Earlier this year, I was asked to give a keynote speech on the subject of what I'd learned after interviewing 100+ women about their midlife awakenings and reinventions -- and how I'd transformed my life in the process. I wanted to say no. I voiced my doubts that I'd be a good candidate, but was pressed to reconsider.
What was holding me back?
In one word: Fear. Who was I to speak with any type of authority? What could I possibly say to fill the allotted 45-60 minutes? What if no one registered for my talk? Or what if they came but hated what I had to say? And how would I tame my fear of public speaking? I mean, I hadn't given a speech in over two decades, since my corporate days, and I certainly had never spoken publicly about my own journey.
Fear is insidious. It preys on you, urging you to play it safe. It convinces you not to try anything that might risk failure. And every time you give in to it, every time you do its bidding, fear wins. It reinforces your belief that you CAN'T.
Fear keeps you small.
But when you push through the fear by taking bold action, you prove something to yourself; you learn that yes, you can. And with each step you take outside your comfort zone, that challenges your fear, the way you see yourself changes. Your self-definition slowly adjusts; it grows to encompass the new things you've shown yourself capable of.
I finally said yes to the speaking opportunity. I wrote, endlessly practiced and delivered my speech. I shared the advice I had learned from the 100+ women I'd interviewed at the time, along with my own journey from suburban wife and mom to city writer and life coach. The sell-out audience listened and laughed and applauded. I felt supported and embraced by this community of women. Some stayed after to talk to me, to tell me how much my message, "it's never too late," had resonated with them. There was even a reporter there to interview me, who wrote a lovely article in the local paper.
And now I think of myself as someone who CAN draw a crowd, who CAN deliver a speech, who CAN overcome my fears. I have since said yes to three other speaking opportunities, and with each experience, I reinforce my belief that I CAN speak publicly, that I have something to say, that I'm worthy of an audience. So if courage is taking action in the face of fear, then yes, I'm a courageous person.
And this new confidence is what has led me to launch this column, Coach's Corner. While my blog to date has focused solely on interviews with inspirational women, and I've only rarely dipped my toe into personal musings (see "My Fuck You Fifties" on Huffington Post), I've been holding out-- though have a lot to say --mostly out of fear of judgment. With Coach's Corner, I'm moving toward the fear, rather than letting it keep me safe- -and small. And I plan on ignoring the internet trolls!
When fear comes to call, ask yourself:
What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
Then take one step, one small step, toward that fear. And watch it shrink.
What is a fear that's keeping YOU small? How can YOU begin to move toward that fear?