ON BEING A GOOD INFLUENCE(R)
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I remember as an older child having conversations with my mum about influence: what kind of influence was I on my friends? What kind of influence did they have on me? That kind of thing. Maybe she saw an early rebellious streak in me. Or maybe she knew that influence was powerful – that our actions, our movements, decisions have the weight and the power to impact others; a pretty big concept to hold onto as a child but has stood me in good stead (except for my teenage years where influence was waylaid, and I got into my fair share of teenage mischief). So the idea of influence has been a strong thread in my life and I attribute my deep sense of responsibility (holler to all my enneagram ones out there) to be a good influence to those early conversations.

And now that word seems to be pretty popular, ringing in my ears when I dive into the world of social media. Some people are using it as their job description, PR’s and Marketing Teams are including it as a significant part of their campaign plans and strategies and I’m interested in having a conversation about what it really means – what mantle we are giving this term of being ‘an influencer’…

As most thorough blog post researchers do (!), I asked my friends on Instagram what the term ‘Influencer’ meant to them and the response was compelling.

Answers ranged from:

“A synonym for leader”

“Someone with the power to sway you for good or bad in your mindset or actions”

“Someone who makes an impact – positive or negative”

“Someone who lives in such a way that others want to imitate and become more like”

“Someone who inspires me to more, who’s further along than I am”

“Someone that changes your thoughts/viewpoints and is then followed by action”

 To this:

“Smart use of our covetousness by those with something to sell/advertise”

“Instagram accounts where staged pictures are tagged with #ad or #gifted. Insincere posts”

“Someone who gets paid to tell you something is good – which makes me want to do the opposite”

“Someone with high social media numbers meaning they can get paid to promote other peoples’ goods”

“A manipulator”

“An advertiser”

“Someone who influences people to buy more shit they don’t need”

“People who will happily sell a lifestyle they won’t fund themselves”

“Often someone disingenuous”

“Someone that gets paid to encourage others to buy a product”

“Someone with a large following that is approached by brands to create ads in exchange for free products”

“*A bunch of eyeroll emojis*”

“Consumerism”

“Someone that uses social media to make money by getting people to buy things they don’t need”

“Parasites”

“Unauthentic”

“Wankers”

 (folks, tell me how you really feel though…)

“Someone trying to sell me something”

“People who get freebies on Insta”

“Desperate bids for attention”

“Someone who is famous on social media for doing very little” 

YIKES. I had almost 100 replies – 20% of them pointing towards the diplomatic, thoughtful meaning of the word and 80% of them with a pretty negative view of what this term now seems to represent in society.

 And so, I want to talk about that. I want to open up the conversation of ‘influence’ and share a little bit of my own thoughts around it, what it means for women and see if maybe we can reclaim this word back to its positive potency.

I need to caveat that this isn’t a conversation that is intended to shame anyone. That’s never my goal – shame never really produces any change, only mistrust and fear. And it’s not a conversation about whether doing sponsored or gifted content on social media is bad or good. I am super proud of being able to use my own platforms to share about brands that I believe in – that I know contribute to the good in the world. This conversation for me is about reminding myself and the women I know and love that our influence is important and worth our intentionality.

What’s interesting to me is that when it comes to this online ‘influencer’ culture, it is mostly women who are drawn in. Of course, there are men who also have large followings and engage with campaigns and ads, but by and large the influencer marketing world is a female-powered machine (women as influencers and consumers of influencer content) and lately I’ve been wondering if there are undertones of patriarchal control that contribute to it being this way...

Bear with me.

Recently I have been deep diving into the history of women’s rights and the suffrage movement and am so moved by how relentlessly women fought for a seat at the table, for their voices to be considered worthy in society. They broke rules (and windows), were imprisoned and lost pretty much everything they had to see that women coming behind them would have more autonomy, more ability to be their truest selves. When I think about the here and now, and the rise of women wanting grow followings, become influencers and be noticed by brands, I wonder if we still have some heavy mindset shifting to do around this long history of women not being seen and heard and the patriarchal hangovers that we are maybe unknowingly tethered to.

