I was recently invited to speak on a panel at a blogging workshop.
My first thought was, absolutely! My second thought was, oh no. Who am I to speak at a panel? What advice could I possibly have? I wasn't accomplished, I wasn't featured anywhere, I wasn't anyone as far as I was concerned.
I was even more fearful of the questions, who are you, Monique? And what is your blog about? What was I supposed to say? Did I have anything to say?
I prepped as much as any person could prep, but on the way there, I felt like my body was being peeled apart, strip by strip. I felt like my chest was full of fire ants and my heart was the queen of them all. I could feel myself start to sweat in the back of my neck and at the line where my forehead meets my hair. I could feel my face getting hot. I imagined myself burning up in front of everyone, sweating and blushing and fumbling with my words. I imagined myself regretting the entire thing afterwards, and never doing it again. I imagined myself a fool, and a failure.
The greatest part about this imagined tragedy, is that it's imagined.
We have outstanding imaginations. They take us on journeys we don't even want to go on. They make our bodies react with fear when there's no danger. It's beautiful really, but no amount of imagined tragedy was going to affect the deliverance of my performance.
If I blushed or fumbled my words, the cops weren't going to come and take me away. If they thought I didn't make sense or if they didn't like what I had to say, they weren't going to get up and yell at me about it. They weren't going to walk out or call me names. This was a blogging workshop, not a city planning meeting.
But where does that wild imagination come from?
This idea that we are unworthy of being in front of people, and so unworthy, in fact, that the moment we open up our mouths, we think we're going to be criticized, judged, or humiliated. It's scary, all of the nonsense that's hardwired into our brains, but it's experiences like this one, that teach us that that's all it really is--nonsense.
Once it was my turn to speak, and I got over the initial shock of being handed the mic and asked the pivotal question, who are you? it became a lot easier to ease into. People were taking notes and asking questions. They weren't concerned with me or whether or not I was capable of answering these questions. They didn't question themselves with my reason for being there or whether or not I was worthy. They opened up their minds and ears and listened, something that was never a part of my ‘imagined tragedy’.
The best advice I can give anyone who is about to speak, is you won’t know what you have to say until you say it. There’s no preparing for it. You can try to gather a few things that you know you should probably touch on, but I think the brain naturally comes up with answers when you’re on the spot, and they end up being better than anything you could have come up with in front of a mirror the night before. I know because I tried that too.
At the end of the day, what pulled me through it was my love for blogging, and it’s that sort of love that will allow me to conquer this type of fear again and again. This panel wasn't really about me or whether or not I was worthy of being there, it was about sharing the knowledge of what I’d learned up until this point. It was about helping to spread the word of blog. It was about relaying all of the good that comes out of expressing yourself on a digital page, in your very own digital corner.
And I knew right when they started asking great questions, that I was someone. I was a blogger. And I had plenty to say.