I think of myself as a leader.
When I was in 2nd grade, the ‘queen’ of the girls told me not to be friends with a girl in our class who was a family friend because she wasn't "cool". I refused. No one was going to tell me who to be friends with! In retaliation, the queen told my friend not to be friends with me. She listened. I was heartbroken. I think I am still a little mad at her - she recently found me on Facebook after not being in touch since around then (her family moved away) and I have made no real effort to be in contact.
As an adult I know that she simply didn't have the ability to not throw me under the bus. She so desperately wanted to be liked, and she was so small and didn't have the skills, that she simply wasn't able to stand up for herself. And make no mistake - standing up for a friend is really standing up for yourself, it's not generosity. I was LUCKY that I had the ability to stand up for myself. And it was probably due to my mom and my upbringing. I wasn't being "nicer" or a "better friend", as I wanted to believe at the time.
Since, in life, I haven't always been so lucky, haven't always felt able to stand up for myself powerfully and clearly. Sometimes yes - but with some groups, or in some situations, I go with the flow, don't feel as present, don't show up so powerfully.
In my mind, leadership is really about showing up, being present.
Whenever we do it, miracles occur. As a child, showing up meant temporary social isolation, which didn't last longer than a week or so - but also lifelong pride in myself and belief in my independence. Inside, I know I am someone who stands for something and that means so much to me.
After high school I spent a year in Israel and that was a profound awakening for me. I couldn't believe that this amazing place existed and I wanted to shout about it to everyone. I somehow became a leader in several Zionist Youth and Campus organizations. Not because I wanted the position, but because I wanted to do something. I wanted to share something. I showed up.
Today, I am sitting with an armful of proposals about projects I want to do. I love them and think they can make a difference. For some reason, showing up is so much more difficult.
I look at the hurt girl that I was when my friend didn't talk to me on the way home from school (the queen wasn't even in the car!!) and the mistrust I instinctively have of her today and realize there are tangible, lasting consequences to not showing up. There are consequences to not being the leaders we were born to be. We hurt people, even when we don't know that we are doing it, even when we don't know that our actions or inactions have meaning to those around us. She was a little, hurt girl herself, and I somehow carry that pain with me still to this day.
So, I enlist help. Join a mastermind group of women entrepreneurs. Ask friends to hold me accountable. It’s hard but it's the work. When the project comes out - other people will look at it and say - wow, look what she did. She is a leader - as I do when I look at other projects. But I have had so many blocks to coming here; it's taking me years, decades. And I am not even there yet.
Honestly, I am not a leader - I am a person struggling with showing up. And when I do show up, miracles will happen. It's the same for all of us. The universe needs all of us to show up and it's hard for everyone. Don't let the fact of it being hard tell you that you can't or that you are not a leader. You are. We all are. When we choose.