Maybe some of us are still stuck in the belief that we must clamber to be noticed, or seek the approval of others to be deemed valuable or to belong. After all, It’s only been 100 years – just two generations - since women were able to even vote on what kind of society they’d like to live in – that mindset can take a while to run out.

Maybe some of us believe that the only way for women to make money AND be caregivers is to sell other peoples’ stuff on our social media platforms. Maybe the patriarchal hangover here is that we still feel nervous about not having enough money of our own or we haven’t taken control of our own finances and think that this will do. Maybe the fact that we still aren’t getting paid equal to our male counterparts makes us feel like this outlet gives us at least some power. Maybe it’s because we are only just beginning to see a rise in women holding positions of power or women making sustainable incomes from their own ideas. Maybe because selling our own ideas, products and innovative thinking still feels icky and we’d rather hide behind someone else’s stuff even if we don’t fully believe in them.

Maybe some of us are still telling ourselves that there is some sort of holy grail of validation that will come when we have X amount of followers or Y amount of attention. Maybe we are just afraid to act like we are free at all because to be free to be who you really are is scary and vulnerable and sometimes it feels safer to not even imagine the possibility.

What I would love for us all to know, my friends, is that we are emancipated. We are more free than we have ever been to contribute to the world on our own terms and the table is long and wide and extendable so we can all fit in. All of us.

What I’d love for us to know is that our ideas, our dreams, our creativity and desires are important and worth exploring and sharing. In fact, we desperately need your amazing ideas, your innovative thinking, your empathy, your fierceness, your opinions, your entrepreneurial prowess. We need it because there are problems to solve here on this planet and you might have the answers. Yes, you.

We need it because the way things have been going isn’t really working out too well for humanity and we don’t have time for you to hide your brilliance behind ads and consumerism and the false belief that likes and follows is what makes your life influential. We need to hear the thoughts and ideas of how women are going to make the world better, more tolerant, more creative, more resilient, more beautiful.

I know that you have desires for your life and for the world that you haven’t even admitted to yourself yet because you’re scared - but we need them. We need women that are awake to their truest selves, their deepest desires. Truth be told, I’m not sure I really know anyone whose deepest desire is to share ads for Babybel on their Instagram and believe it to be a meaningful contribution.

“But MEL!” I hear you say. “What if being an ‘influencer’ allows me to stay at home with my kids and that’s what I want to do”?

To that I say – amazing. Being a mother is one of the hardest roles I’ve ever taken on – it is no easy option and the internet has opened up a wonderful community of support for mothers to feel less alone. Brands and PR companies know how much time mothers spend on the internet sharing so I understand that the lure to earn money this way is real. But please, for your own sake, don’t let it be something you hide behind. Don’t put off throwing your own hat in the ring and continue to invest more of your precious time on other peoples ideas than the ones buried deep in your own soul. Don’t believe the lie that this is the only thing you can do to make money or be influential.

Finally, we need to reclaim influence so we can have conversations with our daughters and the young women in our lives about what matters because they need to see our bravery too. They need to know that their dreams and desires and ideas and voices matter as well. They need something to aspire to that has weight to it, that brings light to dark places in the world. I want to be able to tell my daughter about the amazing women in my life that are doing things that light up their souls. I want to have endless amount of role models to point my daughter to and say – “Look what she did! You can do amazing things too!”. I want to be able to divert her attention from the influence of perceived perfection, the numbers game, the popularity contest and endless consumerism and show her a world of women propelling each other forward with their big dreams and big hearts for goodness to reign in the world. I want to be able to hand over to her a legacy of women that are relentless in their pursuit of purpose and passion.

And so we need to continue to reclaim influence; to amplify the voices of women who are putting their bravest selves into the world with their own ideas and voices – to champion their influence. Let’s shine a torch on the important ways that women are shaping the now and changing the future and channel our energy into something that lasts longer than a current trend could ever offer.

We need to do that because we need to be able to see and to show what is possible – how our influence can have impact. We need to support women who are courageous enough to put their heads and ideas above the parapet because when they get brave it should give us license to as well. Seeing someone in their stride should set us alight and fuel us to do the same – not cripple us with comparison or envy. We have work to do ladies: fears to manage, ideas to explore, problems to solve, dreams to make space for, legacies to shape and there is so much more room here for your influence than you can ever imagine.

