Have you ever been so passionate about something that you just wanted to tell the whole world about it and have every single person jump in with you? But even with all this passion, you just weren’t quite sure how to start or where to go next?
When I was 13 years old, I went on my first trip abroad to Mexico. I remember this feeling of excitement, passion, and fire that I had in this eye opening experience. Every day we would wake up at 6:30 AM, hop on a bus, and travel for hours to villages and schools. By the end of the week, we had talked to hundreds of individuals, heard their stories, and brought hope and resources they needed. One day, I specifically remember meeting a woman with deep love that pierced through her dark, brown eyes as she told me about her 3 year old son and new baby coming into the world very soon. She was a single mother, without a job, and without a support system to help bring the resources she needed to grow towards empowerment. As we sat there and learned about one another, and encouraged each other, she took my hand and placed it on her round and perfect belly. Right in that moment is when I felt the kick of a baby for the very first time. Wow. She looked right into my eyes and said _“Gracias. Somos bendecidos” (“Thank you. We are blessed”). _This one, seemingly, tiny moment stirred up something inside of my soul. I realized that I wanted to become an advocate for women abroad.
I wanted to be able to bring resources to them and aid them in empowerment. I wanted to see them grow in their specific roles as women, empowering them to assist others in their communities. I had all these ideas and dreams, but didn’t know how to get other people motivated or inspired to start that journey with me. My 13 year old heart desired to send letters to every person I knew, pleading for help. I felt overwhelmed. I felt like I was this tiny little girl, without a voice, without power. Feeling this challenged me and made me stronger. I learned that even though I felt so young, I did have a voice. So I held on to hope and began this journey to help women feel worthy and empowered in their communities around the world.Nowadays, we are just one click away to posting, sending, or videoing our passions and put the words we want out there. But how are we able to get others to join this movement without making someone else feel overwhelmed, burdened, or irritated? How can we motivate and inspire individuals to step into our shoes, advocate with us, and see the need that we see in so many areas of society?
Joseph Folkman, a behavioral statistician who covers evidence-based improvement, developed a theory that anyone has the ability to develop the behavioral skill of inspiring and motivating others. Folkman found 6 reliable approaches that leaders tend to use. You can choose to grow all or maybe just a few, but I hope that we can put our own spin on them as we are building ourselves as advocates:
You have the vision. You see the need. Hold on to it! For example, you may have the desire and passion to serve local foster youth or travel abroad to work in an orphanage…people need a vision to follow and a solution to hold on to. Because you have this vision and solution, you are able to offer this to others!
Be you, and be the BEST version of you. We may have the “wake up at 6 am, messy hair, drinking coffee” us. We may all also have the “woman in us who is mindful, participates in self-care, takes interest in others, loves and supports, and is sacrificial and compassionate.”…Think about what the best version of you is and how that is needed in your advocacy! Understanding the fact that creating genuine and positive relationships can be a major step in helping others advocate with you. Maybe a friend is also doing something you are interested in. We as leaders are meant to help and support one another. Enhancing these relationships is key!
You are the driver. Be focused and keep yourself accountable. Surround yourselves with others who can help you keep pushing on. There may be times where you feel like there is no hope. You may be planning a trip coming up and you are trying to build a team to go with you, but no one has signed up yet. You may even be trying to send messages of hope for individuals with depression and anxiety, but you haven’t had any responses. Hold on to the wheel! Your support system will be there for you to fall back on when you’re tired and give you strength to fight! You can do it and you have what it takes!
We talked about being you and being the best version of you. The best version of you means doing things the right way. People are watching all the time, even when we aren’t aware of it. We may come into contact with other individuals who ask something of us that we know is not ethical, but it may feel much easier going with their method. Doing things the right way may be difficult at first, but be encouraged that you will see the reward in the long run.
Grasp on to the confidence and energetic passion you are exerting. Make your positivity contagious and upbeat. I once heard this advice from a friend: Be a Scroll Stopper. We know that social media is booming these days and this could be a first step into expressing your enthusiasm! Make your social media platform a scroll stopper. Create words and pictures in a way that will make others stop and focus on the message you want them to notice. Deposit this enthusiasm in other’s lives daily and they may begin to feel it, too!
Know the facts. Know the organization. Research and stay on top of current events. Prepare yourself to answer difficult questions. There may be individuals who don’t believe this organization needs advocacy or justice. You will be pushed in different ways, but stay strong. Hold on to what is true. Respect others who will argue with you, and help them understand and know what is needed. You may get a new follower of your causeUnderstanding the different ways we can motivate and inspire others is the first step in growing a following. It takes time, effort, and courage…Be encouraged. By simply standing and advocating in your movement, you are making a difference for others. And, never forget, you have what it takes.
Photos by Emma Fineman