To lean in, there must be enough room

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has advised millions to ‘lean in’. It’s the only way to have your voice heard at the table. But many do not make it to the table because there is ‘not enough room’.

I am not in business as such, but understand the business of ‘competition’. The healthiest form of competition is with yourself because it means you focus wholeheartedly on you; your goals, dreams, ambitions, well-being, and personal development. And it is only when you help yourself that you can truly help others.

So, focus. Focus on your inner self and well-being, your skills and how to keep improving them, your struggles and how to overcome them, and your triumphs and how to celebrate them.

Throughout my career, helping myself to help others has always been intertwined. Much of my drive to excel in media arises from the desire for a bigger platform for people’s stories. When I presented on Zee TV, I took live calls on-air while interviewing experts and talking about topics considered taboo such as homosexuality, relationships, women empowerment and homelessness.

When I gained media attention for standing as one of the first ever, and youngest, candidate for the Women’s Equality Party, I knew it was my moment to shine a light on the issues women face and to really try to make a difference.

And when people approach me for help, I try to make it easier for them because I have worked hard to be where I am today. I went to a state school so had no contacts in media. I found my own work experience placements, had to decide the route for myself, and build my own network of people I trust, who I now am able to suggest to others.

So let’s debunk the well-regarded notion of competition. I never think that someone will advance ahead of me if I help them because I believe there is a single path for each of us. We may take a different route and make choices that lead us down different avenues. But even that path will take us where we are meant to be.

One of my favourite quotes encapsulating this sentiment by Paulo Coelho goes: ‘with every step we take, we arrive’. When we step forward, the universe meets us halfway. And no matter what decision we make, we arrive exactly at the point in life we’re meant to be.

The fear of someone reaching the top is an irrational one. Let me ask you: what is the top? Personally, I know I’ll never reach it, whatever it is, because there are no limits to what I can do. I am not going to reach a ‘top’ because I am going to keep on going.

Some of the work outlined above has been done in my 26 years since birth. How do I even know what the top looks like yet?!

Whether you are younger or older than me, neither of us really know what the top looks like. So how do we know that by helping others they’ll reach it first? There is no top. There is no competition. Life isn’t a linear sequence of events. We all move around – different schools, jobs, boyfriends, houses, and maybe even husbands!

And there is room to move for all of us. The idea that there is no enough room, either by yourself or others, is a perception.

In one of my previous workplaces there would be a meeting for all the Heads, each with their own place at the table. I was not a Head by a far stretch. But every day, I stood at the table, in the same place, and not only made room for myself but others made room for me. Others involved and talked to me. It would’ve appeared that there was not enough room but there was. And only then was I able to ‘lean in’.

Have you ever stood on a packed train, squeezed in and have nothing to hold? You think you will be fine because you are all jammed and then the train moves and you fall. There is always more room than you perceive – for yourself and for others.

So let us realise together, we are not standing on a single ladder, but in fact we are standing on a room called earth and there is enough room for all of us.