ASSEMBLY WINTER GATHERING 2018

It’s been a couple of weeks since we had our Winter Assembly Gathering so I wanted to show you what we got up to! It was such a beautiful evening. 40 women; making, eating, and getting to know each other as we gathered at this years Winter venue, Portadown Town Centre Market. The amazing Lauren from @litphotographyni captured the whole evening for us so beautifully - makes me want to do it all again…

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We had The Edible Flower team on board for catering so we were kept fully fed and watered from arrival - spiced rum with hot apple juice and homemade pretzels that I can’t stop thinking about to this day. Those girls are geniuses with their flavours and expertise. They really are top class caterers and it’s always such a pleasure to have them on the Assembly team.

Once everyone arrived we split off into workshops - half heading over to Becky to learn about natural remedies and make a healing herbal tea and the other half over to Gill, (our amazing florist who installed that beautiful foliage suspension and the incredible circle installations while having a newborn baby in her arms) to make some natural alternative wreaths!

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And then we feasted! We had four courses of amazing food by Team Edible Flower. They knocked it out of the park with the menu. Lentil, beetroot and goats cheese starter, slow cooked beef rendang with jasmine rice for mains, spiced ginger cake with caramelised apples on top for dessert and rose meringues and green tea to finish. Glory be. The eating is my favourite part. It’s when everything slows down and we get to sit and chat and take our time and savour.

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The table was set with beautiful stonewashed linen tablecloths c/o our friends at Linen Me and simple, elegant brass candle sticks from the amazing Fetch and Sow. We hung warm light festoons c/o Lights4Fun from the industrial ceiling to bring some warmth to the space (hanging them caused some serious marital tension between Dave and I but it was worth it in the end…). We also used Linenme napkins to wrap up the little treats we put together for all who attended. Everyone received a gorgeous paper-cut print by Cotton Papier, a pair of my favourite ever bamboo socks by Thought Clothing, a little sample of Neals Yard Hand Cream and Facial Serum from small batch Irish natural beauty company Sana Naturals. A big thank you to the awesome brands that contributed gifts - they were perfect.

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As always, being round the table, getting to make and learn and be together felt magical. What a serious delight it is for me to bring women together in this way - to make space for our own creativity and to build community. I don’t take it for granted that women are brave enough to buy tickets and come to Assembly for the first time on their own, or that they come back because they have made connections they want to foster. Thank you to everyone who came - it’s only ever as good as the women who come.

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All of these images were captured by Lauren from LIT Photography who is such a talented warm person and a real gem to work with. Aren’t they wonderful?

Finally, I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has been part of Assembly this year. To those of you who have joined the Members Community (almost 80 of you now!), everyone who has hosted, helped or attended one of our Gatherings, Sessions, our charity Clothes Swap and Skydive, the Winter Market and the Movements Group Coaching Course (PHEW). Needless to say it has been such a learning curve for me to lead in this way this year and I have absolutely LOVED meeting so many amazing women here in Ireland who are doing incredible things, have brave and beautiful ideas and want to be more courageous with their lives. Here’s to all of that and more in 2019.

P.S. My monthly newsletter ‘The Understory’ is going out this week - if you want to get it, see the box below!

AVOIDING FAST FASHION IN A CONSUMER DRIVEN SEASON

There’s really no denying it…

It’s upon us. The countdown meter at the supermarket even told me today that it’s only 32 sleeps. We are either merrily entering, gently tiptoeing or begrudgingly dragging ourselves into the Christmas season.

I’m not quite there yet - but I feel it starting to pull. I may have even started thinking about what kind of garland will adorn the mantlepiece this year and where we’ll put the tree. I may have dived back into my Christmas pinterest board.

