Following the success of the inaugural Be Awesome Festival pilot on Saturday the 23rd of May 2015, Sarah Ah Loy from the Dream Team takes a moment to look back on the twelve week journey and what it meant to her.
In the very early stages of the Be Awesome Festival, we sent a poll out to our community and asked which life lesson they would most like to pass onto an 8-10 year old child. We received over 100 responses and the second highest-scoring lesson with 11% of the vote was:
Upon reading these words, I felt shivers run through my entire body and was instantly compelled to dive into the creative process of designing this challenge with my awesome dream team buddy Hannah.
As a Behavioural Science student and Wellness Coach, I have an absolute passion for human behaviour, I love supporting people to better understand who they are, their daily struggles and why they choose the things that they do.
When Christian did a call out for volunteers to help him create the Be Awesome Festival for 8 – 10 year old children, I jumped at the chance. Christian and I met several years ago after experiencing some very powerful self-development workshops. Christian fast became a close friend and confidante, someone whose support and wisdom I value dearly. We had a bucket load of fun in previous years with the Be Awesome Blog and creating Random Acts of Awesome, and I felt in my heart that this new dream was the most awesome of all.
I was equal parts delighted and apprehensive when Christian suggested I take the Challenge Design position on the Be Awesome Festival Dream Team. Having little experience in this arena before I had a few niggling self doubts creeping in.
Coloured paper, plasticine, post it notes and a bucket load of imagination was what we needed to get rolling. I was amazed at just how much explosive creativity emerged from within each of us in such a short amount of time.
After Christian facilitated several creative design workshops, drawing on the collective creativity from the entire team, the bones of 3 challenges emerged which embodied the key life lessons voted for by the community.
To begin with I dove into the project all guns blazing, I was pumped, motivated, eager and ready to be part of something much bigger than me. I was totally on board for creating the most amazing pilot festival of all time!
The project began at the same time as the university semester did and as the weeks began to roll by and the intensity began to mount up, I began facing a few challenges of my own. The one thing I was completely unprepared for was just how hard this validation lesson was going to smack me right in the face.
It wasn’t until we were about 6 weeks into the project that the validation mirror began to reflect it’s very powerful message.
Working on the project was like something I had never experienced. Everyone was encouraged to bring their strengths to the table, explore their creativity, be themselves, reach out for support when needed and no matter how big or small your contributions were you were richly validated and appreciated for it. A fantastic example of a flourishing working environment emerging in the 21st century.
Until this moment in time, I was blissfully unaware of how deeply ingrained the “people-pleaser” was within me. A deeply entrenched yearning to be needed by others. In this environment I was recognising for the first time that my decision-making was largely motivated by the amount of external validation I could receive in return for my labour. In the early stages I was saying YES a lot, not because I genuinely had the capacity or skill to perform the task but perhaps to persuade this new group of people to need and like me. What was even more confronting was that I was using this external validation like some kind of drug, dependent on it to top up my depleting reservoirs of worthiness because I didn’t know how to love and validate myself first.
I felt like a fraud. Here I was trying to design a fun and interactive challenge for 8 – 10 year old children that embodied this validation lesson…and yet I was completely unable to do this for myself. I began questioning my choices, the people-pleasing role that I had been playing all my life and even more urgently my motivation for joining the Be Awesome Festival Dream Team. Was I in it for the children, for the experience, to learn and grow or was I in it to top up my depleted worthiness tank?
The truth is that I was in it for all of these reasons and when I recognised my dependency on external validation, I felt sick. I didn’t know what to do about it. I saw my addiction for the first time and I was frightened of it. I did the first thing I knew how to do and ran away.
For a few weeks I attended our group meetings in body but I had disappeared in spirit. I withdrew myself energetically from the team quickly and without much of an explanation. I felt ashamed, uncertain and a bit lost. I was unsure how to be in the world if I wasn’t there to please others. All I knew was that I had to find myself and anchor my two feet back on the ground and embrace all that this lesson had to teach me.
I had to learn how to love and validate myself, a timely lesson 34 years in the making!
There is a big difference between feeling intrinsically validated and seeking it externally. What I discovered during this process of trying to differentiate between the two was that the subtlety exists in the way my body responded to my actions. For me I felt it in my stomach. When I was seeking validation externally, my actions would come from an outwardly confident place, yet internally existed an uncertainty and nervousness. A sense of neediness and desperation waiting for someone to recognise me or acknowledge me for what I was doing.
In seeing this I recognised that I had a personal responsibility to fill this void within me first. My worthiness was no-one else’s responsibility and relying on a transient source of external validation has been somewhat disempowering up until now. In learning to love and validate myself first, it enables me to be of service to others while being grounded in worthiness, honesty and authenticity. The capacity to receive external validation then becomes joyful, and mirrors the feeling within. It can be properly acknowledged and appreciated for what it is, not depended on to feel a sense of connection and belonging in the world.
One of the most humbling experiences gained from working on the Be Awesome Festival was to discover that I am still learning these very basic fundamental life lessons, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
I have always felt more connected to those in their chaos than those in their perfection. Perhaps we don’t need to be experts or to have it all figured out before we can extend our arms out lovingly to help each other navigate this challenging world. Perhaps it’s in our failures, adversity and our struggles that the greatest insights, wisdoms and learning’s can emerge and be shared.
One of my favourite responses made from several of the children experiencing the validation challenge on the day was; “I am AWESOME because I am ME!” This is it, in a nutshell, right? I am awesome because I am me, not for what I can do or what I can achieve. Just simply because I am me and being me is enough!
What a gift it has been to have had an opportunity to support young 8 – 10 year olds in developing some tools that they can draw on in the future to face the challenges that lay ahead of them. It has given so much purpose to this worthiness struggle that I have wrestled with over so many years.
A very big thanks to Captain Christian, the children, the parents of the children, the Dream Team and to all the supporters that took a risk and helped make the inaugural Be Awesome Festival pilot a reality. I am truly grateful for this experience; this platform holds so much value for anyone who steps into it. I cannot wait to see how these empowered young humans and the Be Awesome Festival develop in the years to come.
Sarah has a keen passion for the body-mind connection and the scientific discoveries that underpin human behaviour. She is currently studying a duel degree: Bachelor of Behavioural Science (Psychology) and Bachelor of Exercise and Movement Science at Queensland University of Technology.
When she is not immersed in her academic pursuits, Sarah coaches a variety of clients from young children through to adults at Fusion Wellbeing. A wellbeing centre supporting people to enhance their health through movement, personal training and self-care practices.
As well as her quirky passion for neurons, emotions, fear and stress…. she loves to be awesome, connect, dance, laugh and have a bit of fun.