Self Empowerment (that tricky thing) This was the first Open forum with Devoted & Disgruntled I had attended and with the principles that Improbable are led by I was hopeful I would come away with some very particular motives and inspiration. One of the questions hanging over my head at the moment is 'How do we empower ourselves whilst empowering others?' and it feels particularly prevalent in the socially engaged arts where the lines of ownership and voice are blurred and scrutinised. I am 24 and I spend a large amount of my time encouraging the empowerment of others. I chose this area and I wish to continue on this path. I am fascinated by other people and their stories. I love the energy of young people (younger than myself) and the opportunities they present in an artistic setting. However, recently I have been worried that I will spend all my time doing this and realise in about 20 years that I didn't turn inwards and look at what I wanted to say too. What if in empowering others to share their voices, I forgot to share mine? This feels incredibly self-indulgent, even as I type, but it's something I have been concerned about- almost out of the blue. It takes a bit of reflection to break this down and see it isn't such a black and white scenario as I am making it out to be. That was a question I wrote up for session, but no one actually came into that discussion (which is fine!). I sort of merged it with another discussion about whether we are too hard on ourselves... for a bit...but then I went away (using the law of two feet) and, in what felt the opposite of the point of the event, I sat alone and came up with my pointers for myself and others to self-empowerment, when working as a practitioner whose main purpose, on the whole, is to empower others. 1) Open Heartedness - when we stop listening to our internal dialogue and start listening, appreciating and absorbing the world around us- we open up to the opportunity to be inspired; inspired by other people and our environments which in turn leads to self-empowerment and inspiration. The main thinking here is I feel I need to look outside myself to achieve some of my internal goals. 2) Worthiness. Am I enough? The question we all ask ourselves regularly unless we have totally unfettered self-esteem. The main thought here is when we come to understand the value of our own perspective and measure it equally with that of others- we can all flourish. That's an inclusive process and it's a healthy way of living. It is society that tells us that our voice doesn't matter, but the reality that we are intrinsically all 'enough'. Find people who help you realise that if you cannot realise it alone. Leslie Knope says 'no one achieves anything alone' and she may be a fictional television character but she inspires me in all sorts of ways. This feels like a good moment to cite the TedTalk by Brene Brown 'The Power of Vulnerability' which was also mentioned in a conversation I had at the forum- 'What is a Vulnerable Person?'. She talk about this idea of 'being worthy' and it's life changing to listen to.3) On a practical level- for me- it is the interrogation of the line between Practitioner and Artist. I've been told by a few excellent women who are further into their careers than me (a lot further) that the two absolutely go hand in hand. At the moment 'Artist' to me feels like the main source of self-empowerment and self-expression and 'Practitioner' feels like the word that makes you the teacher and the passer on of skills (this isn't the whole meaning of the word of course). At 24 they feel quite separate and I want them to be closer together because I want to learn as I guide others and I want to be part of democratic processes where everyone in that creative space has as much to gain as the other person (including the person labelled 'facilitator'). All my work should feed my art. And perhaps it is because I am still young and hungry for it all that I'm realising this- nothing is just a holding station before I get to 'it'- the big moment the elusive moment when I get to fulfil my creative potential (ooh la la what a load of rubbish). It's a very particular trait of a young person looking forward, also looking forward never in the 'now'. It's also the epidemic of having to define yourself quickly. CVs and questions from extended family 'what are you up to?' and 'so what is it that you do?' and 'so are you an actress then?' It all feels like I have to have the answers and I have to have them now- for both the external parties and the people in the workshop space looking back at me. 4) Speaking of always looking forward. The next thought links to one of Improbable's principles. Notice reality. Instead of focusing on what we think we SHOULD be doing. Accept the value of what we are doing and what is actually happening. Tune into the realities of our current state and focus. The more we embrace current realities the more we get out of them. And the more everyone else gets out of them if we happen to be running a community workshop. So, essentially, this project now is just as important in the narrative of my 'self-empowerment' as the one I'm picturing in 5 years time (i.e. the one that doesn't exist). 5) TIME. Give things time. Instant gratification is a slippery slope but one many of us growing up in the 21st century know all too well. Longevity is key to anything sustainable, whether it be a strategy for a whole company or a personal goal. Learning that with time comes the ability to adapt and grow. I open my eyes and grasp at opportunites as they arise and I see as much as I can as a valuable source of inspiration as opposed to believing that if I don't make my greatest life's work now then it's all too late and I'll never amount to anything (at least that's what I hope I do). Gather it all up- one pebble at a time- until the you have shores in your pockets from which you push off and set sail. 6) My fear is boring. Because a lot of this amounts to fear doesn't it? Aren't we the greatest barriers to our self-empowerment? I read that once , in 'Big Magic' by Elizabeth Gilbert- that she got bored of her fear. And it struck a chord. When we realise that largely our life and achievements are in our own hands- that's when we realise the main thing stopping us is...us. Ourselves. And you can all tell me that. All the practitioners and artists and anyone and everyone else who have been in this game a lot longer than me. Fear is useless. It is often self-concieved and blocks us from being open and giving the best of ourselves to other people- whether that is our personal relationships or the people we are working with on a community project. Any context- fear slows us down. That's about it for now. That's all I wrote down at the forum whilst wondering if I should be talking to other people in the room. It's a Sunday night and I'm thinking about the week ahead and I'm hoping I can try and apply all of this. Maybe one step at a time. I'm going to work hard on my next project with the young people I am engaged with. I'm going to open my ears and my eyes. I'm going to allow myself to be inspired. Coming to my first Devoted & Disgruntled meeting helped me write this...so that's a good start. I'll definitely be going back again.