We all know that Christmas is the highest consumer season of the year. We throw cash around that we don’t have on things that we and other people don’t really need. We buy outfits for parties and novelty clothing that we’ll forget about next year. In fact, this article exposed that one in four Christmas jumpers bought last year will never be worn again. One in three under 35’s will buy a new Christmas jumper each year (stating that they don’t want to be seen in the same one again or that they buy new ones because they are so cheap). It’s estimated that £220 MILLION POUNDS are spent every year on novelty Christmas jumpers alone. Call me scrooge. I can take it.

About 6 weeks ago, Stacey Dooley’s BBC documentary about fast fashion aired. It caused quite a stir and started some brilliant conversations on and offline. It did a great job of highlighting some of the major environmental catastrophes connected with the demand for fast, disposable fashion and people were rightly outraged and concerned with how our excessive consumption of clothes is effecting people and the planet.

I thought it might be a good time to circle back on some of those conversations - to remind ourselves about the impact that fast fashion has and how we can be agents of change as consumers, especially with party season approaching and the lure to buy new shiny things becoming a real draw.

If you are wanting to change your fast-fashion habits this season, this is for you.

If you want to pull the reigns in on your over-consumption and look at fashion as a long lasting investment, this is for you.

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I have some tips for how we get a handle on this. These are things that help me; because even though I’m an activist in this area and I have real convictions, it doesn’t mean I’m not tempted or interested in style. Here’s what helps me:

1) Unsubscribing from fast-fashion retailer newsletters. Do it. We do not need to know what promotions they are having (the answer is always many many promotions) if we do not need more clothes. The lure and the feeling of missing out or needing to spend can be curtailed if we can remove these seemingly insignificant reminders from our inboxes.

2) Unfollowing fast-fashion retailers from social media, including fast-fashion bloggers/vloggers and influencers who will be undoubtedly doing all kinds of Christmas hauls. If we really want to set a new path with our consumption, we can unfollow until we find it less tempting. Advertising is everywhere, and the more control over it we take, the easier it will be to not feel left behind or out of the loop.

3) Find ethical brands that suits our personal style and put in a request for a voucher or an item from them this year. A dressy Winter coat you can wear every Christmas year on year or maybe a piece that will transition well from season to season. I have found that when you invest in the true cost of a piece of clothing and you know where it has been made you feel so much more connected to it and less likely to discard it. This organic wool cardigan below is one of my absolute A/W 18 favourites from one of my favourite ethical brands, Thought Clothing. It’s cozy and neutral and the perfect layering piece for the change from Autumn to Winter. Thought’s pieces are accessible in size (sizing is always generous and true), price and style and a go-to for me when I need to replace something specific.

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4) Avoid the shopping centres! From now until after the New Year you can pretty much expect to spend half of your day in traffic if you plan on venturing to a shopping centre on the weekend. It is mayhem. Take yourself out of the chaos. Being in shopping centres and malls is always going to make staying away from fast-fashion really hard. There is a gravitational pull when mass amounts of people are all in the same place doing the same thing. Avoid avoid avoid! If you need to go for something specific, you could even pledge to just bring whatever cash you need and leave the handy cards at home.

5) Finally, arrange a clothes swap! This is my TOP TIP. Text 5 friends right now and tell them that you are hosting a pre-chrimbo clothes swap at your house. They have to bring their best clothes that they know they won’t wear again. Throw in some wine, some Bublé and a good try-on session and it’s going to end up being the best Christmas night-in of your life. AND you’ll leave with a few new bits to scratch that shopping itch without any impact on the planet or your wallet. Winner winner turkey dinner!

These are just five of my own tried and tested ways of avoiding fast-fashion at peak consumer seasons in particular (and throughout the rest of the year really). Maybe you have something else you'd like to add to the list - another top tip? Please do let me know in the comments or send me a DM. Always happy to chat about this stuff and find out what works for others.

* This is a proud collaborative post with Thought Clothing. I’m always grateful to get to work with brands that support me in writing about issues that are important to me.*

As a thank you to readers, Thought are offering you a whopping 20% off everything on their website by using the code ‘MW20’ from now until the end of February!

With big love and thanks to the amazing Gillian from Gather & Tides for the photography in this post.

