Week 23: Chair’s Blog – Fallibility, vulnerability, honesty and support

Last week I explored our own responsibility for checking in on ourselves as well as looking out for others. But there is another side to this which was alarmingly exposed this week during the play I have been performing.

For the first time in countless productions that I’ve been in, one of the actors collapsed on stage after losing her way early on. We closed the curtain and ran to her aid. After checking in carefully with her it was agreed with her that we would restart the play with her script in hand.  She’s an experienced actor and other performances had gone well and the following night, fully rested, she was exceptional without the script; it was reassuringly tucked in her stage handbag.

But for me it highlighted the warning signs we must all be aware of from time to time when we take on a multitude of things. To be honest I thought there but for the grace of God go I!

I also mentioned last week that we were struggling a bit with sorting out the hustings that we had committed to arranging. After approaching several people, I was delighted to find an ideal facilitator to help support the Wimbledon hustings in Diana Sterck (CEO at Sustainable Merton and former CEO at Merton Chamber of Commerce). Hopefully you will have seen our emails or social media postings but this is now planned for the evening of 24 June (7.30 start) at Merton Arts Space – the back of Wimbledon Library: https://bit.ly/WimbHust

At the time of writing, we are still hoping to do one for the Mitcham and Morden constituency at Vestry Hall on 27 June, also with Diana at the helm. We will update on that as soon as possible.  Diana is calling in help from her colleagues at Merton Friends of the Earth (FoE) and Sustainable Merton to work with us – she had worked with the FoE team before running one in 2019.

One of the things that has become very apparent to me during this quite busy and challenging period is that we all need to acknowledge our own fallibility and vulnerability at times.

When things are going well, people can sometimes think they’re superhuman, multitask and can manage anything. Indeed, we sometimes set ridiculous expectations of ourselves and then reinforce that by setting those same expectations on the people that we elect to lead us. We all want to appear strong and in control. From an early age we are conditioned to fit in and show that self-control in public. We often expect our leaders to be the same – only even more so.

But being prepared to expose our own vulnerabilities is perhaps the greatest strength of all.  Knowing when to step back, call in help, take some time out and recharge those batteries actually shows real courage. And honesty.

What I am increasingly looking for now is that honesty and humility to own up to one’s own limitations and frailties. I applaud hard work in trying to achieve things but being aware enough to recognise when you’re reaching burn out or need support is really important too.

My (separated) wife will tell you that I have always been terrible at taking holidays – I used to take my laptop away with me quite often to finish things and it would always take me a few days to destress. It used to wind her up terribly. So, I write from bitter experience.

I’m still learning my lessons and delving into my own personal driving force even now. When we elect our new members of parliament in the weeks to come, it is perhaps worth remembering that whilst we want them to work hard, be committed, reliable and trustworthy, they are human too. For me anyway it’s the values that drive that along with a sense of their own vulnerability that I think I’ll be looking at most of all.

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