending that you would expect. I was forced into early retirement after a decade long battle with depression and eating disorders (you can read about that in earlier blog posts).
Ironically it was the devastating rock bottom moment in my early twenties that changed my life for the better.
In my early years of recovery, I learnt so much about myself, most importantly I realise that I had a responsibility to be a voice for the voiceless, others who were struggling with body image issues and poor mental health.
That’s when I decided that I wanted to unite people and encourage more positive conversation about these issues, and the JOIN THE REVOLUTION campaign was born.
Within a very short space of time, the campaign was an international success. People everywhere were uploading their images to social media in support of the JOIN THE REVOLUTION campaign.
It was then that I realised that the underlying message of the campaign was that of acceptance … and that was what resonated with people all over the world.
Body Image is term that is often very misunderstood. When most people hear the words “body image” they think beauty, appearance, fashion, perfection, vanity …
All very stereotypical terms, because body image is far more complex that that.
It’s about how a person THINKS and FEELS about their appearance.
It encompasses race, gender, sexuality, disability, religion, mental health and the overall wellbeing of an individual, and therefore the overall wellbeing of humanity.
It was no longer about me and my story – it was now about everyone else and THEIR stories.
My story and my ability to communicate with people was and is genuine, and THAT is why people felt connected to the campaign.
I had an idea an because I believed what I was saying and because I led by example, I paved the way for others to do the same - or better yet, I paved a way for others to do it their way.
I inspired a movement because I showed vulnerability and strength.
I told a story – but more importantly I told it in a way that people could relate to.
I have never thought that I was better than anyone else – because I’m not. I’m human, just like you.
When you truly believe that we are all equal, and when you truly listen to people, and when you ask questions because you actually want to hear the answer; that’s when you become a good communicator.
And that’s when you can begin to inspire others.
We are all drawn to leaders that are good at communicating what they BELIEVE.
Their ability to make us feel like we belong, and that we are apart of something bigger is what gives them the ability to inspire.
So if you are wanting to be that person, then whatever it is you are wanting to inspire other people to do - you don’t necessarily need to be an expert – but you definitely need passionately involved, and you better believe in what you are saying and doing.