by  Jaya Hiranandani   @mshiranandani
Last week, I opened my Twitter after a few weeks (two weeks of Spring Break followed by a week of online learning at work can do that to you) and found that I was tagged in an important post by #WomenEd about their 7th birthday celebration with some amazing people.

So like any normal human, I retweeted the original, and added this message:

My 1st year as (a) WomenEd lead has been a year of immense growth & courage! The birthday event is at midnight here but I'll be there in my purple shawl with a purple drink (red wine or grape kombucha) in hand feeling grateful that WomenEd, conceived by 7 courageous women, was born!

#WomenEd, never the one to miss an opportunity to make you think further and beyond, asked this question:

May we ask in what ways your courage has grown?

When I saw the question, I thought I should write about the radio show I hosted this year, the holistic-health-focused podcast I am starting and the new EdTech lead position I have at my school now, but a tiny inner voice said that these are just external by-products of some deeper internal shifts. I find that noticeable positive changes in our lives happen as a result of the personal growth set in motion years prior. What's more is that each of these external changes sets in motion new gears causing further accelerated growth.

Case in point: in 2018, I took a difficult life-changing decision in my personal life. People saw a woman who could make a tough decision but not the fact that the wheels were put in motion eight years earlier when I made a conscious choice to prioritise my own happiness (funnily, it still sounds a wee bit selfish to me when I say this.)

Happiness is a subjective concept, and one person's source of happiness can be another person's cause for doom and gloom. 

Prioritising my happiness forced me to define my values, because I needed to think about, "What makes me happy?" 

One of the values that really spoke to me was authenticity. I started on a journey to what I call 'matching my inside to my outside'- having my actions, behaviour and attitude reflect who I really am.

I declared authenticity as my #WordOfTheYear on Twitter that year and that journey led me to Brené Brown's work on vulnerability. I saw her TED talk within months of its release and it hit a chord. Her work helped me move above and beyond authenticity towards the mystifying concept of vulnerability.

In her Ted Talk, Brené talks about this counterintuitive concept that courage comes from being vulnerable

Who would have thought? This idea was radical enough to almost give Brené Brown herself a nervous breakdown, make her Ted Talk go viral and shake the very foundations that good leadership was supposed to be standing on. The way I see it, she paved the way of "soft" skills becoming mainstream, real skills. It precipitated the turnaround in the perception of the hallmarks of leadership from aggressive yang energy to vulnerability, courage and "being in the arena."

So circling back to #WomenEd's question: In what ways has my courage grown?

More and more, I find myself standing in my own truth and not being afraid to speak it. 

A lot of women have been excellent role models, and they have shown me that you can speak your truth calmly and still be heard. My interview with Vivienne Porritt for my Teacher's Talk Radio show was one of those inspirational instances. Vivienne is one of the founders of #WomenEd and its Chair. She speaks with clarity and confidence while being grounded in humility and her truth - what a magical combination!

Also, I seem to be hitting the sweet spot between listening to my head and following my heart more and more now. 

Life brings us choices and dilemmas every single day. 

It used to be difficult for me to make decisions as a mother, teacher, empath and people-pleaser. Now, I try to look at the facts of the situation as objectively as I can, weigh out my choices and choose the one that aligns with my values and that I think will be the most beneficial to all parties concerned. The bravery here is to know that I will make some "wrong" choices and to still make them. It's scary but I remind myself that I am doing the best I can, and if something goes awry, I will use it as a lesson in humility, productivity and growth.

#WomenEd has also been one of the influences in changing the way I see networking

Networking used to be a dirty word for me as I used to see it as a friendship for convenience or worse, with ulterior motives of taking advantage of other people. I now see it as a reflection of the way the universe functions- there is a constant give-and-take and conversion of energy in the physical and metaphysical world around us. Networking is a conscious choice to be of service to others without expecting something in return and to receive graciously from others when we need help and support.

I have been the receiver of so much positivity in the #WomenEd community: 

  • Vivienne, who agreed to do an interview with me even though she did not know me
  • Jess, Katie, Karly and Jacqui who shared so much about their experience as #WomenEd leads in Asia
  • Natasha Hilton for participating in #WomenEd Taiwan's online event on a busy Saturday
  • and most of all, Jess and Jessica, my partners in crime at #WomenEd Taiwan, with whom I have hosted some fabulous events this year.

Finally, I have developed the courage to see myself and others as imperfect humans with our own personal narratives.

During our first #WomenEd Taiwan event, we somehow ended up removing the tables to the side and sitting in a circle. It was a moving experience as person-after-person spoke about their struggles and triumphs in their current or future journey in education.

As we hold space for each individual's narrative, we start to weave the warps and wefts of our collective story as women and as humans. 

When we unveil our judgements, we become open and curious; we stop being puzzled by people and start putting the puzzles of their personality - all the whole and fragmented, benevolent and selfish, outgoing and reticent parts of them - together.

There you have it - the ways I think I have become braver in the past year and the part #WomenEd has played in it.


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