THE TOP REASONS WHY WOMEN ARE HIDING THEIR BRILLIANCE (AND HOW WE CAN SLAY THOSE MYTHS) PART TWO

I’m back! And I’m ready to slay another myth with you in this series as we uncover some of the reasons why women are hiding their brilliance. In case you missed the first in the series, you can catch up here.

Today’s culprit is a big one, is connected to the fear of failure I mentioned in the first post and it is most certainly holding back and distracting women from being their most honest selves. Let’s find out what it is, shall we?

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The second reason why women are hiding their brilliance is….

FEAR OF CRITICISM AND THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS.

This came up a lot in the responses to my question about what was holding people back from moving towards the things they would most like to do. It’s no real surprise that most of us are consumed by what other people think. We are bombarded by the opinions of others incessantly. Daily! On so many platforms! And sometimes we even illicit it ourselves! We create polls and ask for opinions and we take it all in from anyone and everyone. Our brains consume and catalogue the thoughts and responses of others at a rapid speed so it’s only natural that being concerned about what other people think has become a big barrier to women feeling like they can pursue the things they really want to. When it comes to other peoples opinions, we need to be careful and we need to get really clear on who’s opinions of us really matter.

Fear of criticism or the opinions of others is ultimately a creativity crusher and like I mentioned in my first post in this series, when we operate from a place of fear we will never be doing our truest work. When we operate from a place of constant concern about what others think we will never be liberated enough to show our most authentic selves. We will always be hiding something; some part that we worry isn’t enough or is too much for other people.

And that’s the risk. The risk is that we stay hidden in that place because it’s safe.

Being interested in the opinions of others is completely normal; it’s part of our human nature to be curious about what others think of us, if we’re connecting or resonating but it doesn’t have to rule us. It’s completely OK to want to connect with others but that connection should never come at the cost of our authenticity, our real opinions, our real desires and our autonomy to change our minds, try new things or diverge.

Often the people closest to us find it hardest to see us evolve and grow. There are honest fears for them in there about what it means for them if you change - and often their fears or seeming resistance of your growth comes from a loving place of not wanting to see you put yourself in any kind of emotional risk.

Don’t forget, fear - whether it be of failure or of what other people think - is the little safety mechanism in our brain that senses vulnerability looming. It is the guard at the door that anticipates that we are about to share something or reveal something or produce something that may expose our truest selves and it shows up to try and close the door in different ways to try and keep us safe. Sometimes it shows up in our own negative thoughts and sometimes it shows up in the form of family or friends who put down our ideas, resist our growth, make light of our pursuits or maybe never acknowledge our successes.

You see, when we begin to leave the same old routines, test old stories and beliefs about ourselves, stretch beyond our normal comfort zone, or contemplate any kind of change in our life we can be assured that the safety mechanism in our own brain will spring into action and it can also trigger that safety mechanism in others who want to protect us or keep us safe.

But safety is not the same as fulfilment. Safety is not the same as bravery. Safety is not the same as honesty. And we all deserve to live fulfilling, brave, honest lives on our own terms. Even if it means risking failure.

When it comes to feedback, I love what Tara Mohr has to say (I always love what she has to say). She says that “all substantive work will bring both praise and criticism”.

This means that if we are bringing our best, most honest selves to the table in the work that we do or the ideas we have, we will never get to avoid criticism - in fact, we should expect it. But we need to work out a more healthy way of dealing with it than the old stories of defensiveness, deflation or maybe both.

If you take risks and present the world with your own authentic thoughts, ideas and actions, sometimes you’ll be praised and sometimes people will dislike you or misunderstand. And the most liberating part of this is that we have no control over that whatsoever! I know, I know…no control! That sounds excruciating, not liberating. But believe me, when we reframe criticism in this way, it frees us. Stick with me…

Our only responsibility in the world is to show up and do the work that is most true to us. We are not responsible for how anyone else responds to us. I can’t think of any major influencer, leader, change-maker or creative thinker that has not had both devoted die-hard fans and equally harsh critics.

