The Leadercast Podcast
The Leadercast Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

33. Luvvie Ajayi on Being Authentically You


Courage, authenticity, vulnerability, and... introversion?


This combination of traits does make a great leader, even though it’s probably not the first association most of us have with leadership.


We talked to Luvvie Ajayi--writer, speaker, self-described “professional troublemaker”, and upcoming speaker at Leadercast Women, about how she stays authentic while keeping aligned with her social media persona.


What we talked about:

  • What it means to be courageous
  • Why you can’t control people’s opinion of her
  • Being an introverted leader
  • The need for more people to be vulnerable publicly


Check out the full podcast with Luvvie Ajayi by clicking here.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts as your audio player, you can also find every episode at this link.

This is the leader cast podcast, helping you be a leader worth following. Hey, welcome to another episode of the leader cast podcast. I'm Camia Williams and today were excited to be joined by Lovey Agi in New York Times best selling author of I'm judging you, the do better manual. She's also a speaker and podcaster. In this episode I talked with lovely about where her courage comes from, if there's a time she felt she couldn't be herself, and why is being vulnerable important? In more love you will join us on our stage and leader cast women event on October eighteen. But before we get into this episode, Here's a quick at about leader cast women. Leader cast women is an inspirational one day leadership event featuring renowned female leaders. Male and female audience members alike leave leader cast women with the tools they need to be leaders worth following. Attend the event live in Atlanta or at a host site near you. To learn more, visit women DOT leader castcom. Hey, levey, hi, it's so good to have you on. I'm glad to be on and we're really excited to have you join us this yere on our leader cast women stage. It's going to be a good time. I'm looking forward to it. Yes, and our theme this year is take courage, which I think is something you have a lot of, and you even refer to your self as the professional troublemaker. So I'm like, okay, that is like the crincle point to like being encouraged. So I want to know where does your courage stem from? I don't know. I think I don't spend a lot of time doubting myself and I think that in itself is a type of courage, because I think we're just so used to questioning ourselves and how we're going to basically take up in the world and how we move through the world that we ended up it means we end up taking ourselves out the game before the game we can starts. Absolutely, so I think my courage is really just me and sure that I am not spending too much time beat myself up. Absolutely, I feel like that shows through your essence and your essence kind of radius authenticity and you are unapologetically yourself and I think that people appreciate that about you less I know I appreciate that about you. So we're you always that way or did it? Did you have to like change your mindset over time in order to be authentically yourself. I think I've always been that way in that well, I've always been somebody who wasn't necessarily questioning everything about herself. It's because I just felt like it wasn't the good use of my time. Like I was a kid who wasn't necessarily am I smart? Yeah, I mean objectively I was like, well, I'm getting a so'm okay, but I think there's times in the world where we have to unlearned the things that the world says we are or says we aren't, so which is like good enough. Kind of have to it's a practice to insist on being who you are. It's not just a foregone conclusion that you could be this person. You basically have to ignore a whole lot of inputs that saying, Hey, I need you to change who you are to be acceptable. So I think over time I've kind of just dug my heels in and watch then notice that, even in the moment when you try to bend yourself backward to what feels like what other people want, if never enough. So I kind of logically was just like, if you can ask attempt to be somebody