Out and Proud Leadership – Cath Kane’s journey of resilience

Cath Kane, Animo Associate and Resilience Coach shares her experiences of ‘coming out’, the importance of self-care and the impact this had on her leadership.

What does ‘resilience’ mean to you? As clinical psychologist Meg Jay puts it, resilience is a “heroic struggle”. It’s much less about bouncing back – a concept that undermines the strength, creativity and often ingenuity that comes from surviving struggle and adversity. The meaning we give ‘resilience’ is shaped by our belief systems which are in turn shaped by our social and cultural experience. These beliefs can empower us or limit us. At the core of my approach as a resilience coach is the notion of empowerment as a route to self-determination. Our leadership evolution begins with leadership of the self. 

How we perceive and navigate the world has a significant impact on our health, our sense of self and our quality of life. Thriving through adversity is a process, not an event. Extracting the useful knowledge from our lived experience is a practice, not an exam. Integral to my resilience is a compelling desire to understand – to make sense of things that don’t always seem connected. I know this has been influenced by my early life experiences.  

I grew up in Northeast Scotland in the 1970s/80s when gender roles were restricted – more like gender rules. At school there was a clear difference in the roles and opportunities given to boys and girls. I realised I was not inspired by what was expected of girls. As I moved into my teenage years, I noticed a different energy and dynamic in my relationships with boys. I wasn’t attracted to boys in the way my friends seemed to be. On the outside, I looked like I fitted in. On the inside I felt different, isolated, and unable to make sense of what I was feeling. Because of this, I believed something was fundamentally wrong with me. I had absorbed all the negative social and cultural norms around identity and I felt ashamed of being the real me. 

It was psychological violence, a spiritual homicide.

My internalisation of sexism and homophobia, particularly those daily mico-aggressions, perpetuated the shame and awkwardness I felt growing up. It meant I cut ties with friends, family, my faith community, and most significantly, with myself. I spent most of my twenties ‘in the closet’, too ashamed to be anything else.

The turning point for me was ‘coming out’ to my parents aged 30. This was when I decided to live ‘wholeheartedly’, as Brene Brown might say. I began to reconnect with myself and make radical changes in my life. The protective barriers I had put in place started to come down, clearing the way for meaningful connections, healthy relationships, dynamic career choices and the evolution of a loving, supportive chosen family. Carl Rogers famously said, “It wasn’t till I accepted myself that I was free to change”. 

The LGBTQ+ community has created a self-affirming, celebratory culture around being ‘you’ wherever ‘you’ are at the intersections of inequality.  Telling our ‘coming out stories’ within a safe, non-judgmental space has often been a pivotal moment towards self-acceptance and psychological freedom from shame. At the heart of authentic, inclusive leadership is the ability to build trust, inspire others and establish meaningful connections. 

Whether you consider yourself part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, I invite you to reconnect with your authentic self and celebrate who you are. If you are in a place where you are questioning your identity, purpose and value, I invite you to be more curious about yourself, and find safe spaces to tell your story. 

To quote the brilliant Audre Lorde, “caring for myself is not self indulgence. It is self preservation and that is an act of political warfare”. 

You can follow Cath on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Edited by Henna Patel

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