During the ‘Playing Big’ course I was part of this year we dug into the topic of criticism and feedback at length. One of my great takeaways from that part of the course was the understanding that feedback only tells us about the person giving the feedback. It doesn’t actually tell us if what we are doing is good or bad or anything else. It really only informs us of the expectations or the preferences of other people. I love this way of thinking about feedback because it detaches the work from being good or bad which is where most of us trip up. We get feedback, we zoom in on it and agonise over it and let it define our path ahead…

However, this model suggests a more healthy alternative: when situations of feedback arise, if we can calm ourselves enough to understand that the person giving the feedback is telling us only about themselves, we then get the opportunity to decide if that information is something we want to take on board or let slide.

Things to consider when feedback comes:

  • Is that person my target audience?

  • Are they also working in the same field? Are they putting themselves out there?

  • Are their opinions or feedback important for moving my work or ideas forward?

  • What does this tell me about the person’s expectations of this idea or piece of work?

And the thing is that some people will simply just not connect with you. Some will feel threatened by what you are doing. Some people love to put others in small places because they are worried about there not being enough space. Some people will want to be part of what you are doing only if it is helpful to them. Interpret feedback carefully. Test it. Be curious about who is giving it, and what it is saying about them and their expectations. Then, and only then YOU get to decide if the feedback is something you want to take on.

Here’s another tip from me: Please do not ask family and friends for feedback on something precious to you; something you’ve worked hard on or that you are excited about. This might feel counter intuitive but trust me, it’s important.

Firstly, it is unlikely that your family and friends are your target market and secondly, as I said above, there are too many complications added onto their feedback for it to be helpful or propelling for you – their own issues, their love for you, their desire for you to be safe. Go to them for support and encouragement, absolutely. But don’t go to them for feedback or opinions and make those boundaries clear from the get go. If you want to seek out feedback about something in particular, go to the people you are keen to connect with, to serve and impact. That’s where you’ll get the information you need to know if what you’re offering is connecting.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this fear of opinions and criticism effects you and I hope this post helps you detach a little bit from the opinions of others that can cripple our momentum and spirit. I hope this gives you permission to frame feedback in a way that is healthy and propelling for you. I hope this enables you to move more freely in the world in a way that is true to you without the baggage of other peoples expectations and opinions hanging on.

BEFORE YOU GO…!

Tonight is the last night for enrolment in my small group coaching course called ‘Movements’! It begins with a beautiful day retreat at my house this coming Sunday, September 30th and runs through the month of October. If you’d love some support in slaying your fears and moving towards your truest self, I’d love to have you join us. Click here to read more and grab your space!

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THE TOP REASONS WHY WOMEN ARE HIDING THEIR BRILLIANCE (and how we can slay those myths) PART ONE

About a month ago I put out a question on IG stories asking people what they felt were the main things holding them back from doing the things that they really wanted to do in life.

The response I got was pretty astounding.

Not surprisingly most of the responders were women (I recognise that most of the people I connect with on IG are women), and not surprisingly the answers they gave about what they felt was holding them back were repeated over and over.

I wanted to give some air to some of the main culprits of what’s holding us back and see if we can try to slay some of the myths surrounding them so I’m going to unpack them over a few blog posts.

This is incredibly important stuff for us women to get our minds around because the world needs our brilliance. It needs our ideas and our input and our creativity and our innovation.

Here we go:

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1) FEAR OF FAILURE.

The top response that came back by a country mile was an acute fear of failure.

So many of us are holding back and hiding our brilliance from the world because of fear. We see every way that we could be more qualified, every part of our ideas that aren’t perfect, every way it could go wrong and so we freeze, we fly or we try to forget about those ideas and dreams. We stuff our brilliance down.

Not only that, but often we surmise that we are not up to the task without really having any evidence if that’s true or not. We listen to our inner critic relentlessly nagging us and trying to keep us safe instead of getting curious about the fear.

I have found curiosity to be such a game changer when it comes to fear because it is a playful state for our minds to occupy. Deciding to be curious drowns out the seriousness of fear and knocks it off it’s pedestal in our brains. When we can respond to our fears with curiosity we start to see possibility.

FEAR SAYS: “I could never do that. I don’t have what it takes; it’s too hard. No one will buy it and people will think that I’m selling out or desperate. What if it sucks and I look like an idiot?"