else. So be different who you are and people might still not accept you. Then just make your life easier and to see who you are and then whether they accept you or not, it's still up in the air, but at least you're not wasting your time and using using your time to like try to show up as a representative of yourself. I think I kind of applied logics with in that way. I was like, okay, if people might not... me, even if I try to be somebody different, that I'm going to need try less and make less of the effort and still get the same result. So so why not this be us? That's true, but were you ever in a situation where you felt like you couldn't be yourself? Absolutely, like when, you know, I was born in Nigeria and Kensy lest when I was nine and it was the first time I was ever the new girl who's was the first time I was ever walking in the room and being like who, they're not going to say my name? HMM, so I dropped my first name because I was like they're not going to say it, so let's just go with another name. And my accent was different and you know, when you're nine, being different is actually not that fun. Back then, HM, you're not being like, Oh, let's celebrate our difference, that's our superpower. When you're nine, you kind of want to be like everybody else. So that was a moment when little me was like, okay, I gotta show up different. For funny enough, it wasn't because I said I thought who I was was born. It was because I was just like I just don't have time for what comes with being different like that. I don't feel like dealing with it, so I'm just trying to similate and to save people. I'M gonna try to change the way I talk and make sure my accent doesn't sound so so weird and and add to them. But at no point was I like this person that you are is not good enough. Because so, for example, the other kids would bring sandwiches to school. HMM, you know, if I will have sandwiches, I would bring Joe off rice, which is the food that Nigerians love the most, probably can, and I remember one of the kids being like hey, that smell weird. What is that? And I was like Jos Fright, it didn't make me want to stop eating Je love right, like I didn't stop bringing it to school. I would just like, okay, next time, I just going to stay further away from you, right, so you don't question what I'm doing. Like I wasn't like mom, I wish I had sandwiches like the other kids, because if I said it, she might have sent me to school with Sandwich. I wanted to eat my dog. So I was like, h okay, it's whatever. They don't like the Jeff Rice, I'm still going to eat it. I'm gonna stay for the way from you. So I would say I want people to understand that all of us get the same input, in that we are told that something is weird about us, something that's probably different. Too much, were too much, were to this, for to this, and a lot of times we don't. We haven't been shown what it looks like to be like. Yes, I am different and yes, I am perfectly okay with this, absolutely, because not everybody is comfortable with being themselves and, like jazz, throwing themselves out there. They might be concerned with how the world views them. I mean, do you find yourself struggling with how people see you nowadays, as my career evolved, yeah, people see me different because like when people say things like, Oh my God, you're famous or like Oh my God, you're a celebrity, which basically it may see deeply uncomfortable, and I realize it's because people think because I'm visible, I should be comfortable with that. I'm not. But one thing I've been trying to make sure I don't do is that I don't let visibility change how I show up in the world authentically. Although more people do know my name, I shouldn't use that as a reason to temper my words. I shouldn't use that other reason to now start doubting everything I do, and I think it's kind of like a feudal effort to try to dictate how people will see us. It is a it is a feutiful effort because, again, we can do everything that everyone thinks we should do. We should press a certain way, we should say a certain thing, we should be a certain thing, and it still won't be enough for certain people. Like you. It doesn't matter if you are the kindest...

