• Kat

The Essence of Leadership

2 days ago, I hosted a (virtual) conference for the very first time: Mind Over Matter for my mental health club and organization, My State of Mind. It was such a wonderful delight to have listened and moderated the speaker workshops regarding all things mental health and wellness. It was surely a difficult task to have Zoom operate smoothly throughout the entire program conference, but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way. I’d like to give a huge thank you to all attendees who came through, and I hope you all learned valuable insight on how to become advocates for your own selves! <3


In the next 2 days, I am graduating with the United Nations Millennium Fellowship program. And this past weekend, I am ecstatic to have just found out that I will be speaking at a conference in January 2022. (More details on that later in future blog posts!)


And now, this moment marks a new beginning where I will be a REALMINDED ambassador, which is a “community-centered platform and brand that focuses on breaking down stigmas, normalizing mental health, and embracing human existence.” I decided I would become an ambassador because of how raw and real the platform is; by sharing our own stories, mental health destigmatization may further be amplified through the power of genuine self-expression.


All of these rewarding experiences have brought to my awareness what LEADERSHIP really means...



 

In light of the theme of sharing our personal stories, I would like to share a snippet of my own story of how I got into my current college: University of California, Davis. In one of the four essays for UC admission, here is one of the question prompts I answered:


Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes or contributed to group efforts over time.


Inside the hospital bedroom lies the sick patient, looking intently at me. I sing the words to the song that warms my heart, to the music my mind loves, and the rhythm my body grooves to. While this old soul rests, I see their eyes light up with joy.


“The sun reminds you that everyday’s a second chance,” I ardently sing. The corners of their mouth ascend to their thin cheeks.


As my finger touches the last string of my ukulele to ring out the last note of the transcendent melody, I finish with a sense of optimism. I look deeply into their eyes, which become coated with clear water. Tears descend upon their now rosy cheeks.


“Thank you for giving me hope,” they softly say.


For the past four years, volunteering at Kaiser Permanente Hospital has been life-changing. As a part of Acoustic Remedies, I never realized how wonderful music therapy can be. This program has given me an outlet to use my songwriting skills to comfort those who need it the most.


Every single Friday, I would visit several departments in search for troubled patients who I can sing to. From tiny toddlers in onesies with toys to the elderly with reading glasses and books, I sang the songs I felt that they would relate to or appreciate the most. Adjusting the musical pieces accordingly to the type of audience listening also developed my skills in performance and stage presence. With these skills, I soon created connections with the doctors and nurses, for they would ask me to play an upbeat song for them during their busy work days.


With this opportunity, I believe that I have become a leader for inspiration. I felt responsible to brighten up at least one person’s day, everyday. No matter what background someone comes from, being an inspiring leader means spreading the most love and support that one can ask for. It means using your talents and skills to improve a community during times of pain. Ultimately, I have reframed my idea of successful leadership to having one single trait: kindness.

 

Leadership is more than just individual power over a large group and directing them towards one’s personal benefit. Rather, it is about listening and guiding all voices towards a common goal through one’s own mindful actions, empathy, and compassion. It is about being confident and assertive in one’s own decisions that stem from the acceptance and consideration of all backgrounds.


Though there are many ways to be a leader, perhaps the most effective approach of doing so is through leading by example. And as stated in my essay, leading with kindness will lead to the most effective advocacy and activism for any cause.


Through their own passion, ambition, and work ethic, all great leaders share a common cause: to inspire.

By inspiring others, we lift others. By lifting others, we rise together. And by rising together, we create the domino effect to true, positive, and impactful social change.


Participating in the music therapy volunteer program at Kaiser Permanente throughout high school paved the way for this exact type of work that makes me feel truly committed, excited, and alive. In retrospect, that was the beginning of my passion for mental health, even though I did not know it yet at the time. Rather, I went into UC Davis as a nutrition major because of my love for veganism as a sustainable way of living. Now, I feel guided towards where I am meant to be going. I am becoming my own leader in the smallest ways.


You can become a leader in the smallest ways by first tuning into your own needs.


Who were you before the world told you who you should become?


When you largely place your focus on your external environment and temporary surroundings, you lose track of your internal self. When you largely place your focus on your internal self, you connect back with who you truly are and who you are meant to become. And by prioritizing your own internal self, you become indestructible.


No one is perfect. We are all human. This is not to say that having insecurities and not fully loving yourself is unacceptable. In fact, complete self-love is not essential for a good life. In actuality, good life is simply making the most of what you have. And when you focus on the good, the good gets better.


Whether you know it or not, you have already positively impacted someone in the smallest of ways. These are ways that may seem trivial for you, but it may be a dream for another. Because you never know how someone is truly feeling or what they are deeply going through in the brief moment of your small action: a hand-wave to someone indicating recognition from far away, the smile towards a stranger, a quick but thoughtful text to someone you haven't seen in a while, or offering donation of your time or effort to a minute task. It can be as simple as that to move someone towards a better place. You unknowingly create positive change through your own daily acts of kindness. How beautiful is that?


Your awareness has the power to create belief. Beliefs about yourself have the power to create value. And when you value yourself, when you trust yourself, and when you see how worthy and beautiful and loved you are, your radiance and energy will have the power to move others, little by little. Slowly but surely, your own trust, self-love, and confidence within your internal self will emerge as the true capacity to change the world.


It all starts with you.


Trust in the self will lead others to trust in themselves.


Respecting yourself will act as a model to guide others to respect themselves. Eventually, respect expands into love. Now that, is how I define leadership.


Let us make World Kindness Day, every single day.



 

Sending much love to all and thank you for reading! I’m going to wrap up this blog post with some fun features I have recently been a part of:


Linked HERE is my connection to body image and nutrition in my school newspaper article, the California Aggie. Please for important messages regarding self-care, body image, and mental health!


Linked HERE is my secret song on Spotify that I wrote 5 years ago about the importance of HOPE!


Linked HERE is more about the REALMINDED platform I am now an ambassador for!

- Kat

IG: @plantifullylivin

@katrinazara


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