CURIOSITY SAYS: “I wonder if I could do that? I wonder what it would take to make that happen, what I might need to learn? I wonder if I could make space for this in my life? I wonder who my audience or target market would be and how I could find out more about them? I wonder how I can connect with people and get them on board in a way that feels true to who I am?”

Do you see the difference? Fear shuts the conversation down. It makes things binary; black and white. Curiosity picks the conversation back up and opens the door to possibility. It paints colour all over our ideas. It is a small but significant mindset shift that we need to get familiar with in order to come out of hiding with our brilliant ideas.

The thing about fear that we need to come to terms with is that it is going to always be around. There is no space you will occupy when you are doing something important to you that will be devoid of fear. That’s just not how it works. Fear will always show up when we are doing work most close to our hearts. In fact, I love the idea that when fear shows up - we are likely onto something that is really important to us. We should be paying attention. Fear can become a signal that we are moving in the right direction with our desires and moving towards becoming our truest selves.

I love what Elizabeth Gilbert says about fear in her book Big Magic:

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

So fear will always be around, but having fear in the car doesn’t mean it gets to drive. You can have questions about how you might do something, how it will look, how it will come to life, how you might sell it or share it, without that turning into doubt about yourself. You can maintain a belief that you are called or made to bring something significant into the world and also doubt or question or be curious about how to do it, what the best methods are and how it might play out. Doubting the path doesn’t have to equal doubt about yourself. Most great leaders, thinkers, makers and doers are full of curiosity about how to get to where they want to be - putting imperfect important things into the world with fear in the back seat of the car.

Another great question to ask if you are feeling like you are not sure you are up to the task is “What evidence is there to suggest that I’m not up to it?”

I know that may sound simple but it’s something we tend to not give a lot of time to.

When you begin to have fears about your capabilities ask yourself: “Is there real concrete evidence that would prove that to be true? Or are these old stories or opinions creeping in?”

Here’s an example from my own life: I’ve never believed that I’m the type of person that could be self-employed or run my own business. I always thought that was for people who were more self-disciplined, educated to a higher level than me or more clued into business.

You see, back in my late teens, early twenties I did a lot of moving around; a lot of chopping and changing: university courses, countries, gap years, interests etc. It created a story within me that I didn’t have the discipline to ever develop a business; that I couldn’t trust myself to innovate without wanting to change my mind a lot. Those have been long held beliefs, often reinforced by others along the way.

But when I recognised that I was limiting myself based on those stories, I challenged myself to actually find evidence to suggest those stories were valid and here’s what I realised:

  • I founded a charity project and have managed it’s development for over 6 years.

  • I started Assembly, collaborated with dozens of brands and businesses and have overseen the growth of this community over the last two years.

  • I have learned how to build a website myself and maintain it.

  • I have read up on business development.

  • I have created online courses and launched and sold them successfully.

  • I have invested time and money in my own personal development and skills.

There was absolutely no truth to the story that I’d be bad at business because the evidence showed otherwise. I had just held onto these old stories for too long. So long in fact that I couldn’t see the cold hard facts laid out before me.

Most people think that the opposite of fear is being fear-less or having confidence but I continue to believe that we need to dispel the myth of confidence as the holy grail and replace it with courage in the midst of doubt. I truly think the most courageous thing we can do to change our relationship with fear is to courageously show up in the world in spite of our fears.

It’s time we put more attention on courage, not in the traditional, sensationalised heroic sense that modern culture has skewed it to be. But the courage of flawed, insecure people doing the things that bring them to life in the absence of certainty about the outcome. There is much freedom to be found in this space.

And so I put it to you:

  • How is fear limiting you at the minute? What brilliance are you hiding because fear is nagging at you?

  • How can you be curious about the things that you’d love to do instead of letting fear shut them down?

  • What are the old stories that are blocking your self-belief? What evidence is there to suggest those stories are true?

  • How are you going to cultivate courage in your life? How can you show up and take part or begin to explore the things you love in spite of your fears?

I’ve just developed a coaching course for a small group of women who are ready to slay some of those myths with me and make movements towards their brilliant ideas and dreams. It’s currently open to sign ups from Assembly Members but I’ll be sharing more about it here towards the end of the week. If you’re interested, shoot me a message and I’ll make sure you hear about it first!

