A Year After TEDx – The Greatest Gift This World Has to Offer
It was just a year ago that I had a the amazing opportunity to speak at TEDxSMU Women and if you would have asked me then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have believed you. I wouldn’t have believed that, what felt like the biggest risk, would open up the greatest gift this world has to offer.
You see, when I watched my own video, I didn’t like it. All I could see was what I wish I had done differently. Better. I wanted to bury it. To leave it hidden in the dark corners of the internet where nobody would think to search. I wanted to retreat into the safety of obscurity. But my talk was about being brave, and when I asked myself, “What is the brave thing to do?” the answer wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Thus, in the face of my own scrutiny, with a trembling heart, I shared.
We can’t foresee how our work will impact others.
It started slowly. A dear friend of mine from high school watched my talk and shared it with some educator-friends of hers on Twitter. They started sharing it with their friends, tagging me, and from across the country I was humbled to meet inspiring men and women who, like me, hunger to be their best self, powerfully, in this world. They embraced me with such open hearts; invited me to lead their Twitter chat, and together we joyfully explored “what it means to be brave in education” – trending before the hour was up. Imagine the ripple effect!
As I sat across the table from a group of my brave-educator-friends at brunch yesterday, meeting them in person for the first time, I was struck by the realization that I almost robbed myself of their friendship, of our beautiful connection, and the constant inspiration they’ve given me this past year. My internal critic came so close to shutting it all down. To stopping me from putting myself out there in the world. From making the impact that I so desperately wanted to make. How many of us stop ourselves before we have a chance to do what it is we’re here to do?
How many of us stop ourselves before we have a chance to do what it is we’re here to do?
I remember, shortly after my talk, listening to Natalie Portman’s Harvard Commencement address with tears of disbelief running down my face.
“So I have to admit,” she said, “even 12 years after my graduation, I’m still insecure about my own worthiness. I have to remind myself today, ‘you are here for a reason’… I felt like there had been some mistake. That I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company. And that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove I wasn’t just a dumb actress…”
I couldn’t believe that someone so accomplished and beautiful could feel this way. Surely, I thought, once you’ve won an Academy Award you would be immune to such things. But while I have certainly not stood behind a Harvard podium, I could relate; the TED stage is hallowed ground.
It can be hard to stand up to your own scrutiny. Like Laura in The Glass Menagerie, our flaws metastasize. We experience the feelings and scramble to make sense of it. What does it mean? Are you confident or insecure? Successful or a failure? Good or bad? Our black and white definitions thrusting us into a simplistic box in which we don’t belong. What if it’s not that simple?
What if we’re all confident and insecure? What if we’re all a success and a failure? Good and bad? What if there is no either-or, but rather a long continuum that we play like scales on a keyboard? Some highs, some lows, and a lot of notes in between that tie the two together to make the music that is our life.
What if we’re all confident and insecure, a success and a failure, good and bad?
For being our best, real self, powerfully – what I call brave – isn’t always going to be pretty, or easy, or fun. It’s sometimes going to be incredibly uncomfortable, and frightening, and hard. I know you’ve experienced this too. Maybe in wanting to be your real self at work, but feeling like you need to play the game. Or in taking the risk to step outside your comfort zone, claim your own voice, live your passion, or go against the norm. Perhaps it’s the fear of judgment from others; or like me, the tyranny of your own inner critic. As I say in my talk, how can we be brave in the face of our own inescapable humanity?
Being brave isn’t always going to be pretty, or easy, or fun.
And my answer stays the same. We have to find a way to focus on making an impact that that is more expansive than our limited boxes can contain. To bust free of ourselves. To be imperfect and keep showing up anyway.
In doing so we find our tribe.
There are extraordinary people out there waiting for the impact that only you can make. Ready to welcome you with open arms. Excited to learn from you and grow with you. Together you’ll collectively uplift each other, compound your impact, and remember why you do what it is you do.
It’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year. For in keeping ourselves safe, we lose the greatest gift this world has to offer.
This post is dedicated to my dear friend Dani, to Dr. Mary Howard, and to the rest of my amazing #G2Great friends. Thank you for enriching my life.
©OnStage Leadership, 2016
Do you have someone on your team who has great potential but they suffer from low confidence, poor presentation skills, or lack of direction? Or maybe you have a rising star on your team you want to keep engaged and groom them for greater responsibility? OnStage Leadership is coming to Dallas on October 20th (session is already half-full), and NYC on November 7th; please notify us of your interest. Sessions are filled on a first-come basis and limited to 12 participants.
Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. Click here to read what people are saying! If you’re interested in more information, or in having Kimberly come speak to your group on topics around Authentic Leadership, Influence, Presence, Engagement, Purpose in the workplace, Presentation Skills, or being BRAVE at work, we’d love to hear from you!
If you haven’t had a chance, check out my recent Tedx talk or my interview with Alise Cortez on Voice of America’s Working on Purpose Channel: Bringing Our True and Best Selves to Work: Cultivating Authentic Leadership with Kimberly Davis.