A few weeks ago, the Hello Etsy conference came to town and my friend Jen Neitzel, from the DIY Lounge, was co-chair for the Portland event. She had to do the opening speech and asked if I'd be up for sharing a relaxation breathing technique with the audience as part of her speech.
My first reaction was, "Yeah! I'm in! Sounds like a great idea!"
My second reaction immediately afterward was, "Oh shit. I don't want to do this. I'm not gonna do this. She wants me to get up on a stage in front of 250 people and make them all breathe together? I'm gonna look like some weird new-agey hippie lady! Which ok, I guess I am, but these people don't need to know that. What if they feel uncomfortable? What if they don't join in? Nope, no way. Won't do it. Can't do it."
I was scared. The audience number scared me. The fact that it was being filmed and broadcast at Hello Etsy events around the world scared me. And this definition I have of myself as someone shy and awkward who definitely doesn't get up in front of audiences and speak (or even worse, tell them what to do) well, scared me.
Jen and I met a few days before the conference to figure things out and I told her flat out, "Not gonna do it! Can't do it!" But Jen, in all her wise assurance, ignored my freaked-out-ness saying, "let me just read to you what I have so far for my speech and how I tie the breathing in- I really think it'll be good."
Her speech was all about gratitude and how people who express gratitude in everyday are truly happier. She gave thanks to everyone who helped organize the conference and then talked about taking time to show gratitude to ourselves too- and that's where my breathing exercise would come in, as a way to show gratitude to this moment, to this conference we were about to experience together.... she was right, it was good.
"Dang," I thought to myself, "now I have to do it."
So I went home and psyched myself up. I figured out an easy technique to share, practiced my breathing, went over what I wanted to say in my head and figured, now's as good a time as ever to conquer this public speaking fear I have, right?
Sitting at the conference a few days later, listening to Jen speak and waiting for the moment when she would call me up, I felt something I've never in my life felt before having to get up in front of an audience: calm.
She called my name and I stood up, felt calm. Walked onto the stage, felt calm. Saw 250 faces looking back at me and much to my surprise, felt calm.
And then the moment came when I asked everyone to sit up straight in their chairs, so we could begin breathing, and I felt this SHIFT. Everybody moved. Everybody sat upright. Everybody was looking at me and listening and participating! The voice in the back of my head was saying, "Woah. That's cool. What the heck were you so scared of?"
And then everyone closed their eyes, and breathed with me. And it was awesome.
Before I headed to bed that night, I felt compelled to scribble something down in the dark, in a fresh new notebook, and here's what came out:
I have felt a strange and sudden sense of calm pass over me in the last few days. I feel a sense of clarity, of purpose. For my whole life I feel as if I've been running, running, trying to get wherever it is I'm going as fast as possible, trying to become whatever it is I am "supposed to become." But that sense of needing to speed into the future has diminished now. I feel not only happy to just be right where I am, right now, but I have this confidence inside me that I'll get to where I'm gettin' when I get there, ya know? That everything happens at a pace, that I don't need to always be striving for something more, more, more- that here is where I need to be, in this moment. And for that, I feel grateful. So grateful to have this heaping insecurity I've harbored within myself for years seem to be farther off in the background than I've ever felt it- so distant, in fact, that I can't even see it from here, I can't hear it from here. I feel safe and calm and ready to take life one day at a time and cherish each moment, by moment.
I feel like I've shifted into a new definition of myself, where suddenly things I never thought were possible for me to do, seem possible. I think so often we hold onto the definitions we've created for ourselves from youth and sometimes those can hinder us in adulthood and keep us from realizing our true potential, our true happiness, our true selves.
We let the "I can't because I'm too [insert negative idea of ourselves here]" get in the way of letting us explore the possibilities of all that we can do. I'm only realizing now that I don't have to be the scared, shy, "no one cares what I have to say" kid that I have always felt like. I can flip the script, change that definition, move beyond it. And to do that, I have to face my fears, head on.
Is there an old "definition of yourself" that you think is holding you back from your true potential? A fear that you know you need to face in order to grow? Realize that you're stronger than you think you are and that those old ideas you have of yourself aren't necessarily true. Who do you want to be today?