Mel Wiggins Comments
LAST SUMMER IN PROVENCE
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All the pictures from last years family holiday to France have been coming up in my Facebook memories and reminding me of how beautiful that time was so I thought I'd document it here for myself and for anyone who might be looking for somewhere to escape to in Provence this year...

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I came across Les Sardines Aux Yeux Bleus on my annual epic internet search for a family holiday and was entirely smitten as soon as I saw the pictures and read the reviews. A small family-run guesthouse, nestled in a little village in Provence with scandi-french decor and the wonderful hosts. SOLD. 

We booked a weeks stay at Les Sardines and it was everything we could have hoped it to be. Peaceful, beautiful and fun.

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The guesthouse has 3 big ensuite rooms and 3 apartments. We booked the small apartment which had one bedroom with a big bed and a travel cot, a living area (with a fold away sofabed), a small kitchen, epic bathroom and a private terrace. It was perfect for us with a six and one year old; ample space to retreat to during the heat of the day and it was so nice to have a terrace to sit out on in the evenings after the kids were in bed. 

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Each morning, Anna Karin and her team prepared the garden dining area for breakfast - tables fully stocked with fresh croissants, fruit, yoghurt, cereals, homemade jams, meats/cheeses and some sort of delicious home-baked option that rotated every day (think American-style pancakes, banana loaf, waffles and cakes). Everything about Les Sardines is effortlessly chic; the linens, the tableware (including hand thrown plates and bowls made by Anna Karin herself), furniture, surroundings - a charming rustic dream. We filled up and took our time over breakfast each morning and then usually went back to our apartment to get into our swimmers for a dip in the beautiful pool. 

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I was a bit worried about taking the kids somewhere so...nice.  Would they wreck the place? Would we be annoying for other guests? Would the kids get bored? I'm so glad we went for it because all of my concerns were blown away when we realised how relaxing it was there. Anna Karin has her own (older) kids so there were plenty of toys and books around and having the pool there was such a delight (just be aware there's no shallow end for little ones and it's not a heated pool but that was perfection on those really spicy hot afternoons).

Provence is like a movie. Roads lined with acres of vineyards and sunflower fields. I could not get enough of the scenery. You really do need a car to get around but it's only a few kilometres from Les Sardines to the nearest big grocery store or the wonderful fresh local markets in Uzes (the nearest town). We went into Uzes a few days for a wander around the old town or for dinner and cooked in the apartment the rest of the time. 

We also ventured to the Pont Du Gard - only 20 minutes away.  Pont du Gard is a huge Roman aqueduct on the River Gardon. We spent the day at the waters edge, swimming in the river and jumping off the rocks. 

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We also went to a lovely little ceramic making village about 10 minutes away called Saint Quentin la Poterie. Even though it's just a tiny little village, it's famous for centuries of pottery making, ancient 13th century kilns and studios and shops in every street and alleyway showcasing the work of local potters. Maybe not one for lively children who like to touch things but you could probably distract them with an ice-cream while you browse in and out.

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We hit up the Uzes brocante (flea market) which runs on a Sunday morning and sells all kinds of weird and wonderful things that I couldn't fit in our luggage home. Think french linen, rustic everything and a lot of baskets. Other things to do nearby: a really great water park literally 5 minutes drive away from Les Sardines which was awesome for the kids. Best moment was Dave being told off for wearing his swimming trunks and having to buy banana hammock swimwear from the gift shop because of French bathing rules. I'll spare you the photographic evidence of that. There is also a big Haribo factory/museum just outside Uzes. We didn't do the tour but we certainly did go to the gift shop. 

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It's so nice to look back on these memories and have them captured here - especially with the benefit of year-later-rose-tinted glasses and the short memory of crying children, sticky heat and all the other life stuff that continues on even if you're in the most beautiful of locations.

If you are looking for a quiet, family-friendly spot to go at your own pace and base yourself as you discover the local areas of Provence, Les Sardines is your spot. 

Mel Wiggins Comment