2,200 women. Packed into one room. Hoping to hear something inspiring and life-changing from little ‘ole me.
This past weekend, I was the keynote speaker at women’s conference in Texas. I have to admit—I was a little nervous. It wasn’t the biggest audience I’ve been in front of (11,000 in California). But it definitely wasn’t the smallest (2 in Colorado. Yes, 2.).
Still, 2,200 definitely carried some intimidation. There was a time when the thought of standing in front of ANY crowd made me forfeit my lunch. Speech class, senior year of high school, less than 30 people.
I. wanted. to. die.
But this time, with a room full of women looking back at me, I didn’t panic. And I didn’t lose my lunch. Sure, I had a small case of nerves before I hit the stage. Dropped my notes, fumbled with my headset mic. I’ve learned it comes with the territory, a gift that reminds me I am certainly not all that and a bag of chips.
But panic? Not a bit. In fact, I had a blast. One of the most rewarding speaking experiences I’ve had to date. And that’s really something coming from someone who knows more about chicken than Colonel Sanders.
What made the difference? Certainly my involvement with the SCORRE Conference plays a big part. But it’s more than that.
I’ve changed my script.
In the past, when facing a potentially terrifying situation, I’d list of all the reasons it would be a disaster. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. They’re going to hate me. What if I make a fool of myself? You know the drill. Because you’ve said some of the same things, too.
No more. It took me a while, but now I realize what a waste those messages are. Instead of rehearsing imminent failure, I rehearse positive truths that change my focus, and my enjoyment of the experience.
It doesn’t matter if your moment of terror is on a stage, leading a new organization, or parenting your kids. We all face risks that seem bigger than our abilities. When that happens and panic threatens to choke the moment, here’s what to say to get a quick dose of courage:
“I’m so excited!” Before any big event, I used to mutter, “I’m so nervous.” I’d tell my husband, friends, even whisper it to myself again and again. My friend, Lucille, was the first to point out that replacing “I’m so nervous” with “I’m so excited” would completely change the dynamic. It removes fear and adds anticipation. Even if you don’t believe it at first, say it anyway and soon your heart rate drops and mood changes. Seriously, this one piece of advice is a goldmine.
“This opportunity is a gift.” I believe sharing a moment in time with someone else is a rare and sacred privilege—whether 2 or 2,200. Don’t take it for granted. Moreover, in a recent podcast, my friend Michael Hyatt said these overwhelming situations can be some of the most valuable learning experiences. Remember, a long line of people would give anything to have a similar opportunity. Don’t waste it being all wrapped up in negative, energy-draining emotions. Instead, honor the experience with gratitude.
“It’s not about me.” Warning: I’m going to be blunt. Nervousness is self-consumption. It’s an outward symptom of an inward focus. To counteract it, picture the faces of real people dealing with real life. Imagine their stories and what they need most. Say, “It’s not about me” as many times as it takes. Then, when taking the stage, look them in the eye and do everything you can to meet that need. It really isn’t about you and me. It’s about the people we’re serving.
“I am enough.” I am 41 years old. And, though it pains me to admit it, I’ve spent many of those years trying to earn my real estate on this Earth, trying to please and impress everyone from my husband and children to the strangers passing me on my morning run. It’s exhausting. So in the last few years I’ve (started to) let that go. I have a multitude of flaws. I reproduce them like bunnies in the spring. But no one can do me like I can. And the real me—even with all those flaws—has far more to offer than a cheap, plastic imitation.
What situations terrify you? How can changing your script change the experience?