This read will take you about 9 minutes.
Greetings. Emma here. Well Emma Louise Halliday to be exact. I’m a good writer, thoughtful, make friends easily, have a warming energy, funny – possibly not as much as I think I am but still pretty funny and I’m beautiful.
What were your thoughts when you read that line?
- Did it make your lip quiver and your nose turn up?
- Did you want to stop reading and find someone less…….into themselves?
- Did you mutter vain, narcissistic, arrogant or something along those lines?
- Did you think ‘Way to go’?
- or…..maybe wish you had the confidence to share some of your qualities?
Me? I cringed.
Cursing myself as I typed the statement and cursed myself even more as I began to delete it. The fear of what everyone would think of me taking a hold, threatening to lead my actions.
Shuffling back in my seat, sitting up tall, shoulders back, head up, I inhale deeply and let my mind take me back to Kenya.
The midday sun glaring through the dusty windows adds to the nervous heat my body is giving off. Hoping that the khaki shorts I’m wearing don’t betray my trembling knees as I stand in front of a class full of school boys. All eyes on me. I am their teacher for the next hour, lesson plan in hand, their real teacher besides me ready to translate and my two beautiful new friends there to support. It’s time for me to begin and deliver a personal development lesson. I push up all the nervous energy from my body into my face, turning it into a genuine smile. I get out of my own way and then I begin.
What happened in that classroom over the next hour and the session that followed with the girls will stay with me forever. Seriously, I still get goose bumps every time I relive it.
On the build up to Kenya I had struggled penning what exactly I was going to share with the pupils. Scanning my mind through the courses I’d attended and the books I’d read. I soon came to a halt as I realised a lot of the teachings fit into my life living in a first world country. So I scaled it back and got real simple.
I can’t remember my opening words verbatim but it wasn’t far from the following sentence:
“Over the space of the next hour we are going to do some exercises that will help you navigate through school as you go onto follow your career paths. We are going to exercises that will cover: supporting yourself, supporting each other, working as a team and celebrating success.”
I stuck a large sheet of paper on the blackboard and wrote I AM in large letters. Lissa and Sarah handed out sticky notes as I continued.
I told them about the Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto and his experiment that showed thoughts, feelings and affirmations can influence water. In his experiment he put some water under negative influence and some under positive – after a while he viewed both samples under a microscope. The water that was subject to the negativity looked like it had turned bad, the other water looked like crystals and snowflakes. I walked around the room with my laptop showing everyone the images.
I went on to explain that over 60% of our body is made up of water so what we say and believe about ourselves is important as it can have an effect on what goes on inside. Some faces squirmed as they recalled the images they’d just seen.
Back to the blackboard and the empty piece of paper with I AM boldly placed in the middle. I asked each of the boys to write something that they liked about themselves or a positive trait or quality they had. Once they had chosen a word they were to stick it on the paper.
These boys aged from about 12-14 years old. Silent, well-behaved, seemingly shy and reserved – started to write.
My eyes tingled as I read over the shoulders of those first to the board. I looked over at Lissa and her hand was over her heart – and in that moment I knew she felt what I felt.
I AM A HERO!
I AM CLEVER!
I AM WISE!
The girls came up with equally touching traits….
I AM WISE
I AM HONEST
I AM BEAUTIFUL
The first exercise is what inspired this entire blog post. I was teaching a personal development class where it turned out I was learning my own lesson from these amazing pupils.
I become accountable for the intro words of this blog post that nearly didn’t feature. That declaration makes up just a small part of who I am – right now. Not who I was or who I aim to be. Who I am at this moment in time and honestly – I’m proud of that.
If truth be told, although I do believe the statement I have written I only had the confidence to share them as I’ve been complimented by countless people on numerous occasions on all of these – okay maybe not the one about being funny – but I make myself howl so that’s good enough! I was working on the premise that if so many people believe something good about you then there must be some truth in it!
And that’s what I told the children. The next exercise we handed out pieces of A4 lined paper and asked them to write their name on the top. That done, we passed the paper round to their classmates and told them to write down some positive characteristics for that person.
I have tears in my eyes when I look back over this. Look back over to the moment the children get their named pieces of paper back and read what their class mates think of them. Their faces a combination of surprise and joy as they scan the list – smiles covering their faces. Some of them were so proud they agreed to be filmed whilst reading them out to the class (see video at the end of this post).
“Next time you feel sad and the ‘I AM’ exercise doesn’t seem to put you in a better mood – take out your piece of paper and read what other people think of you” I said.
Why does it feel so awkward to positively I AM in public when we let the negative I AM’s roll of the tongue? I am stupid, I am an idiot, I am ugly…..
You just need to take a visit to Twitter to see that the trolls will hand out this shit for free – no need for you to do it. It’s time that we actually start celebrating ourselves and what is good. No comparisons!
I AM beautiful. There is more than one way to be beautiful – I don’t need to grace a catwalk or magazine for it to be so. I AM a good writer. I don’t need to win a booker prize or a prestigious book deal for it to mean something. I AM – I AM – I AM!
It’s time to celebrate that and have the people that believe in us celebrate with us. That’s exactly what we did in the last exercise and we did it with pure love, happiness and gusto!
I asked the class to split into 2 lines facing each other, I had ‘Happy’, Pharrell Williams blaring out and said…
“Thank you for playing all out today. In our last exercise we are going to celebrate. It’s important to celebrate yourself and each other. The little successes alongside the big. I am going to dance down the aisle besides your teacher (queue laughter as their teacher is male) and you’re going to give me the biggest applause, cheers, high-fives. Lissa and Sarah are going to go next and we’re going to greet them with the same energy. Then each of you will go in pairs – dancing down the aisle however you want. We’re all here to celebrate”
The sounds of the whooping, laughter and applause still rings in my ears. The images of the students dancing like they didn’t have a care in the world.
We all have bad days. Granted, some more than others. When I’m feeling low or in a slump I often dislike myself so much that I get angry looking in the mirror. Sometimes that dislike turns to hate and I feel like my teeth are cemented together, nose flared out – ready to blow with tears or rage at any time. That is why it’s important to celebrate when you’re feeling good – build up your energy reserve when it’s easy to do so.
I’m feeling really good at the moment so damn right I’m celebrating me. Actually liking myself and celebrating who I am doesn’t take away from how amazing other people are too. There’s not a finite amount of positive traits that can be given at any one time.
So I shall say it again – this time with more confidence….
I AM a good writer, I AM thoughtful, make friends easily, have a warming energy, I AM pretty funny and I AM beautiful.
Far too many times I’ve placed debilitating restrictions on myself so not to stand out. Not only to protect my feelings but the feelings of others too. Well, it’s obviously my role to manage other people’s level of discomfort – right? Not in the slightest. That would make me a control freak, trying to manage someone else’s emotions. Ain’t got time for that.
So who are you? How do you show up? What are your positive I AM’s? When is the last time you celebrated who you are?
I want to thank the pupils of the Memusi School for participating fully and teaching me way more than I could teach them. For Sally for suggesting I teach a personal development class. For Sarah and Lissa for being the best support ever and for teacher Ishmael for allowing me steal his class and for translating my Yorkshire into Swahili.
I finally want to thank myself for being me and doing a good job of it.
Love Emma x
If you enjoyed this read, please feel free to celebrate it with a like or a share.
To read more about my adventures in Kenya – visit some of my other posts: