Ever wondered what might have happened if Emma Watson hadn't landed the role of Hermione Granger? In a parallel universe, JK Rowling had Hermione's backstory starting out in Croydon, rather than Oxfordshire. Yep. Little known fact. My sista from a different mister auditioned for Harry Potter. Hannah is someone who I've known to be consistently courageous. The knock back at 10 years old, set Hannah up well for choosing a fast paced career in law. In this episode we get into the tricky zone of courage in friendship and what challenges come with facing up or backing out of difficult conversations with friends.
What would we be surprised to know about you?
Hannah Khan 4:30
Oh, so I did once audition to be Hermione Granger!
Well, I do know this about you. But I think it's a little known fact
Hannah Khan 4:40
I was 10. There was a group of us from my stage school. And yeah, my Mum was like, ‘you can't be an actress sweetheart.’ I was so upset. I didn't get the role. Why wasn't I picked?
I mean, can you set the scene? Did you actually see Emma?
Hannah Khan 4:57
No. I mean, it was a very minor moment of my life. But I remember thinking, right, this is going to be the big it, but it wasn't. Emma Watson, I think went to the same, like group of drama schools, in a very different part of the world!
Hannah Khan 5:20
And I mean, I have to say hats off to you, because, how old would you have been? That would have taken a lot of courage to have done that.
Hannah Khan 5:32
Yeah 10. So growing up, I did ballet, and then I just loved performing. I loved all of it. I did singing, dancing, acting. Technically, my first degree was, I applied for drama and philosophy - that was my backup if I didn't get into Nottingham. Where I did philosophy and theology. So slightly different.
When I asked you originally what you wanted to talk about, if the theme is courage, what would be the specific thing? You obviously came back with a great idea. And I'd love you to introduce what you want to chat about and why?
Hannah Khan 6:25
With courage, I think there's some quite obvious things, I could have talked about work, those kinds of things are important to me. But I'm a more relational being. And one of the things that I think in the last few years I've really been grappling with, is courage in friendship. And actually, what does it mean to be courageous with friendship? And I think it's an important thing around vulnerability and boundaries. Actually, those significant relationships that you have in your life that aren't family or romantic, are really important. And they potentially don't get as much time as they should. You know, as someone who is a Christian, I look to Jesus, and I look to how he did relationship. And I think he was really courageous in his friendships, you know. If you know everything about the disciples, they were, they give me hope, is all I'm saying. They are wonderful. And actually, I looked at that and thought, oh, who were the 12 in my life?
So, so cool. So why is courage an important aspect of friendship?
Hannah Khan 7:37
I think courage is important in how it allows for you to get depth. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. And it's understanding what courage is. The courage to be yourself. And to be yourself, you therefore risk something, you know, if you're being courageous. There is always a potential of risk involved and that risk, in being courageous, you are encouraging, so imparting courage into others. And I think, as you step into any relationship or friendship, to do that. To be vulnerable, and therefore to inspire and to encourage that person, through your own vulnerability, is an incredible part of being a human.
That's so cool. So can you tell me about some moments, you've had to be brave in a friendship? And what does that look like?
Hannah Khan 8:44
In the last few years, I've had to be courageous in friendship in a different way, in quite a hard way. A couple of friendships whereby that person has decided, for whatever reason, that they're not willing to engage in the friendship anymore, and has removed themselves. And I've not necessarily understood why? There's not been like, a you stole my hairbrush moment. It’s a real shift in that friendship to complete exiting. And I joke, it's like being broken up with, we don't talk about it. If I'd said to somebody me and my boyfriend broke up, they'd be like, ‘oh, let's get the ice cream out. Let's watch a chick flick. He's an idiot.’ But you say something around friendship that has broken down. And there isn't that same response because we don't know how to deal with it.
It’s courageous choosing, okay, that was really painful or really upsetting and quite confusing, but choosing not to let that impact. The level of friendship with other people felt like a courageous act. It felt like a choice to decide to build new relationships with people and to love people, care deeply and to continue to be the same, if not better. From that experience of how to love well, and to courageously put in boundaries. So the B word is not something in general society, we talk about, slightly more as a Christian, I think sometimes we have that kind of discussion. But I think boundaries, boundaries, tell someone how you perceive your own worth, and actually having those in place. So I think being courageous and saying to people, actually, no, here's a boundary, I'm inserting in our friendship. That's important for me, and also been something I've had to do in a courageous way. And the benefit of it is amazing, because you then have a different shift and understanding. But I think choosing in light of something being quite painful, to continue to courageously love people, and to be vulnerable, and to be all of those things that I see is really important in a friendship, and not just shrink back and be like, ‘oh, I don't know what to do with this.’ But to say no, that was a specific situation, a specific person with their own specific reasons and issues. And actually how that now looks in other friendships.
