Once, when first starting my business, I was preparing to give a talk for a large group at eBay. This was literally a dream come true for me. The talk, “I hear voices in my head, do you? How doubts, fears and negative thoughts can keep you from the life you love and deserve” is one of my favorite subjects. The self-doubt monsters, I call them “Trolls”, are always lurking around when you are ready to make a move, set a goal or step out into a new exciting direction. It was ironic that the subject was facing fears and that in the process of preparing for the talk, I had to face some qualms of my own.
You might think that the fear that I had to face was the whole public speaking thing. It’s a common fear that makes every survey and article about common fears and phobias, but I don’t have a fear of public speaking. I grew up on stage in musicals as a youngster, at the front of the church congregation as a teen and as an adult, I have given thousands of presentations and workshops in training rooms and universities all over the US. I know how to prepare, to time, to tell a funny story, to tailor the sections and Lipstickroll with the punches. I had planned what to wear, from head to toe, even lip color. I keep lipstick squirreled away in a drawer near my front door so that I never answer the door without it, in my purse at all times, and in the pocket of my jacket when I do a presentation. I am never without lipstick.
This was special, monumental ….ahhh the anticipation! I was representing me, my very own work, an important message and my very own company and had chosen a perfect neutral shade of lipstick to go with my perfect red jacket for the perfect presentation!
The challenge came two days before the presentation when what I thought was a simple pimple on my left upper lip, turned out to be something more sinister, a major infection. With a trip to the doctor, then the dermatologist, I came home with a bandage on a significant portion of the left side of my face which was now throbbing and angry and with a dilemma: do I do the event, or cancel?
Now, the right side of my face looked fine, but the left side of my face was round like a moon pie. I was slurring my speech and my left eye teared at random. It was a rough night and when I woke up I thought, “No one would blame me if I canceled.” The subject was important and it was a record crowd, but I looked like a mess. Then I realized, I had a sniveling little voice in my head asking, “Are you really going to go in there looking like that?!” It was the voice of vanity and fear of what others would think of my appearance.
I became determined to do the talk anyway. So, I ran through the presentation once more, this time I taped my notes to a large mirror and made a few changes, but more importantly, I made friends with my imperfect appearance.
Showing up a bit swollen, slurred and imperfect was more aligned with the message about overcoming doubt that I wanted to convey. I have heard myself say, “Let nothing stop you…” to my clients over the last 15+ years as they sought more challenging jobs, negotiated for better salaries, applied to graduate school, changed careers, prepared proposals and presentations or started their own businesses. I have heard myself say that to my children, “Let nothing stop you from learning today, doing your best performance, being who you know you are on the inside…” Now, was I going to ditch this gig because I had never faced an audience with a booboo on my face and no lipstick? No way!
I went, I spoke and I opened by pointing to what almost stopped me, the bandage on my face and frank words about the doubts I had about my appearance. The thought of not being presentable or perfect melted away as we talked about how the doubts we have in our heads, habits and negative thoughts are often what stops us from going for “it”, whatever “it” is for each of us! I also had to let go of an old rule of talking about “personal stuff” while being paid for something, i.e. talking, that I used to get in trouble for big time.
If facing a fear or voices in your head rings a bell for you, you should check out The Smash Shack.
The Smash Shack is a class that I created for a small group of people to be expertly guided through the process of breaking up with this faulty way of thinking and step into a better and bigger version of your life, with expert guidance and friendly Broken Porcelain Camelsupport. This is a class for a limited number of people and some of the spots have been snapped up already. I usually reserve this work for my exclusive one-on-one clients, but I am opening it up for the first time. You will want to bring something breakable, grab a seat and let go!