what if I don't wanna be like you?

It’s time for another installment of Tuesdays in Leadership.  (New working title)
I mentioned our Confirmation Sunday in my last post.  We had 11 students be confirmed, which is a record for our church.  Each of the 11 stood before our congregation and shared stories of their faith journey.  They did so in a language all their own – some through video, dance, pictures, drawings, words.  It was a beautiful expression of God’s beauty in creation.  Each of these students was created by God, called by God and are answering that call in their own unique ways.
Last week’s episode of Lead Stories Podcast was on finding your voice in leadership.  Jo and Steph talked through resources to help leaders find and use their voices.  So I thought I’d write a little about what it looked like to find my voice as a leader.
I’ve written before about how I feel like I’m a bit of an outsider.  I’ve had a hard time finding a place where I feel completely comfortable – completely able to be myself. I can name some of that as coming from my family of origin, some of it comes from being biracial, some of it comes from moving around a lot and honestly, some of it comes from being a pastor.
This made finding my voice as a leader difficult.  I struggled with confidence, which I know realize is something we all struggle with – or at least most of us.  I so wanted to be like these women I admired – real and fictional – who seemed to just know who they were.  I always struggled to figure it out.
I struggled the most when I went to seminary.  I was so unsure of myself and my call.  I knew I was called but I was so intimidated by my classmates who seemed to have this unwavering faith in themselves.  I remember writing in a paper how I questioned whether or not my voice mattered.  I got the paper back a week later and my professor had underlined that sentence and in the margin he wrote, “Your voice matters.”
The real story of finding my voice is found through the mentors I have had in my life.  Men and women who have pointed out moments of leadership and told me that I mattered.  In some of my most formative years the message I received over and over again contradicted that important message.  I never felt like I fit and therefore I didn’t matter.  I’d place my trust in something or someone and get my heart and spirit broken.
This new message of people telling me that I mattered, that what I had to say was good, that was new for me.  During that time I started to root myself in the Creator.  I was learning how to look at my story and see Him more than I saw brokenness.  I started to see that being an outsider gave me a unique perspective.
I found my voice not by trying to fit in but rather by accepting that I never would.  I didn’t need to find that community that I fit into, I needed to find a community that loved me for the person I was – both created by God and shaped by my experience.  I had to learn that comparing my misfit life to others wouldn’t make me happy.  My voice was found in accepting myself and accepting who God was calling me to be.
Just as Jo and Steph shared some things they’ve learned along the way, here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way:

Guard your heart

Not everyone around you is a safe person.  I’m not saying this to be cynical, but rather to say that when it comes to leading others – it can be a lonely task.  There’s a fine line between being a vulnerable leader (which is important) and being a hot mess.  Sometimes finding and keeping your voice means limiting the people who get to see and speak to your whole heart.

Root yourself in God

We can do nothing apart from Him.  The sooner we see that he is the one who we should focus on the sooner we will be speaking his truths.  Find what works for you as far as being rooted in him and make sacrifices to do those things regularly.

Let others speak truth into your life

I’ve had some amazing people say some really hard things to me.  They are trusted advisors, people who know my heart and have walked the journey with me.  They don’t sugar coat it when I need to hear it.  Because they have walked the journey with me, it doesn’t hurt (as much) but rather inspires me to do better.

Broaden your perspective

Read books.  Listen to podcasts.  Attend conferences.  Even if an opinion differs from your own, listen to it with an open mind and allow it to speak to you.  Sometimes a challenging person will allow you to see God clearer and change you or keep you where you’re at.
I’m still fighting for my voice everyday, but these are just a few things I think I’ve learned from this journey.  What about you?

Where are you on this journey to finding your voice?

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