Boundaries feels like it's a really underrated topic, or even just misunderstood. Maybe women were raised where being open, being kind, mean all the positive things. Being vulnerable and including people into our world is all where the emphasis is. But it feels like, is there a missing bit of the conversation around boundaries? Because I don't know, was that something that you had when you were younger?
Hannah Khan 12:32
As I've got older, I think. I really like Myers Briggs and the Enneagram. I'm an eight on the Enneagram. So I'm a challenger, which can be quite unsexy for a female. If I see something that I don't really agree with, or is not authentic... And I'm an all or nothing kind of person. So loyalty to me is a massive driver. What I have done in especially my younger years, not necessarily understanding - I have gone and thought, ‘right, well, I need to be loyal.’ So loyalty to me is I'm in your life till the end! I say to all of my really close friends, ‘I might not be able to stop it raining, but I can stand next to you and hold an umbrella.’ And that kind of thing for me has been really important. My friends have often felt like my family. I think all of those things - feeling kindness, well, what is it to be kind? What is it to love someone? What is it to love radically? What is it to be completely different? And what I think I've learned in the last few years is that in order to do any of those things, you have to have boundaries.
You can't love someone well, if you don't have your own boundaries, because they need to know those boundaries, so that the relationship can be interdependent rather than dependent. You need a sense your relationship is balanced. So there isn't a codependency on either part. That's not just saying people are codependent on me, that's making sure that I don't become dependent on somebody else. So I've definitely learnt that. I think I've seen in friendships where it has struggled or it's gone a bit weird, or there's been a shift. There hasn't been a healthy balance between the two. If you are giving certain people a level of I'm here and I'm in the battle with you, and when I get under pressure or something happens to me, for example, my natural coping mechanism is I will retreat because I'm under pressure.
You've lived with me and I've done the training contracts and training to be a lawyer and studying The Masters was all very high pressure. And so at times, I've had to really retreat. And if somebody hasn't got a boundary in place with you, they see retreat as rejection, rather than seeing it as something you need. And so once someone, in a friendship feels rejected, it's very difficult to come back from that. So even if you've been the kindest person, the most loving person, actually, in one simple move, because there isn't a boundary, you end up making them feel rejected. I've learnt that in the last few years. And so now I have a real sense of boundaries, being loving, and being courageous and how to implement them and still be flexible. There is a little bit of give with that. It's not like, you know, this is my boundary. Different people need different boundaries.
It's a fascinating one, it's an interesting one to navigate. What do you think's at stake when we act with courage and a friendship?
Hannah Khan 16:09
I mean, I think when you act with courage, you risk losing the friendship…
So you do risk losing friendships on one side
Hannah Khan 16:33
But on the other side, acting courageously, and choosing to step into vulnerability, and choosing to be your authentic, true self, and really show that person who you are. That act of courage can unleash and release stuff in you, and in them. So there have been friendships where I am authentically myself. And in doing so, there are obviously parts of that aren't always pretty. But there is encouragement and insight. So that act of courage to be like, ‘This is me,’ has released in me giftings, has released in me dreams, has encouraged me to do other stuff, and hopefully vice versa. And when you choose to show up and be yourself and be in that, and to get in the trenches with people, to get into the dirt of their life, and to not worry about getting messy, and to not be worried about their mess. So actually, if they're going through something difficult, or if they're going through something beautiful, to be able to be present in both of those situations. And to walk through life with people is a privilege. And it's an act of courage, because it will at times impact your life, it will at times challenge you, it will at times encourage you. But that walking with somebody and being able to see the day to day difference that they have made over the years. That's both a privilege and it takes courage.
How do we communicate with courage? I mean, what does that actually look like?
Hannah Khan 18:25
It involves wisdom. I mean, I'm currently learning how to communicate with a variety of people. And it changes. Maybe saying things to people that are challenging or to hear things that are challenging. But I think it's about wisdom. And I think it's about knowing that person. I wouldn't, for example, speak to you the same way that I would speak to my friend, Joel. There's loads of differences, one being gender, but like, there is a difference in how that would work. But I think that it is about genuinely coming from a place of love. And speaking from a place of wanting to see that person, be the best version of themselves. Whether that's saying, This is amazing what you've done here. Presenting a gentle and loving challenge based on your proximity and relationship, not based on your own views on whether you can speak and say that.
Do you think there's some specific challenges for women and courage?
