Nelson Madela’s Inspiration

Last week would have been Nelson Madela’s 100th birthday. As you may have seen, President Obama had a very public appearance in South Africa, honoring the inspirational anti-apartheid leader.
While Nelson Madela did amazing things politically, many of his thoughts and quotes can be applied to situations outside of politics. Mandela has been an inspiration for so many in Africa, but his influence and impact is absolutely global. Below are some of the quotes from him that I think can be applied to life and work, along with a few thoughts about each of them.
As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
I’ve seen this movement recently in many ways. On social media, there are so many people posting about confidence, body-positivity and being comfortable acknowledging the good aspects of ourselves, while retaining modesty. Those people are encouraging others to do the same. I follow @dalalovesdumbbells on IG and this was one of her captions I thought really epitomized this concept:
“Why do we allow self-loathing comments to be normal and relatable, while self-confident comments are cocky, self absorbed, even obnoxious?

Someone makes a joke about how ridiculous they look in an outfit, how much they ate last night, how many extra pounds they’re carrying around, and we all laugh and feel comfortable around them.
But if someone says “man I love my legs lately”, “I feel fire in this outfit”, “doesn’t my hair look good today?”, we’re threatened, off-put, and likely will decide we don’t like this person because they’re wayyy too into themselves.
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If you’re my friend and I love you, I don’t wanna hear you talking smack about yourself‼️Fuck that. I wanna hear you talk yourself up, hear you lovin’ on yourself, braggin’ on yourself. And if you’re not, I wanna figure out how I can help build you up to get you there.
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Being humble and being mean to yourself are not the same. 🙅🏼‍♀️ We compliment each other, but not ourselves. Why is that okay? Shouldn’t we love ourselves the most? Shouldn’t we be our own biggest fans? When you love yourself, you become the best version of yourself and then you’re a better friend/daughter/mother/coworker/lover/partner than you ever though possible.
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If your friends aren’t comfortable with you openly loving yourself, are they your friend? Should they be?
Let’s stop glorifying self loathing, and start encouraging more self love.”

I never lose. I either win or learn.
 
I know a lot of people have shared the importance of failing. One of the things my dad used to say all the time when I was skiing was “if you’re not falling, you’re not trying hard enough.” The reason why this is so important is really exemplified is in this quote. Losing is an opportunity to learn. If we don’t lose, we win, which is awesome. If we lose, we have an opportunity to learn and get better, which is also awesome.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave [wo]man is not [s]he who does not feel afraid, but [s]he who conquers that fear.
 
This is one of Mandela’s most famous and well-known quotes, but I wanted to include it because of a recent experience I had. When I started cycling a few months ago, I was freaking scared. Holy shit, riding a bike is so much more scary as an adult with clip-ins on a road with drivers who are on their cell phones all the time. Also, as we age, we fear things more easily. The nice thing about cycling is that you’re on a bike out in nature for a very long period of time, which gives you lots of time to think about a lot of things.
I was on my second or third ride when it really dawned on me how scared I was. My fear was causing me to go slower down hills, be more tense and uncomfortable, and literally almost give up so many times. On that ride though, I realized this and told myself I just needed to show up. I needed to get past this fear. A lot of human beings ride bikes. Not a lot of them die doing it. I had to find a way to mentally let go of that fear in order to be happy on a bike. By the time I got to the STP last weekend, I was still apprehensive about the ride, but it was no longer because I was scared of riding. It was because it was over 100 degrees and I was hopeful my back or knees didn’t give out on me. I finally felt like one with my bike. I was comfortable and relaxed, which allowed me to actually go really fast and have the energy to cross the finish line unassisted. It’s a little example of an every day activity where such a meaningful quote can be applied.
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Vulnerability

 

A few weeks ago, I spent some time catching up with my former manager. She’s always been a great mentor for me and someone that I’ve always thought has her head on straight, can look at situations objectively and always aims to do the right thing.

While her and I were catching up, she recommended a Ted Talk to me that I thought was a really good reminder of both the need we all have for connection and the paradox of how our behavior inhibits us from creating those connections.

Brene spent six years doing the research that she pulls together in this Ted Talk, so her series of thoughts that tie together are somewhat complex. She walks through her process in the video and this is the summary as I interpret it:

She talks about uncovering the key to our fear of disconnection, which is shame. Shame, she says, makes us scared to become disconnected from others. The only way we can become truly connected to others is by letting ourselves become completely vulnerable, and having no fear or shame.
Of the people she interviews, she breaks them into two groups:
Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging, and
Those who do not have a strong sense of love and belonging
She determined what the difference is between these two types of people. Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging BELIEVE that they are WORTHY of love and belonging. That is it. It seems so basic, but for a lot of people, this is an incredibly difficult belief to produce.
She then focused her time on those who exhibited that belief of worthiness. She calls these people “whole-hearted.” The main characteristic she determined these people had in common, was courage. These people had the courage to be imperfect and to be compassionate with themselves and others about that imperfection.
She draws a distinction here, which I think is particularly interesting. That is, the difference between courage and bravery. She explains the roots of the word courage, which essentially explains that the word means “to tell the story of your heart.”
At the end of the day, she says these people were able to let go of who they thought they had to be, in order to be who they are. By becoming completely authentic and vulnerable, they were actually able to create true connections with people.

She goes on to give some examples of how we as a society tend to try to numb the bad things we feel, but at the end of the day, that numbing results in numbing both the bad things and the good things, because it is not possible to selectively numb. It’s clear in the video that all of these findings created a life-changing revelation for Brene and she decides to pursue the work that allows her to become vulnerable, which I felt was both incredibly courageous and brave.