My breakthrough experience
Hi, I’m Emily from the United States, an intern at Better Me Kenya.
If you had asked me a month ago how much my experience working with Better Me would change my life, I would have said a great deal. But what I never would have expected is how quickly this would start to take effect.
As I am writing this, I have been staying at Korando with the Better Me team for 7 days, and in just those 7 days I have noticed a significant shift within myself.
A few days ago, the team members and I were sitting around the table in the Dome House drawing up a framework for the team’s latest project called YUMP, which stands for Youth Unleashed Mentorship Program. The YUMP program is a newer development for the Better Me team, focused on supplementing the education that youth receive in school to help them create empowered mindsets that allow for positive character development and a positive self-image. YUMP works to provide youth a safe space to talk openly about the unique struggles that they face such as mental illness, suicide, drug use, teen pregnancy and more. On Wednesday we kicked off our first YUMP session at a local high school.
In the days prior the team developed a plan for how we would introduce our program to the 500 students we were expecting. When developing this plan, another team member, Thomas, asked if we would all share something with the students. Immediately my brain came up with a thousand reasons why I couldn’t share anything beyond a basic introduction. I thought “they won’t relate to me”, “I’m not qualified for this”, “I am awful at public speaking”, “I just got here, I’m not prepared”, and every second I spent thinking about speaking to the crowd sent a shiver down my spine. So, I expressed this in a way to Thomas, and we agreed I would just introduce myself, and that would be it.
Come Wednesday I was prepared to share just the most basic details about myself, and the team had a whole plan as to how this session was going to proceed. When we arrived at the school, the counselor we had been coordinating with asked if we could split into smaller groups as it seemed like it was going to rain. Having developed a plan, I think we were all thrown into the cold water by this change. We surrendered to the change of plan and then, all of a sudden, we stood in front of 500 students, as the school had decided to stick with the original plan and conduct the session outside. We all did our sessions as planned and I was happy to see the crowd respond with roaring delight. Eventually, the rain began to come down heavily, so we moved the session to a large classroom where about 100 students were able to join us. The other team members who planned on speaking shared their powerful messages for the students and the session was proceeding wonderfully! The youth were incredibly engaged, and I was beside myself with joy.
As we were preparing to wrap up, Tom went to speak but the students began asking for me. I was shocked and felt completely unprepared. Despite my fear, knowing that they wanted me to share with them was so meaningful that I pushed down the thousand reasons I had used as excuses just a few days before and I did something I find completely uncomfortable — I stood in front of those students whom I did not know, and I shared a personal story with them. Whether they knew it or not, in that moment I spoke from my heart and not my head and showed them vulnerability and openness.
This experience was so far out of my comfort zone, as I am someone who always wants to feel prepared. For most of my life I have been an anxious person, so being prepared helps to ease the fears I have in my mind. Had I stood in front of a crowd this size at any other time or place, I would have frozen in fear. My voice would have sounded hoarse as the anxiety took hold over my body and I would have stumbled over every word I spoke while my face slowly turned increasingly red in color. But when speaking with these students, this did not happen. For the first time I felt no fear in speaking or sharing. I simply let the words come out as honestly and genuinely as possible. Reflecting on this later in the evening, I realized that the events of the day marked a great change inside of me that I will carry with me through my life. The things we fear most often stop us from undertaking tasks or letting ourselves experience greatness. I know that for a long time I have let fear determine how I act and what I do, which has led to a considerable amount of inaction on my part.
From speaking with those students and from stepping out of my comfort zone, I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of. I have learned not to let fear guide me or control me and that no amount of preparedness will ever truly ease my fears. The only way to face fear is head on and by diving into the deep end of an experience that you never previously thought you could handle. The fear I carried with me for so long served no purpose than to make me a weaker and a less confident person. In taking this step however, I realize that as Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, the only thing to fear is fear itself. Fear is meant to limit us and it diminishes the immense capacity we have to enact great change in our lives, the lives of others, and the world.
I look forward to the rest of my time here at Korando and with Better Me as I continue to carry myself through the days without the fears that once plagued my mind!