While I’m caring for my new baby, I’m sharing some favorite posts from the past few years. This is one of them – enjoy! ~ Tara
A few years ago, while I was getting prepared for a speaking event, I found out that someone quite famous (famous in the women’s leadership world, anyway) would be attending, sitting in the room for my talk.
Let’s call that person Judith, for the sake of this post.
Here’s what I knew about Judith: she’s super smart, she’s well-known and well-connected, and she and I disagree about a LOT of things in the women’s empowerment conversation.
My inner critic took all that in and started feeling really worried about what she’d think of my talk. I started feeling unprepared, less than, not my normal self.
During the speech, from time to time, I’d get so distracted by thinking about her presence, that I’d fall out of flow and stand outside my words, listening to them and imagining how they might sound to her.
And of course, in my mind the answer to that was always that they sounded incoherent, irrational, mundane to her.
After I finished, I went over to one of the hosts of the event and said I’d love to meet Judith. After all, despite all my worries, I did also have a lot of respect for her, and wanted to say hello.
“Oh,” they casually said, “she couldn’t make it. Her child got sick and she needed to stay at home.”
It was the oddest moment.
All that worry, for nothing. I had been steeped in my fears about what she would think of the talk. I had imagined her presence in the room as I was speaking – and her judgments, her criticism, even her scoffing at some of what I had said.
But she was not in the room.
All that imagining was simply that: imagining.
I immediately thought: Ok life, I get the joke. I get the metaphor.
This was such a great metaphor for what I often do. Special guest or not, when I’m writing something particularly vulnerable or risky, or when I’m giving a talk to a group that intimidates me, I often find my mind imagining and projecting the most critical, skeptical, even mean view on my work. I imagine Judiths, people like Judith I’ve never met. I imagine some figure saying my worst fears: “That’s ridiculous, Tara. That’s naive. Who do you think you are?”
I know I’m not alone in this. Women have been trained into fearing that critic – that individual or collective critic raging or scoffing at what we have to say.
And the truth is, those imagined voices and judges are almost never really in the room in the way that we imagine them to be. They were more present for our great great grandmothers than they are for us.
And when they are still there for us, we can find an internal resourcefulness to handle it. We really can.
What I’ve learned is that sure, there will be a range of responses to my work, but most of the time, the external criticism I encounter is so easy-peasy compared to what I fear, so deal-with-able, so simply “it is what it is” – nothing like the big boogie-man my own fears make it out to be.
If you’re not doing something because you imagine the harsh criticism that could come your way, or if your joy and full expression is diminished because like me, you hold in your head what the skeptic would be saying about your work, ask yourself: how would I behave if I knew that voice was really, truly not in the room?
And then do that.
P.S. If you are thinking of joining us for a course or training program this year, be sure to check out our recent post about what’s coming up in 2017 HERE so you can plan ahead and sign up to get early information on programs you’re interested in.