Monthly Archives: March 2011
Apparently just about every conference in the universe needs to be held back to back weekends in April. Okay, I’m obviously exggerating! However, doing three presentations on differing topics, for vastly opposite audiences, in numerous locations can make me a bit anxious and dramatic.
This isn’t anything new. We all experience a variety of emotions when we are to present in front of others. It can be a conference, a meeting, or friendly group but the nerves are similar in large part to a reaction to our self worth and the expectation of others.
I’m not a person that gets stage fright. However, I do experience some features of impostor syndrome. Don’t know what that is? I’ll break it down for you, basically the person feels like a fraud. The individual is fearful that they are fooling themselves and others into believing they are as strong in an area, when they really are not. Apply self doubt to a work situation and you got the making of some awesome Wizard-of-Ozness… pull back the curtain and boom all is revealed.
Everyone I know begins to experience insecurity before they present. It is natural to wonder if you are going to explain things correctly, be interesting, or well received. We are social creatures and we want to be thought of positively. However, much we tell ourselves that everyone experiences fears of being judged we cant’ seem to shake the notion that it is just us.
And this fact is normal as well. We project all sorts of qualities and defeciets on to other people. We generalize and categorize others on a daily basis. It is a requirement for humans to judge safety. Hence, it is also natural to be concerned that others will think of us as unworthy.
We get stuck in a spiral of feeling inferior, incompetence, and fearful. What are we to do in these situations? I have the answer… although I admit you probably won’t like it. For that matter, I don’t like the answer it. But the truth still remains… the best way to deal with these feelings is to acknowledge them as real, put them into context, and express them.
Yeah, I know. It is so much easier with our illusions of control that we just have a step by step approach to conquering all. Yet, that is kind of the point. This isnt’ about conquering. It is about being authentic with yourself. If you know you are scared… don’t push it away. Realize that you are having the emotion, understand that it is natural and normal and understandable that you have these feelings, and then share them. It really is the last one that gets at us..isn’t it?
Why would we share the exact thing we are fearful that people will find out about us? Well, first off you take away the power the situation holds by pretending. You acknowledge the truth and it will set you free… or some such saying states. And then when you allow yourself to normalize the situation you come to a contextual understanding of how common the feelings are… and again the power that fear holds over you begins to diminish. Finally, when you express to someone else what is really going on, you and others start to realize how to support one another rather than pretend.
We all know that we get scared but why don’t we talk about it? We are afraid we will appear weak or judged yet if the emotion is really no big deal like we pretend then it wouldn’t be a problem to mention it. Ah, logic is sound but emotions are tricky. Wouldn’t you rather just be who you are and be honest about what is going on? Wouldn’t you rather a world around you that didn’t pretend but instead acknowledged human nature as it really is?
I know that I’m nervous about if I’m going to present well at conferences. I know that people are going to judge me, my ideas, and my style. I know this is natural and I know that I want to live an authentic life rather than pretend. So that means I might mess up, people may dislike me, and that is just part of the process. However, it also means I might do really well and people may enjoy what I have to say. There is a wide variety of options but beyond all else I know that I’m not a fraud because I’m direct about who I am. With that comes a strong sense of self and what more could any one of us ask for in such situations?
So you are welcome to join me at the next convention where I’ll be presenting twice at SINSation in Leather in Chicago on April 2nd and 3rd.
Working out again after a hiatus, pretty much means that you are going to have some sore muscles. The next day you feel your body’s every little motion. It is a direct reminder of the effort you put in the day before. You are a bit achy and move a slower. You might even complain a bit about the soreness. Those around you responds with knowing nods and similar stories. We know what it is like and have empathy for the whole process. We have been there!
You hear stuff like this everyday, so much that you probably immediately relate. It is okay to talk about the soreness of building muscle and the sluggish response to a hard workout a day later. We are in a culture where working out to become strong and healthy are valued. The effort it takes to reach the goal is understood and the in-between-process of the pain makes perfect sense.
What would happen if we applied this very same concept towards emotional change? We have a normal predictable pattern of how we do things. We decide we want to shift some elements so we begin to try a new approach. It feels uncomfortable and we are uneasy with how others will respond. We are aware right away that things are changing and it is hard. It hurts to change and create a new way of living, it appears to make things confusing. It isn’t easy working those new muscles when they haven’t been used before. They have to be built up with desire, experience, and time.
We obviously aren’t going to have perfected the change right away. We work on them, feel stiff and tired. It is exhausting paying attention to yourself, changing, and dealing with what the changes bring. And just like we share with others stories of our strength training, we would begin to share our emotional lives. We explain that we get scared, bored, tired, or it all just hurts so much. We do this as a way to join with others, to get support and feel more connected.
Just like a new work out it is going to be harder some days than others, there are going to be a lot of times where you don’t want to do it and you force yourself anyway. And there are times where you just want a break and skip it. It’s all okay! You know your goals, you know it is going to get better and overall you are ready to commit to a stronger you. It is no different with emotional change.
Decide that you are ready, not exactly sure how it is all going to work, that change is going to be tough and will experience some pain in the growth process. Then go share this process with others and you will quickly find that you are not alone… we all are going through this and it is nothing to keep quiet about or be ashamed of. You are in the process of change and that makes all the growing pains worth it!
Dr. Brene Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TED, she shares a deep insight from her research on vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.