It’s time to Meet The Team! In this series, the FMF Campus Organizers will talk a little bit about ourselves and also give you valuable organizing advice that we’ve picked up along our ways. Oh, and we’ll show you lots of photos of ourselves. Because that’s important.
Let’s be real: I think most people could agree that junior high is just a bizarre time in life. But for me, it was also pivotal.
In 8th grade, I was little, mousy, and quiet. I didn’t consider myself smart or particularly interesting. I spent a good chunk of my time on computers trying to code lame personal websites. A geography teacher I had that year required us to ask questions every day as a part of the curriculum. Meanwhile, I was terrified to talk in front of my classmates. Ever. It felt like punishment for shy kids. But once I started doing it more often, it became easier, and then I started to like raising my hand. Eventually, I was awarded student of the month – and it was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged my capability to be a smart person. A smart girl.
That’s about the time I became a feminist. I didn’t have the words for it until I was 16, but I took pride in being smart. I recognized that it was something a lot of people didn’t expect, especially from someone so quiet. As a teenage girl in the tech world, I often felt that my help was undervalued; I wasn’t expected to be good with computers and I didn’t like forcing myself to tell people that I was. Now, my 22-year-old self is the result of years forcing myself out of my comfort zone: sticking up for myself, asking questions, and asking for help. I’m still an introvert; and I like that. I’ve learned to speak up when I feel it’s necessary but I don’t have to change who I am to appease anyone. That’s the most important thing that feminism has taught me.
As Susan Cain says in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking:
Stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.
The challenging part, though, about wanting people to perceive you as a competent and strong leader is that you tend to avoid asking for help. And as an introvert, it can be even worse. As a strong leader, you have to practice involving other activists in your organizations; they’re your backbone and without them there is no movement. Feminism can never be a one-woman show. We have to share our unique ideas and bring our diverse perspectives into the mix. That’s the beauty of it. But what happens when you need to find someone to help you and the hardest part is striking up the conversation? What happens when you have a question, but you’re still afraid to raise your hand? Simple: if you’re in overwhelming situations with new people, just try to find other introverts in the room. Make genuine & long-lasting connections with them. You don’t have to meet everyone in the room when you’re networking or reaching out or promoting your cause, but make sure you get a few reliable contacts. Talk about issues you’re passionate about if you run out of things to say, and know the entire time that the focus is on the professional – on the cause, on the organization – and not on you. If that’s too much, recruit someone who likes face-to-face stuff and bring them with you as the ultimate organizing wing-person. And always remember that if the scariest part is saying “hello,” it’s the part which ends the fastest once you finally do.
Overall though, my number one organizing tip is to be you. Be proud of everything about you. That’s what will make you the best leader, and that’s worth the occasional stage fright of having to do the hard stuff to get there.