The difference between striving and making a positive contribution

When we become intentional about tuning into what nourishes us, inside-out, and decide that we are worthy of receiving and enjoying that, we will automatically become aware of patterns, behaviours, relationships, choices, places that will need to fall away. If we want to live regenerative lives, striving will have to go eventually.


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Emily Johnsson
Nurturing changemakers for a whole world.

Recently I shared about STRIVING and how it’s a symptom of our separation from our innate sense of wholeness.

It is this separation that leads us to over-work and give, please, prove, perfect and seek validation from the outside-in. We rescue and fix and carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. We do good to be good, believing that we must prove that we are worthy of belonging to life.

“But hang on a minute!” you might say.

“What about making a positive contribution? What about all this talk of purpose and legacy and making a difference?”

Great questions!

Striving & making a positive contribution are not the same thing. They come from entirely different places inside of us:

Whereas striving leads us to burn-out and depletion, making a positive contribution enables us to feel contented and energised.

When we are unsure of the difference between striving and making a positive contribution, chances are that we are looking for wholeness in all the wrong places.

Chances are that in the name of activating, making, creating, organising and holding space for change in the world, we are trying to fix on the outside what feels broken and ‘un-whole’ on the inside.

Striving is a function of our separation to our own innate abundant Nature. A symptom of having forgotten that we are worthy of thriving just because we exist. Without needing to earn our right to be here. It makes us believe in and live by ‘more’ and ‘never enough’.

Striving comes from a place of lack within us. It makes us search for wholeness outside of ourselves. We look for external validation of our goodness. We prove, please, over-give, perfect and rescue as a result.

Many changemakers perpetuate the very patterns they seek to interrupt, heal or shift. Many of us devoted to a vision of a thriving world, find it difficult to look after ourselves well, set healthy boundaries and allow ourselves to embrace the things we wish for others and the planet.

Striving eventually stops us in our tracks through exhaustion, burn out or a feeling of emptiness. This is an invitation to turn inwards and begin our journey home to knowing our innate wholeness.

We sometimes experience this as a remembrance.

This is where walking our talk and integrity begins.

When we come to see ourselves as a unique and beautiful living system part of the greater web of life, neither less than or more than anything or anyone else, worthy of love and belonging just because we exist, without needing to earn our right to be here, we set ourselves free.

When I see me, I am free”.

It is from a place of greater wholeness within us that our creative life-force energy can flow freely.

We feel abundant inside, connected to a sense of purpose simply because we are alive.

We come to remember that that joy and play and pleasure is intrinsic to being human. We allow our lives and our work to be an ode to life, a celebration of our existence in the greater web of everything and everyone. We allow ourselves to thrive and embrace ease in our service as changemakers.

This is where changemakership, inside-out begins: it invites us to say ‘no more’ to striving and yes to making a positive contribution, from a place of greater wholeness.

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About Emily & White Supremacy

Emily is a space holder and self-leadership coach to changemakers. She has over 20 years experience in the field of human development, learning and growth, and leads the coaching and consultancy company Wish Tree since 2011. Her work centres around wholeness – whole humans, whole communities, whole organisations, whole ecosystems. A whole world. Her changemakership is therefore dedicated to clearing distortions and fragmentations that relate to our perceptions of separation.

Emily has been exposed to and ‘sat with’ systemic issues around race, racism, privilege and injustice her whole life. She was born in Camden, London, in the late 1970s to a Swedish immigrant single mum and spent her first formative years in a highly culturally and ethnically diverse setting. As a baby, Emily and her mum lived in a bedsit in a shared house with a Black British family. Her first memory of Father Christmas was of him as a Bangladeshi man. Emily’s mum worked with refugee families and in Children’s Homes in inner city London, and since she had no access to child care opportunities, Emily joined her at work. For a while, Emily had an older Black British foster sister called Debbie. She was very often the only white child in the community of children of which she was a part.

Emily moved to Sweden with her mum as a child and as a teenager became involved with, and led, antiracism youth work in her local town through her school and council-initiated networks in the 1990s.

Her mum, who was active in the peace-and- environmental movement and who had been involved as an ally in the civil rights movement in the US on her travels there, introduced her to Black feminist and activist writers such as Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and Audre Lord, and actively taught her about white privilege, white supremacy and the truth of colonialism. She was also taught about the importance of learning from Indigenous wisdom keepers in order to heal and evolve as humanity, and to (in those days) stop climate change.

In contrast, on her father’s side, Emily is of British Colonial descent. Emily’s grandmother was born in Zimbabwe to Scottish sheep-farmers. Her grandfather came from a poor English background but won a scholarship to Cambridge University to study law. As many young British men of his time who sought “adventure, a good job and travel”, Emily’s grandfather joined the colonial service in the final days of the British Empire, and served in several African countries as a high-ranking colonial officer. He spoke Zulu and Emily’s father spoke Swazi and Swahili before being sent to Britain as a child to attend boarding school, thousands of miles away from his parents.

Although Emily did not grow up with her father or his family, she eventually came to know them and have a relationship with them, which involved taking responsibility for understanding and healing her own familial and ancestral relationship to colonialism and white supremacy.

In this process, she came to see, feel and understand first hand and close up, the deeper psychological workings of the system of white supremacy, the colonial mind and its intimate links with narcissism, perfectionism, patriarchy and extractive economies and behaviours.

Between 2003-2015, Emily worked as a learning researcher and Access, Diversity and Inclusion enabler in the Arts & Cultural Sector, deeply rooted in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Convention. She worked across the U.K and Scandinavia contributing to a number of large scale change projects, self-evaluation initiatives, conferences and trainings such as “Access for All”, “Inspiring Learning for All”, “Belonging – the Voices of London’s Refugees”, “The West Indian Front Room”, “Kultur och Fritid för Alla”, “Vidgat Deltagande”, “In this curriculum I don’t exist”, “In between two worlds – London teenagers’ ideas about Black History, Belonging and being British” to name a few. She worked with a wide range of marginalised communities as well as with leaders and directors holding white privilege, facilitating necessary and brave conversations challenging the status quo.

Emily has worked across many cultures and languages around the world from Sri Lanka to South Africa, Costa Rica and India to Romania and Denmark, continuously reflecting on and challenging white saviour tendencies. In this process has come to observe how white supremacy and racism works differently in different countries depending on context and history.

In 2020, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Emily became a loud voice in the Wellness industry by calling in leaders bypassing white supremacy through ‘love and light’ rhetoric, exceptionalism, colourblindness and virtue signalling. She closed down several online coaching circles because white participants were unwilling to dive deeper into their own internalised white supremacy, and rendered the spaces not only additionally unsafe, but traumatising for BIPOC clients. Her platform and large facebook community for coaches and wellbeing facilitators centred BIWOC-led anti-racism conversations as a response.

Emily is a skilled and fiercely loving coach and space-holder with many years experience of creating safe spaces for accountability, healing, integration and growth to take place.

She is dedicated to her own ongoing learning, healing and unlearning of covert white supremacy. Examples of this are continuous learning from a wide range of anti-racism educators, authors and activists from around the world.

This bio has not been written with the intention of centring Emily in the context of Me & White Supremacy, but to transparently share about her background, values, skills and experience in order for you to make a conscious decision to choose her as a space-holder, or not.

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