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Raising your hand

landscape looking to killearn

It was primary three. Sitting in Mrs Taylor's class. A rabble of noise with a student teacher struggling to control the all the shouting out and waving hands as she asked questions about lemmings.

Mrs Taylor stepped in - quietened everyone with a look, told the enthusiastic answerers that they were all empty vessels making too much noise. She asked me, the only one with my hand down, to answer - and, when I did, she told everyone that they should be more like me. Quiet, diligent, waiting to be called on. Polite.

And so that die was cast, at the age of 7. The never, ever raising my hand. The working away, getting the work done, achieving but never volunteering. Never risking getting it wrong, never putting myself forward.

And I'm sure that there are masses of us, good girls, teachers' pets - still waiting on someone to pick us, to call us up to the front. Waiting.

Every year I re-read Tara Mohr's Playing Big - with its recognition that the skills that steer girls safely through school are the very ones that hamper them in the grown up world. Every re-read I see another way in which I choose to play small.

landscape looking to killearn

This holiday - with its chance for long walks and quiet time - made me realise that a tactic that (arguably) worked 43 years ago is way overdue an overhaul. For the past 30 years there has been no teacher, there has been no-one there to call me up to the board, no one to pick me out. Yet I have stayed in the back row, with my hand down. Waiting.

Last year I decided that it was a year for outreach, for contacting people to tell them what I do, to propose articles I could write, collaborations, to pitch projects to strangers. I really, really struggled. I pretty much just contacted my friends.

Even though I'm confident about what I know, what I design, what I'm creating I keep quiet. Even though I know that people want to hear what I have to say, that magazines have pages to fill and podcasters need interviewees, I pretty much failed to raise my hand.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions - the very making of them almost guarantees me rebelling against my good intentions - but this year I am making a promise to myself. I promise that I shall begin to raise my hand.

I'm not sure how it is going to work - I have a couple of friends who have promised to call me out if they see me loitering quietly at the back. I am working on a wall planner with people to contact and dates to contact them on. I am writing this to put the idea 'out there'.

I would love to hear your tips for how to raise your hand with grace and flair - please put them in the comments.

Comments: 3 (Add)

Nicky on January 3 2019 at 08:44

I guess I have felt much the same until last year when I asked the quilting community to help more with the project I coordinate making quilts for Siblings Together - I asked for help and was overwhelmed by offers from kind, caring, generous people. Not only did I get the help I needed but also huge affirmation that asking for help is the way to get it! Good luck with your hand raising and being in the room. Just try it and see what happens - good stuff is waiting for you I’m sure.

vanessa@thesimpsonsisters.co.uk on January 3 2019 at 12:51

I can very much identify with all this, but what it really make me think of was my first placement as a student nurse when I was heavily criticised by a fierce staff nurse for asking too many questions. On my following placement I was pulled up for not asking enough..... it left me feeling that staying under the radar was the way to feel safe. Sharing my life online has been a challenge, but the rewards are greater and I'm going to keep at it. Perhaps just a little less quietly and hopefully, like you, with grace and flair. x

Jenny on January 3 2019 at 15:22

Thankyou. From your Instagram post I wasn't sure what you meant by not putting your hand up. But your opening paragraph here I can totally relate too. I'm going to explore this a little further I think.

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