live your authentic life. an interview with mavis fernandes.

Can you share a bit about yourself? (A brief introductory bio)

For the second time in my life I am living the immigrant experience; so I think my blood heritage is one of seeker.

I was born in Kenya but grew up in London (UK) of Indian parents. My family life was marked by uncertainty and violence and eventually my father deserted us leaving my mother was to pick up the pieces with nothing but a few clothes and broken furniture.

So, growing up was a rich tapestry of experiences which taught me a lot about the darker side of being human. I recall very early on deciding that my act of resistance would be to exercise personal choice – to say ‘no’ to the shadowlands  created my father and the racist Britain of my formative years. In practice, it meant choosing to live in the light of loving friendships and acceptance of those that are unaccepted.

How do you define authenticity?

Having the courage and tenacity to put a question mark on received wisdom, while always striving to be compassionate for the human condition: a self-loathing arising from our uniqueness while longing for acceptance for the same reason.

Can you describe the path you took to get to the place where you are today? As in, how did you find your calling?

I was an invisible child – or so I thought. But amidst the fear and aggression, there were precious encounters which communicated that I was more – that I inhabited a life of possibility.

Looking back, I’ve never forgotten those guiding hands and now understand that I have sought to repay my debt. As a consequence, it is no accident that I am fascinated by those whom the world disregards, and it gives me subversive delight to help them upend expectations of their worth.

So, for most of my professional life I have been engaged in community development; specifically designing and delivering programs to those from isolated communities who found themselves in leadership positions.

More recently, I took over a failing organisation in London and, with the brilliance and flair of my hand picked team of young people (and against the wishes of the Board), we transformed the organization into a successful and well regarded organisation. The early marquee of failure was a lesson in freedom, for it allowed me to create a framework which enabled young people to discover their leadership path and go on to be the change in the world. More specifically, I realized early on that I was recruited so that the Board could wash its hands of failure and pin the demise on someone ‘who wasn’t up to the job’ (I don’t outwardly present as Executive Director material!). So the experience of being ‘alone’ was a matter of choice and together we decided seize the day and be fabulous!

Unexpectedly, I discovered that these young people had had an impact upon me that was truly life changing. Over time I’ve realized that they had challenged me to look at my life anew and I discovered a slew of limiting assumptions that encaged my middle years.  I didn’t lead a team of young people: it was a reciprocal dynamic that inspires my quest today.

The world is changing at a frightening pace and virtually every organisation is buckling under the pressure but pretending it isn’t so. However, it seems our complacency is periodically punctuated by scandals and leadership is found to be wanting.  In these moments, our yearning for a new kind of leadership surface. For me it cries out for a collegiate approach that promotes self-leadership as a counter balance to excesses.  It offers opportunities for all to discover ‘More’ in their lives. Young people understand this intuitively, while those in power recoil: and therein lies the nub of my frustration.

For now, my path seems to pointing towards working out how to nurture enough young people, because they will inherit the consequences of failure, with resilience to do what is right. Which in practice means groping towards what learning community should look and feel like.

My hope is that through it they will embed their values and vision by fostering authenticity and integrity within their sphere of influence. What impact will their lives have upon us all?

How does your current career and soulful journey reflect your authentic self?

Well, out of circumstance, mine is a soulful journey at present. The past two years have allowed time to pulverise deeply held beliefs and examine what is buried beneath. Although painful, it is now proving cathartic: finally, I am strong enough to conceive of a Mave that is ‘More’ (maybe always was) and work out how to be at ease with this truth.

I realise my coalescence is thanks to the young people I left behind who gave me a book of thanks as I was emigrating. At the time I flinched at the sentiments but eventually I allowed myself a close examination of my reactions and found incongruence.

In short, I have been finding the courage and ability to fall in love with Myself. It has opened up a new vista whereby universal ‘love’ is replaced with love integrated – by this I mean a chance to discover ‘More’ for me and those I come across. Very exciting…Yeay!

What’s the upshot of all this navel gazing? My soulful journey has taught be two things: reciprocity and balance. Today, being authentic is knowing that by always giving, I never allowed for true authenticity in my relationships: because in the darkest recesses of my psyche, I was always in control. How I managed to deny the truth of a half lived value (Trust) is a revelation. I am, however, excited by what this new insight will bring.

As for balance – I am learning that my darkest hours are invariably my finest. Looking at my (mis)adventures anew I am culling the wisdom buried within. It is exhilarating because finally I have the means to find ease in who I am and have faith that I will become who I am meant to be.

It really is a magical moment because the prospect of a life well lived just got bigger. The trick now is to find synchronicity with those who share an excitement for the possibilities of life and see what magic we create together.

Who inspires and motivates you to continue your path to being your authentic self?

My friend Ange – an astonishing New Zealander who left her friends and family to make her home in London. She chose to adopt a wonderful girl and become a single mother. She is building, brick by brick, the foundations to a life that will be different from the trauma and hurt of the first few years of life.

Ange is forthright, funny and full of straightforward. She has the heart of lion and a fiendish wit – the best antidote to fear.  Best of all she challenges when most would opt to collude.

How do you ensure that you maintain your own authenticity, when often it can be a struggle?
By keeping friends like Ange close because they gate crash any pity party and don’t flinch from exposing my self-justifications with a simple “And what’s your part, Mave?”  I admire these brave souls above all.

However, for the most part it is picking through the morass and working out what integrity means in each situation. If I am honest, I am most challenged when my values are trespassed upon. Then, all I can do is lash myself to a knowing that ultimately, I must account for my actions with those who seek me out when they feel compromised or challenged.

For people struggling to find their own authenticity, what advice can you offer?

Honor YOUR core values by understanding how and why they sustain you. Celebrate where you live them most fully and be kind to yourself for the times when you fail. Furthermore, use your understanding to find your way out of the fear that holds you back by asking:  If I knew I was going to be successful in my life, what would that look and feel like for me?

Most of all, find out exactly why you are utterly gorgeous and completely lovable! In so doing, you’ll discover that the only thing you truly own is your life; and once you have mastery over it – what magic will it unleash?

Finally, develop the self-discipline to ‘Love all, [learn to] trust a few, do no harm’ (Shakespeare).  Along the way, find out what thrills you and make that your path. Oh, and have faith that kindred spirits will join you!

If you had to use one word to sum up your year, what word would that be and why?

Revelation.  I’ve discovered a most extraordinary talent for self-deception. I thought I had surmounted my past but I merely buried it. I’ve learned that compassion must begin with cherishing my young self and finding compassion for those who have hurt me. I am coming to understand it is my responsibility to try understand the ‘why?’ of their hurtfulness. In so doing, I am finding compassion flows more easily and that I can savour the very many things that make my life so magical.

Lastly, where can we find you in the web-o-sphere?



One thought on “live your authentic life. an interview with mavis fernandes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s