Last Fall I was asked to present a workshop at the Indiana Adoptee Network Conference. I’ve found it’s easy to say yes to something 6 months in advance. I think I feel confident or at least that my confidence will kick in by the time the event rolls around. But, as the time rapidly passes, fear sets in.
I love speaking. Yes, of course you know I love talking, but I mean I love being a speaker. I’ve been speaking publicly for years (whoa, how my message has shifted, though). It’s one of my favorite things I get to do often. I almost always feel fear prior to speaking and almost always overcome that fear and manage to do well.
As is typically the case, I began prepping for Indy a couple of months prior, but it all came together the night before and the morning of. My early outlining is crucial, but I always leave space because I know the most important pieces fall into place in the final hours and minutes.
I’m extraordinarily proud of what I presented in Indiana about the importance of adoptee voice elevation. I felt good while I was delivering my message; I felt I clearly communicated my heart and so much I’ve learned.
I was nervous, though. Fear gripped me by the guts. Twisted, panicked guts. But I overcame and even though I had enough confidence and bravery to follow through, I found many of my insecurities spilling out in a familiar form: Self Deprecation.
Apparently, it wasn’t enough for me that I even could stand in front of my peers, friends, social media acquaintances, professionals, and strangers. I tackled a few of my fears just being present and forming words, but overcoming those fears exposed many insecurities.
I don’t have a degree.
My voice sounds chipmunk-ish.
I’m insecure in my own skin.
I have no formal training.
Do my teeth look yellow?
Only kind, affirming words were spoken at the conclusion of my presentation. Nobody said anything about my teeth or lack of education.
Those are my issues. And they’re nobody else’s business.
The worst part is, I mentioned each of those insecurities while speaking. Maybe not about my teeth, but most of the others. I felt a need to discredit myself disguised as self awareness.
A few days later, I received this text from a dear friend and respected peer who was at the conference:
“I want to tell you that you are a powerful speaker. You have a presence that says I am meant to be here telling you things and people feel safe in that space. I think you said something negative about yourself at least once a minute during your hour talk. Stop it. It’s distracting and the opposite of strengthening the adoptee voice. You don’t need to cut yourself down so others can’t do it first. You are beautiful and smart and funny and loving and if you can’t stand that, then fake it for Ruby’s sake…
I am sorry you have so much influence and power and heart. I know it can truly be a burden to carry light. I am being serious. But that is your job. You came here to be wonderful and to say the truth. You are big. You might as well own it because it’s going to get really hard shoveling the path in front of you if you stop at every step to hit yourself on the head with the shovel.
It looks like I was writing this to you, but I was also writing this to me.
I love you and I believe in you and I want you to just go grab the gold.”
My response was an acknowledgment of how well she knows me and immense gratitude. Someone has to truly love you in order to speak those words.
So, I overcame some fears to present. And I learned that in overcoming my fear, some insecurities were exacerbated. But now I know. And I’m going to try extremely hard to not make that mistake again.
Despite the few disparaging words I said about myself, my workshop was quite successful. I’m learning it’s okay for me to say I did well. I received such warm, positive responses. The balance between humility, confidence, and insecurity can be a fine, confusing line. I assure you, it isn’t that I think I’m wonderful or better than anyone; it’s that I know I’m capable. It’s necessary for me to stand confidently in my capabilities in order to achieve my goals and fulfill my purpose.
We are constantly overcoming fear in our lives. We are refining our craft(s). We are being bold and taking leaps. We are doing well and learning it’s okay to be confident. It can be burdensome, but as my sweet friend said, let’s own it; let’s be big and powerful.