...person on the face of the earth, that will still be somebody who does not like you, whatever reason. It just is like there's it's a fact. There's nobody who everybody's like, Oh my God, I love them. Know, even the grandest of historical figures their people who don't like them. Yes, so I always want people understand that our job is not to dictate how people feel. Our job is not to make sure everybody likes our job is not to be like never make any enemies because you just do everything right. No, because, again, we can't win that battle. HMM. Our jobs are to be who we are in the way that we are, in the most thoughtful way possible, and hopefully people see us in the way we intend them to. But that part is out of our control and that's okay. We have to be okay with that. Absolutely in finding comfortablity and that now I correct me from wrong, but I feel somewhere in social media past you mentioned that you are introvert. I am, and I think a part of being authentic is, of course, being comfortable with who you are and with the social media world being this content machine, I believe it creates this illusion that you have to be an extrovert to reach people. So I want to know does being a public theater figure or a leader like, what does that look like in the eyes of an introvert? Like how do you find your balance in that. For me, it means that I give most of my energy to people. So, like, ultimately, people tucker me out after a while. Let you so being an introvert is not about being Shoy, it's not about being on social it really is about how we recharge and how we deal with our energy. So some people receive energy from people, like when they're around crowds. That is when they are at their most energetic, that is when they are, you know, feeling fulfilled. ME, when I'm around Crouds, I'm like my energy leaving me. So I'm giving my energy a way, which is fine, because I would do that in that moment, but then I usually have to go and sit in the corner and go recover. So, you know, I love my own company and I I rechards and kind of get my power boost, but I'm by myself, sitting in a room with no noise, just recovering and recharging my energy battery. So that's what it means to be an introvert and for me, but also means is because you can take so much of my energy, I know when I need to tap out of a room. So, like I hit I have a limit. How much people, I call it people in. I have a limit to how much people in I can do before I'm like, okay, and now I have to leave because I've done enough hugs. I'm given enough selfies. And it's tough if you are a if you're somebody who's people see is very social, because right sometimes will expect you in a room to be the person who's bouncing off the walls, who's the life of the party, because they'll see me on social being the you know, sometimes in the life of the Party and yeah, I'm singing and dancing. When I'm in a room and actually in person I'm very calm, like I'm very kind of like I like observing the role. I'm okay, kind of just watching what's going on. I don't have to be the necessarily the person talking. So sometimes people will expect a certain approach to me in that they'll expect me to be super like hier. When they see me mom calmer, they'll be like, oh my gosh, she wasn't that warm. It wasn't that I wasn't being warmed, it was kind of like I was just being kill which is who I really am. Absolutely like when you're guess peopling. You know, how do you do you have like a limitation like this is, I'm only going to do x amount of events this week in order to help you recharge. Yeah, because, let's say I do. Let's I have four speaking engagements that week. A lot of times I'll be back... back. First of all, after each speaking engagement, I'm typically not going out, like I'm not the girl who's like, okay, I just did a thousand person engagement. I just shook all these times, I just signed all these books and then I'm going to go party. I'm not that girl. I'm the girl who's like, okay, great, I just did that, I had an amazing time doing it. I loved meeting everybody. Now I'm going to go sit in my room so I can get back the energy. Right. And then, let's said, do you have multiple seaking engagements that week? The weekend, odds are I'm at home just recovering and playing music and being in my own space and through my own spy day. Yeah, so, because people have this misconception of like what they see on your social media to who you are in a person, do you almost feel like they feel there's an obligation there by you to perform in a sense, as you do on your social media, because they don't know who you react. Yes, yes, they definitely feel. I feel like some people kind of feel that I would be performing and they feel very entitled to me being the person who's out and entertains them. And they laugh because they'll read my words online, like I'll go read a tweet that I said. They'll read my book. But I'm also not a walk in commic comedian, you know. I mean, like I'm not a person who's just cracking jokes like the right the moment you meet me. So I think sometimes people are like, Oh, okay, I thought you'd be like people say, somebody, whople say they thought I'd be taller. I mean even I even show up as taller apparently on social real. Yeah, and I was like that's funny, I'm fine, for I just have tall energy like that, like because of being in the eye. Like I know that sometimes you have to have difficult conversations, whether it's on social media or in person. Like how do you prepare for them, or is there no preparation for that? Difficult conversations regarding what well, difficult conversations, meaning, like if someone approaches you and they expect you to be the lovey they see on social media, like I'm assuming that you would have to tell them like a, I'm just I'm just chill, and I know that sometimes I do. Yeah, sometimes I do have to do that. So, for example, like I'll be eating. I remember recently I came from the airport went straight toist it was an international trip actually at so my flight landed at one. My speaking engagement was that to be forty five. So I had to go right to the airport speak engagement and I had no time to them to go food. So I was like I had my on my team have food waiting for me so I can eat backstage if I take the stage. That this one I hadn't eating elect fifteen hours. I remember backstage I'm sitting there, stuff in my face, like I have five minutes to eat before I have to like be backstage, be on the on the side wings of the stage, and I'm eating and somebody like sees me, love my work and goes, Oh my God, I love your word. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to take a picture and in that moment mind you, I'm still chewing food. I had to be like, Hey, we take a picture after I get off stage because I haven't eaten, so this is my chance to eat. And for me, I had to make that decision because if I didn't honor myself in that moment, I would have gone on that stage still hungry. It's kind of cranky because I've been like actually didn't have a chance to kind of breathe. So yeah, it's important that I still try. I struggle with that still, HMM, in terms of saying no to people in those moments, because when I say no, it can come across as all my gods, she was not nice because she didn't give me the pictures that I went to take. But then also then have to be like hey, when I'm chewing food after a fifteen hour flight, am I avligated to take a picture? MMM, and can I on? Can I trust myself, and I on myself and trust the other person to receive it in the way was intended,...

