I spoke at my first conference recently. They took a gamble on having me because I’m early on in my career and I’ve never done this before.
Even though the conference brought together the best fundraisers in the country, the talk I gave had very little to do with fundraising. Rather than look vertically at one topic in detail, as many conferences want, the team let me go broad. I pulled together my very first talk on something I’ve never spoken about publicly, but have intimate knowledge of.
I spoke about the daily battle that goes on inside my head, before most meetings, before I step out to try something new. I shared what she says to me, and what she says to others as well. I shared how scared I was that she’d never disappear, because according to the other Imposter Syndrome talks on the internet I’d watched in preparation, she doesn’t.
I shared how I have tried shift my treatment of her from something to silence or ignore. I want to befriend her and move through my challenges with her voice as a companion. This quote about fear says it better than I ever could. It’s taken from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic:
However loud the voice upstair is, the truth remains: We’re all experts on ourselves. We’re all experts in noticing.
Just as a conversation with another person can light us up for days, we can be that spark for others. We take for granted what we intimately know, and sometimes forget that others might not.
It’s necessary to look to experts who’ve dedicated years to their craft and may have discovered things humans never knew about themselves.
I’m also here to champion the young voices who are debunking the myth that climbing their second mountain must wait until their second half of life. These are the young voices who are not waiting to be called on to speak.
You haven’t had enough time to truly become an expert, and that’s OK. Instead, you’re talking about the things you’re interested in, and that’s interesting to us: what it’s like to be young, what courage and bravery mean to you, how you push yourself outside your comfort zone, what you’re learning, where you’ve failed, who you want to become, what you’re passionate about…
Enthusiasm is contagious. When you truly believe what you’re talking about, we listen. You tell brilliant stories and you captivate us . No-one else can do it quite like you. Your audacity will make us smile. You keep us sharp-eyed and keen-witted.
So while you may be scared, if you speak from your heart you will not be perfect.
You will also not be wrong.
Speak, though your voice is shaking.
Speak, and if you’re not concerned with perfection but instead with generosity, you will find people who listen. And we will be better for it.