During my days as an athlete, I was very reluctant to celebrate my milestones as I wasn't at the level I desired. If I wasn't going to be an olympian then what was the point? I was under the notion that first place was the only one that mattered and everything else was just noise. Whilst my friends and family were happy to lavish me with praise for my accomplishments, I was burdened by this sinking feeling that I wasn’t worthy of the praise. Honestly, I found all the compliments embarrassing and I did my best to avoid the spotlight. There were even a few occasions where I pulled them to the side to berate them for bringing up the fact that I was a GB Athlete. If I took part in a competition I would always feel like I could have done better despite my friends seeing the positives and being proud of me.
During the 2012 Olympics, my home town of Barking and Dagenham plastered my face across some prominent posters and rather than being proud, I felt a huge sense of embarrassment and even tried to get them removed. Unfortunately, I had no say in the matter as the images belonged to them and I wasn’t in control of how and where they were used - a very early lesson in signing waivers! In the pictures my stance was one of power and determination but that was a far cry from how I felt. It was such an extreme feeling of dismay that I avoided taking the routes that had my picture up despite them being up for the better part of two years.I didn’t want to be in the spotlight and was horrified that there was nothing I could do to detract attention. Friends and family would see the campaign, tag me in their Facebook posts and I would immediately untag myself and demand for it to be taken down. I was so embarrassed by it all. I was so uncomfortable with being seen - with people celebrating me.
I felt uncomfortable being seen and, on reflection, I've learnt that you have to celebrate everything along the journey. There is beauty in discomfort - there is beauty in the process. Every milestone has its own lesson attached and is so important. If you are busy doing things, achieving things then you have to speak on it even if you don’t necessarily want to. Those pictures weren't about me, it was about the seeds of inspiration it planted within others and the pride it brought to the borough. That’s why at BYP Network, we celebrate our wins and we share the journey with our community. Whilst trying to change the black narrative, there are uncomfortable and difficult moments, but what we are building is bigger than me or you.
For our 2020 Leadership Conference we will have a panel called 'Discomfort in Creating Comfort - Why this is bigger than you.' A seminar in which we will be delving into our power as a collective. Our 2020 panel of leaders, Dr Anne Marie Imafidon, Lord Hastings, Abadesi Osunsade, Justin Onuekwusi, will enlighten us on 30th October. Each of these leaders have gone against the grain for the betterment of those who will follow in their footsteps. They have forgone their own comfort by intentionally paving the way for us. Dr Imafidon, founder of Stemettes, has built a pathway for more women to enter STEM, Lord Hastings mentors 100’s of young black men and does a lot of work in transforming prisons. Osunsade and Onuekwusi candidly speak about their experiences in the workplace regardless of the ramifications. Each of these powerhouses are actively doing the work, they see the bigger picture and it's time for us to do the same.
Dont be ashamed of your wins, people need to know about it, it is not bragging it is sharing success. Sharing your success with others enables them to widen their horizons. It allows them to see that they too can do it. Look, it's bigger than any of us but each and everyone of us can make a difference. Imagine if 10,000 of us all came together? BYP started just four years ago and look at what we have accomplished. What can you do in four years? What can 10,000 of us do in four years to really catapult and change the Black narrative?
Let’s continue to share our experiences and elevate one another.