...which was not to be rude, which is to be opully polite. But they're seeing, but hopefully they're recognizing that, like okay, yeah, let me give her some time. Absolutely that's the unknown territory when it comes to, I guess, being such a public figure and being in the eye, especially when you have supporters who think like it's your job to entertain them. Yeah, but I know that knowing who you are as a person and knowing who you are as a leader can take time. Like, do you do anything now to like nurture your skills? I'm always reading. I am a forever student. I'm always reading and I listen to other people who I see as leaders and see how they, I. Surprise spaces and move through the world and how they handle difficult moment that come with the elevation. So not have an amazing group of friends who also, I can know bouncings up of so I'm always learning. I'm always learning how to be better and how to do better, how to show up better. That is an important tip, you know, basically growth. Everybody should be growing. Like, off the top of your head, like what is like the number one tip you could give our listeners in order to like help them to be more authentic, to help you be more and to, I really think, watch what other authentic people do, watch what other bold people do, yeah, and just kind of see how they move, because I do think that we are empowered when we see other people doing the thing that we want to do. We're empowered when we see other people give the example of what it's like to be who we want to be. So if here's somebody who wants to be bold once then in her truth, follow other people were doing it and they watch them and watch their comfort and hopefully those people can inspire you to do the same. You know, I'm hoping that people see me being who I am, beeing this black woman, this Nigerian woman, who says what she's feeling and, you know, talks about her journey in the transparent way. I'm hoping other people see me and say, well, because she is doing it, I know it's possible for me to. Absolutely I think that with what you do there's a little bit of like vulnerability in it and I think anybody putting themselves out there, it takes vulnerability because you are putting yourself on display, and I want to know what a vulnerability mean to you. And like is how is important to your supporters to be vulnerable, to allow them to see that side of you. Vulnerability is understanding that you're being honest, even in the moment when they're no guarantee that your honesty will be accepted or celebrated or tolerawing. It's, you know, vulnerability is not being vulnerable. If you know, I'll say that's something that will go off well either way. Now that's be vulnerables. Even in the moment when it feels like I'm putting myself at risk for this, I'm still going to do or say what that thing is, and it's really important because I feel like not enough of us are vulnerable publicly. Not Enough of US show what's like to be really transparent and be honest, especially in the tough moments, and it is definitely a big part of my journey because partly reason why my voice stands out to a lot of people, when people really relate to me, because they see me as the person who is saying what they're feeling. But they dare not to say yes, and that's admirable. No. So that's that's huge. It's actually a key thing about me and the voice in the brand that I've built and the reputation that I've built. Absolutely I think that you inspire a lot of people to be more vocal about how they feel about certain things, but I love the about you is that you're also very positive and uplifting. I think that you you are all about making people do better, but you're also trying... make people do better in a good light, like you're not just out here tearing people down, like there's reasons behind what you're doing, and I think that that is like strong thing for people to understand. Special people and leadership, leadership roles, because you have to deal with a varis amount of people, and I was wondering, like, does is that something that you take the heart when you are talking about maybe a social injustice or something along those lines, that you take into heart, like the impact that it might have on the people who follow you? Yeah, I always think about the person who felt like they didn't have a voice and I hope that in the speaking out they're like there's my voice. So when I think, the only thing I think about it. I don't necessarily think about writing for other people, but my intention is to have at least one person be like I wish, that's how I felt. I didn't have the words for it. And if that happens and what I do was good, I think for me, over the years of the one thing that has changed is just that my platform has gotten bigger, and what it means for me is not to change how I speak or how I show up. What it does is it compels me to always be better, because I'm more responsible for more people's like in takes the consumption, I'm more responsible for what I say because now more people are seeing. Absolutely, since you're very comfortable with being yourself, like, at any point did this start to feel like a job, even though this is what comes naturally to you? Does it ever just feel like a job sometimes in terms of from like, shoot, I just want to just be able social media for a week and I have a speaking engagement or something that I have to amplify, that's when I feels like a job. But overall, I mean you know that whole quote of do what you love it you'll never work a day in your life. I think it's completely off day. Even when you do what you love, you are still working, you are still putting in hours and you are still doing something valuable. HMM. Sometimes, even if it's something that she loves, to still burn out on it. So I see clothes like that all the time. When people are like I guess I'm not doing what I love. No, no, you can still burn that. It's like how you love Candy, HMM, and you're like candy so good, I love even candy it is, but if you eat too much candy you want to get a stomach ache or cabby. So it's not that you didn't love this thing. You loved it, but you did too much of it. Right. Same thing is it can feel like work. If I've been like I love writing, that I've just been writing too much. Or, you know, I love speaking, but I've just done seven and four days. So that's when I feel like a job. But I never I never feel like I'm doing the wrong thing. I just feel like, Oh, maybe I he's just kind of recool. Maybe I need to detox to get the energy back, to get the fashion back, and once you get the passion back, then you just go back out doing what you love again. There is to take a break, just take a nap and then go back to give back to it. Take the NAP. So it's kind of important to in a sense, listen to your to yourself, like listen to your mental if it's saying like you need a pause for a second. Just go ahead and and do that. Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with rest. Like it's one of those quotes that's like you sleep, I grind, more like sleep when you die, and I'm always like, those are not productive things to tell people. It's it's glorifying the busiest, glorifying the burnout, it's glorifying the workoholic. That is actually not safe. Free. Yeah, so balance is necessary. Absolutely. I do remember certain someone out there saying like wealthy people don't sleep, but I completely agree. It's such a false narrative. It's like other people speak because now they can buy...