Hannah Khan 19:37
Yeah, I think that it's seen as being aggressive. There's this confusion. I have a friend who is, I would say, one of the most courageous women I know. She is not remotely aggressive. Remotely loud. She silently steps out, that are taken in private. She's Christian, she follows the things that she thinks God's put on her heart. But she does that with a sense of grounding and faith. And I think women see courage sometimes as scary, out of my comfort zone, messy and challenging. And I'm going to be misunderstood, misguided, and I'm going to look stupid. I think, actually, courage isn't about necessarily putting yourself out on show, or about being even frontline, pioneering or doing something radically different, or stepping up in that way. I think courage is about seeing the things that you want, the things that you are dreaming for, the things that you are passionate about, and choosing to take steps towards those things, little by little. And that can be a thing that happens completely behind closed doors that no one ever knows about.
I think that we as women need to feel like we can authentically do that, that we can be ourselves and the world, regardless of whether it accepts it or not, but actually, we can do that. And we can go for those things. You know, it might be really simple things like, I want to be able to get into a size 10. Or I want to be able to go and do this, or I want to be able to save up and learn how to drive or I want to be able to go on this trip. And those things might not sound like they are acts of courage, but actually in choosing to do something different and choosing to do that, and to set your mind on something and go for it. That is courage. That takes faith, that takes that sense of grounding to move into it. I often felt like I was misunderstood anyway. Because like I've said I am an eight, so I'm quite direct sometimes. And you know, if something sounds like it's someone talking rubbish, I'll be quite happy to tell them. For me, sometimes even courage is choosing to not necessarily be as vocal in an area, even if I feel like I want to be. That kind of feels a bit more like wisdom as well.
What do you think women are scared of?
Hannah Khan 22:39
I think women are scared of being misunderstood, and rejected. I think it's an ultimate fear that who they are isn't enough. And what they do isn't significant. And that actually, somebody isn't going to understand it, they're not going to get it. And they're going to get rejected by those closest to them, by the world, by society. So there is a sense of conformity that comes in order to allow these things to be understood and met. So I will do a certain thing or behave a certain way. Because that way, people will like me. I don't even think it's conscious.
What does healthy, courageous female friendship actually look like?
Hannah Khan 25:23
Ah, it looks amazing, healthy relationships with females, as a female are incredibly powerful. They take you from a place of - if you had a dream and it's here, and you're here… You have courageous female friendships they can see the gap, they can see, what you need to get from A to B. And if it's courageous, it's true friendship that loves you. And it's about you, as an individual, and not about what they can get from you and all the things that can come out of that. They can just continue to, I would say, speak life into you. They would impart their courage, they would encourage you, I never said that continually. I find that a really helpful way of understanding it. So healthy friendship looks like fun. It doesn't look like, it's not mentorship, it's not sitting down once a week and looking at your goals and how you actualize them. It's fun, it's laughing, it's comfortable, it's authentic, it's vulnerability, it's forgiveness. So it's being able to hurt each other. I don't mean that with being, you know, physically violent! It's about actually, I am going to do something because of the proximity of our friendship, or our relationship, where I will say something or do something that you don't like, and it will upset you. And actually, there's the freedom to do that, but with the heart or knowledge of forgiveness. I'm able to move forward and heal from that.
That's really courageous, to be able to be walking with women in life and not be in competition. So to actually share dreams and have different dreams, and be able to speak into that and to encourage that. Be able to work closely and to give people freedom to do that. I mean, my life has transformed because of some of the female friendships I've had, absolutely transformed. And I have done things. You know, I'm only doing law, really, because I had a friend who saw something in me. She was courageous with me and said, ‘No, you need to apply for this. I see your future and it's big and it's bright.’ And they imparted something that gave me the courage to go for the job that I'd always wanted. That dream, the legal desire. I mean, I'm not so sure now! Two years down the line, we're like, oh, no, it's great.
So good. I've absolutely loved this interview. And I feel like loads of people are going to take a lot from it. Can we end with some quick fire questions?
Okay, so, why be brave?
Hannah Khan 28:30
Because otherwise it's boring.
What's sexy about courage?
Hannah Khan 28:36
You're always able to hold your own.
What does courage demand?
Hannah Khan 28:41
Who’s someone that courageous you admire?
Hannah Khan 28:49
What is courage?
Hannah Khan 28:53
Choosing to do it even if it scares you
What are the benefits of courage?
Hannah Khan 28:59
You never have a what if?
Tell me a time you surprised yourself with courage?
Hannah Khan 29:10
Getting a training contract, choosing to just step out and not be worried about it.
How can someone become more courageous?
Hannah Khan 29:19
Do something each day that makes you feel slightly nervous
Courage and confidence? Is it the same thing?
Hannah Khan 29:32
No. Courage requires you to do something that you do not necessarily feel like you're able to do, but you do it anyway. Confidence is something that comes once you've done the courage.
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