risking-humiliation-300x260Go for it! That’s what she said. Tell us something you’ve never shared before.

For two months, like clockwork, I woke up at 4 a.m. I didn’t want to wake up at 4 a.m., but when I’m writing a speech, or looking for a creative approach to a project, my creative mind likes to get me out of bed and in front of my computer to take dictation… at 4 a.m. Ugh!

But, I digress. I was preparing for a speech. I would be standing before my business peers and sharing my conscious journey to find my authentic voice. I wanted to make sure it would be relevant to my audience. I wanted to convey my stories in a compassionate and entertaining fashion that would respect the people involved and the people listening. I wanted to avoid complete humiliation!

Yes, the people-pleasing, shame-based little ego part of my being was definitely concerned over the reception I might receive and what that could mean to my reputation, my business, and, well, whatever.

So… I woke up every morning for two months writing and rewriting. Lots of angst happening.

But, it was okay, because I am convinced if we don’t do these things — if we don’t take the risk of being visible and vulnerable — we stay small and stuck and never make the kind of impact we’re capable of. Our audiences, our family and our friends are robbed of a wealth of experience and richness that only we can bring.

That only you can bring.

I coach and train folks who want or need to share their message. They want to serve their audiences. They believe in what they have to say, and they want to break free from their inhibitions to do it with conviction. They want to tell that story, or share that talent, or add that humor, and yet, like all of us, there’s that little voice that says, be afraid, be very afraid! That voice can be quite convincing. It will throw up everything it can to keep you safe. But, are you really safer if you don’t take the risk?

Here’s what I know. Every time I’ve mustered up the courage to stretch myself, I’ve freed myself. Freed myself from that people-pleasing, shame-based little ego, and because of that, I am more safe. This is one of those paradoxes. The more you challenge your boundaries, the safer you are.

But I digress, again, a little.

What to do? Here’s what’s helped me:

* Embrace a beginner’s mind. Rather than humiliation, what helps is to experience a little humility. That’s kind of an old-fashioned word these days, so let me explain. We might be experts in our profession, but if we’re challenging ourselves to learn something new, we’re not going to be “the pro” right away. Let yourself go through the learning curve. Let yourself be a beginner. You deserve that. Give yourself the gift of your own compassion while you’re at it. You deserve that, too.

* Focus on excellence, not perfectionism. Whenever I hear the word perfectionist, I cringe a little. There is no such thing as perfection from this standpoint. I know we all know this, but we sure don’t practice it as often as we could. I know I don’t. We set up unreasonable expectations of ourselves, then beat ourselves up when we don’t live up to those. So, rather than seek something that is impossible, why not focus on excellence? Every opportunity is a chance to learn and grow and find out a little more about who you are and what works for you and your audience.

* Adopt the “will it matter in five years?” attitude. Will it? If you hit a snag, what difference will it make, really? I know this can be tough in the moment, but it’s the truth. Are you still talented, knowledgeable, and wonderfully human? It’s all perspective. It’s all relative. I’m not talking about being cavalier. I’m talking about relaxing into the idea that there’s so much more to you, and to life, than whatever little hiccup happens. And, guess what? When you do that, you bring a much more genuine energy to your presentation and your audience will love you for it!

I’ve found that sometimes the very thing we fear risking is the thing that can make the most difference. When we stretch, even if that means being “imperfect,” we give others permission to do the same. What a lovely gift.

One caveat here: when we’re hired to deliver a service, we certainly want to make sure we do that to our utmost ability. This would not be the time to pull out the tender story you’re not sure about, or sing karaoke if this isn’t part of your gig. It’s important to be discerning.

Back at the ranch, I gave that speech. I sang my song (with the help of my wonderful accompanist, Richard Palalay). Guess what? I didn’t explode. Actually, many people came up to me and thanked me. One woman remarked, “You told my story.” They were inspired. And, I got pretty good marks on the evaluation! I risked humiliation and it was a good idea. Now, I’m a little braver and a little freer, and the folks in that room have some information and inspiration to draw from to find their authentic voice.

I encourage you to take the risk. And, if you need or want someone to support you as you learn to spread your wings, I’d love to help.