Finding a voice
Bullying. Exerting physical or emotional control over someone, repeatedly. I was ostracized, belittled, unsung. Happening from such a young age, during critical years of development, I had a complete absence of self-worth and confidence embedded within me. I would always follow someone else, try to emulate someone else, praise someone else – never being happy with my own self. This was my benchmark.
I began to take positive actions to deal with individual repercussions of the bullying. It took much longer to recognise that one of the more profound consequences was having to build my own voice from scratch, many years after others have found their confidence and already grounded themselves in this world. This was both a literal and metaphorical voice, as one cannot exist without the other. I did not speak aloud as I did not hold value in my opinion, and I did not form my own opinions as I had anxiety about speaking up in groups and never needed to express them – it was easier to be a listener, and simply agree.
When I was a teenager, my class undertook a self-defence course. During one of the first lessons, our eccentric teacher guided us through raising an alarm and attempting to scare off an attacker by screaming at the top of our lungs. Light-hearted fun, and everyone enjoyed being able to release their emotions. Everyone except me. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t raise my voice. Everyone laughed. The teacher was baffled, and continued to try to coax a scream out of me. I was always the quiet kid – I had become institutionalised within myself. Acting as both gatekeeper, and prisoner. A self-perpetuating cycle which would take many years to overcome.
To this day, I still have to fight against the urge to cruise. To follow, instead of to create.
I knew nobody when I moved to London two years ago. I promised myself that I would put myself out there and make new friends, or I risked getting swallowed whole by the big city. I had heard of Project Awesome online, a community running free outdoor workouts across London. I wasn’t active, I wasn’t fit, and I had always been intimidated by working out with a group. These guys always looked like they were having the time of their lives though, and I wanted to soak up that energy. Maybe they could finally make fitness fun for me.
I slept through my alarm for my first planned session, but I eventually made it on November 11th, 2015. I’d soon discover an inclusive community of incredible people, who welcomed me with open arms and would start me on my own fitness journey. Looking through this photo, I can see dozens of people who’ve since become my best friends, supporters and sounding boards. People who’ve gone on to travel the world, quit careers which made them unhappy to work on their passions, and created incredible projects which have touched thousands of people. Everyday heroes who balance training, travelling and racing on top of full-time careers.
For the best part of a year, I’ve been encouraged to step up and lead at Project Awesome. I cruised, and cruised, and cruised. Someone else was always available to lead. Someone else would always be better at the job than me. Someone else always embodied the community spirit more than I ever could.
With that attitude, I’d make no progress. Comfort zones are meant to be broken, and this was a community which always built people up, never tearing them down.
And lo, I took the plunge and led my first workout on a dark January morning. I created a thorough training plan, held conviction in the quality of my work, and confidently delivered the session. This was the first step in a longer journey. Only by making continued efforts will I progress my personal development. Hard work, passion and determination pays off.
Now I have a voice, and I’ll be damned if I’m ever losing it again.
This year, you’ll catch me leading sessions at;
- Project Awesome
- Daybreak, a new project I’ve set up with friends
- Adidas Runners, as a Crew Runner
- Mile 27, on their long runs
- …and if everything goes to plan, I’ll be a qualified personal trainer within the next 3 months.
Dive in the deep end. Accept love, support and encouragement on the journey. Do something awesome.