...their time back, because now they can hire more people to do what they were doing. But they can a lot. Yes, get your your eight, your eight hours or your seven eight, and I think that the biggest thing people can learn is to be themselves and but learning who you are as a person, because I think a lot of people may not know who they are right it. May Have a misconception about what they see other people doing and think that that's the only way to do it. Do you have any yeah, for those people who may be thinking like there's only one way to do something, to achieve something, or who may think like who they see social media or all the time is how they have to do it. Yeah, I think just look less. So once you feel like you are clear on what you want to do. Yes, you can look at other people when you're feeling unclear. Sometimes it's kind of when you have to retreat and look into yourself and be like, all right, how am I feeling? What I want to do? Who Am I? Because what's dangerous is letting people dictate who you are too, as opposed to you knowing, and it's not even a sting about finding who you are. It's just it goes back to the whole idea of just not doubting who you are. A lot of people it's not about figuring out like, okay, so, who am I? If the things that compel you, the things that make you feel good, the thing that likes you up, what is that thing? Because that's who you are. What usually happened is we know who we are, but we talk ourselves out of being those people, like we find excuses to not be that person, to not like that thing. Just don't Dat yourself and you'll find who you are incredible. Well, thank you, lovely, for joining me on the leader cast podcast. Thank you for having me. I'm really excited for this. is going to be in the amazing event. I can't wait for you to be here. Can you let the listeners know where they can find you that? Yes, I am all over social media at love e Luvv Iet is my using name on all platforms. My Book, I'm judging that do better manual is available on every bookstore, anywhere the books are being sold. And then I also have a podcast called ranting randomness where, you know, I talked about life, the things that on side eye and having good conversations like this with people who I think are amazing people, who I look too to see how they're showing up in the moments when I'm like, okay, let's get a firm. But yeah, rance randomness is all over, is everywhere, all podcast. I'm everywhere and I love engaging with people, so you can definitely find me on social on any given day. Thank you, Lovey, and thank you listeners. I hope you all enjoyed this episode. Again, if you want to hear lovely speak live at leader cast women on October eighteen, all you have to do is go to women that leader castcom to purchase tickets. Also, be sure to follow us on social media platforms and leader cast and engage with us by using the HASHTAG leader cast podcast. Subscribe to the PODCAST, share, like, can comment. Be Sure to listen in next time for another episode of the leader cast podcast. Thanks for tuning in to the leader cast podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player.

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