I’m not one to back down from a dare. With the personal mantra of Live Courageously punctuating every email I send, I pride myself on always accepting a challenge.

It is no secret to those within my personal network that I dream of becoming a professional speaker. It surprises very few that I aspire to get onto the big stage and share my message with the world. What might cause some eyebrows to raise, though, is the fact that this dream – this lifelong aspiration that planted itself within my soul when I was just 17 years old – scares me to death.

It isn’t the speaking. Nor the big stage. It’s the message that terrifies me. Developing real and meaningful content; connecting with the audience without hiding behind research-based curriculum; delivering a missive that genuinely moves people? That’s the struggle. This idea of sharing my personal story brings forth the self-doubting ogre from the dark corners of my mind, whispering ever so softly,

“You’re not good enough…You have nothing important to say…No one will listen.”

In desperate attempts to quiet the demon, I spend quite a bit of time attending conferences, following the experts, and networking with anyone who can fuel my aspiration so as to keep it close to the surface. Recently, I had the honor of befriending TedX Speaker and all-around amazing woman, Susan Fee.

 

The Stage


Susan introduced me to the storytelling scene here in Cleveland, a unique concept that brings together people in the community looking to connect to one another through stories. Stories that don’t need to be perfect –they need only to be real. Susan invited me to join her at an upcoming event with a single caveat: I must put my name into the proverbial hat to earn a chance to be selected as an audience speaker.

As the event began, I was in awe of featured storytellers and those stepping to the podium for the first time. It wasn’t the extraordinary nature of the stories they were telling; it was their willingness to be vulnerable. The level of comfort and confidence they had in knowing they were connecting with the people in the room, regardless of their poise or purpose.

Suddenly, my name was called.

 

The Moment of Truth


I found myself standing before a large group of strangers with a microphone in my hand, gifted with the opportunity to share my six minutes without apology. Embedded in that space and time were testimonials of some of the most amazing and the most horrific moments of my life. I was given 360 seconds to shed my theoretical protective armor, and I went about the task of removing every layer, piece by piece, with intention. Sooner than I realized, my time was up and I stood fully exposed before a sea of unfamiliar faces.

Yet, in those moments, they became familiar. The once strangers were on their feet clapping, cheering as if they had been part of my personal fan club for years. Perhaps my story made them wish they had been. Maybe my messy, twisted message of a daily battle to triumph against the voices in my head was enough. Maybe I  am enough.

 

The Aftermath


Brene Brown tells us,

Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.

It takes a lot to live courageously. Some fearless deeds are easier than others. But stepping through the fear and into the light allows us to remember that we are in control. That we can silence the ogres. That we can inspire others through our greatest – and weakest – moments.

Act with bold intention, for the judgment you fear is coming only from within. The world, conversely, is waiting to be your cheerleader. The universe is thirsty for your truth.