Gold Award Girl Scout describes experience mixing with activists from around world
Maya Hegde took part in Inclusive Global Leadership Institute at Denver University
I was recently very lucky to get the opportunity to spend two days at the 2022 Inclusive Global Leadership Institute (IGLI). Here, activists from around the world gather to share ideas and advice to re-energize and push their movements to the next level. While the movements and campaigns vary from each activist, I noticed some common themes that I believe are valuable lessons for everyone as they face new challenges, adversity, or want to stand up for what they truly believe in.
“Witnessing the activists interact and share their experiences and advice was inspiring. The energy in the room completely changed the second day compared to the first day as everyone got to know each other more. ”
The first thing I learned is that imposter syndrome is very real, even among the most impressive and accomplished people. The activists who come to IGLI are some of the bravest and most inspired people I have met. Their accomplishments include TED Talks, op-eds in well known papers, and several even risk imprisonment, threats, and torture for standing up for what they believe in. During the introductions on the first day, I noticed that the participants often said that they couldn’t believe they were a part of this group and felt as if they didn’t fully belong or measure up to the rest of the group. As an observer, I felt amazed that this sentiment was shared and so ingrained within the group. What I got out of this, however, was that this feeling is completely normal and is actually common. I think this is vital because as we transition from high school to college or are in a newer environment, feeling like an imposter or feeling small is normal, and even if it seems like a big deal, it is not something that should hold you back or define you. Everyone experiences imposter syndrome.
The next takeaway that I got is that anger is powerful and can become a positive influence. Anger was definitely a common theme during my two days since a lot of activists start out because they are angry at the system they have experienced. So often, anger, especially in women, is classified as “hysteria” or emphasized as a negative aspect that could derail a movement. The women at IGLI taught me that anger is power because it can illustrate the injustices in a government or system. Anger can help drive the energy, but it is important to manage anger and have ways to cope to avoid burnout. I really believe this is important to mention because as we enter new phases of our lives, sometimes new experiences can bring out different emotions or reactions within ourselves that we may not have had before, and knowing that this energy can be used in a positive way can really help.
The final takeaway I learned and got to witness was that community is vital. Witnessing the activists interact and share their experiences and advice was inspiring. The energy in the room completely changed the second day compared to the first day as everyone got to know each other more. I realized that community, especially in the context of activism, is so important because it comes with an aspect of understanding. Although each activist had a different campaign that they were passionate about, a lot of their experiences and feelings were shared.
These commonalities allowed for compassion and empathy, and this created a space for the participants to re-energize in an environment where their sacrifices and efforts were acknowledged. I believe this is so critical because it can be applied to everyday life. Surrounding yourself with people who understand and believe in you but aren’t the exact same as you can help you to grow and expand your comfort zone.