Many of you know, I am in the middle of an incredible whirlwind – having an op-ed essay in The New York Times.
The essay is about women’s relationship to praise and criticism, and – I’m thrilled – it’s one of the “most emailed” and “most tweeted” articles from the paper this week. My phone, my inbox and my social media have been full of responses to the piece. I’m breathless trying to keep up, but breathless in a very happy way.
When I first got the note from my publisher saying The Times was interested in considering an essay from me, I was elated…and afraid. My inner critic railed and raged. It had some funny lines:
“You have to sound really grown up to write for the Times and your writing doesn’t sound grown up.”
“People who write for the Times have that very smooth, articulate thing going on with their writing – that thing you don’t have.”
“This is impossible – with the topic they’ve asked you to write about it, it just won’t work. If they had asked you for another topic, you might write an essay good enough for them to publish, but with this topic you are doooomed.”
It said all these things. I felt afraid and nervous and even panicked at moments.
But I sat down to write anyway. Everything depends on that – “but I sat down to write anyway.”
It was hard to write and revise and rewrite with all those voices of doubt.
It was also just hard work. It was challenging to find that place of overlap between my voice and a newspaper op-ed voice. It was tricky to change from writing to women to writing about women. And it was a process to figure out how to write honestly and boldly, because I felt like I was exposing my ideas in a space that felt much less “safe” than the one here on the blog. The Op-ed page of The New York Times is certainly not a sheltered space.
So for a couple weeks, I wrestled. I worked hard. And the fear coursed through my body as I did so. A voice in me was sure – utterly sure – this piece wouldn’t be “good enough” to be published. (Yes, that’s just how that voice phrased it.) And another part of me was sure, very sure, I was going to give it my best shot.
It’s funny, because so many people misinterpret my work as being about trying to help women be more confident. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think confidence is a luxury I’m not going to wait on, and I don’t want you to wait for it either.
I think we need to act in spite of self-doubt. We need to know the inner critic voice can be there, ranting and raving, and we don’t have to take direction from it. We can let another part of ourselves lead us.
There is no other way to find out how ready you really are to take your seat at the table. There is no other way to find out how much your ideas, your voice will be welcomed by its right audience.
I know for me, when it comes to relationship moves, or telling or not telling about something, or making a change in my personal life, I listen to that inner sense of ready or not ready. But when it comes to playing bigger in sharing my voice, my ideas? I don’t take direction from my own assessment of what I’m ready for, because I’ve found a misleading voice of fear yelling “NOT READY!” clouds the real answer.
For today, here’s my question for you:
What is that playing bigger stretch that doesn’t feel comfortable, that your mind has all kinds of narratives about (it’s not the right moment, it doesn’t feel ‘resonant’, I can’t do it right now because…)? What if you did it anyway, and saw what life had to show you about your own readiness, and what will return to you as the reward for action?