It was the morning after, and I was awake in the midst of a perfect shame storm. It’s the same shame shit that I’ve felt every time I’ve put myself out into the world in a big way and allowed myself to be seen. It has happened for years. I work diligently to accomplish something, usually in the service of others, only to wake up with my inner critic telling me that there is something terribly wrong with me or that I did something irrefutably wrong.
I’ve always had an inherent feeling that there is something fundamentally wrong with me. Even in doing good in the world, I still walk away feeling this way. Lately, I’ve been asking myself why. Using our voices and allowing ourselves to be seen, particularly as women, brings up fear. It is incredibly vulnerable to put our thoughts and feelings into the world.
That morning, though, I created a different dialogue for myself. Rather than succumb to the shame, I said “oh no you don’t” to that awful, mean, condescending voice inside my head. “I will not allow you to pick on me or bully me into believing all that negative, critical stuff that you are making up! Not this time.” Then I sat still and listened to the thoughts that this inner bully was sharing.
It kind of went like this…
“The only reason you got this opportunity is that you are wealthy and can financially support this cause. You are so stupid, and I can’t believe you said that on stage. She is so much more charismatic than you. Who do you think you are?”
Our inner critic can be ruthless and our worst enemy if we allow it to be.
This time, however, I stopped, paused, and asked what is true here? And, indeed, some of what I heard was true. I am privileged and able to support causes and organizations I believe in. Yes, when I speak, I do not always speak formally. I love metaphors and can be a bit of a smart ass sometimes. Yes, my TEDx co-curator is very charismatic and has a theatre background. She is an expert orator and so good at using her voice on stage, in her work and in her books. And, finally, there is that omnipresent question of who do I think I am. Really, who am I?
At that moment, in a space of clarity, I was able to bypass the inner critic and tell myself the truth. I am a very competent and accomplished woman. I have an advanced degree, have owned a successful business for many years and have helped thousands of people through my counseling, coaching and philanthropic work. I am passionate about women and women’s issues. This commitment to and passion for supporting women personally, professionally and systematically has driven my work most of my life.
My advocacy work in the community and the legislature is important. It has included supporting women who seemingly did not have a voice. Through coaching, I helped women develop the skills needed to testify on their own behalf and get the needed benefits to support them and their families. My values have always been aligned with supporting women and helping women to use their voices. Always.
After reflecting on these truths, I remembered one of my favorite writings by Marianne Williamson in A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?”
As I remembered these words, I settled into my own inner knowing and a peace that was so profound.
And, Marianne asks a profound question, “Actually, who are you not to be?”
It was on that morning that I finally realized that I have a purpose. I have always had a purpose, but now I was ready to fully embrace it. My power is in empowering others. When we use our voices and our work and words align with our values, we begin operating from our authentic self. We are authentic.
Like all women, I can and do make a difference when I step up and say YES!
Yes, I will do a TEDx talk.
Yes, I will MC an event.
Yes, I will co-curate TEDxCherryCreekWomen.
Yes, I will write a book.
Yes, I will create my own body of work.
Yes, I will contribute to Smart Talk Exceptional Women (STEW).
It takes great heart to be fully expressed. It takes courage to use our voices. It requires vulnerability to be onstage, risking someone’s ridicule, and to share our whole selves. And it takes all of that —heart, courage and vulnerability—to shine our light and brilliance on a world and planet in desperate need of more light.
How can you let your light shine? How can you use your voice? How can you own your power? How do you align your values and use your talents to empower the world?
Is it a TED talk, an honest conversation, an advocacy role in your community? What would you do if you were not afraid of your power? What would you say?
The remainder of Marianne’s writing reads,
“You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Here’s to quieting the inner critic and owning your beauty and power and the freedom of self-expression. Your voice is needed and necessary! Use it!
And, if you’re struggling to step into your power or with uncertainty or other challenges during these unprecedented times, reach out for support. I’m here for you. And, so are other women. We’re all in this together!