“You’re not worthy of being seen.”
“No one cares what you have to say.”
“You’re not good enough.”
“You don’t belong.”

I uttered these words this past Tuesday as I gave my first twenty minute speech to a group of about thirty women. I was the featured speaker for one of the business groups I’m in. I had done shorter talks before but never this long and never to such a large group. I was so scared that my heart was beating a mile a minute. This opportunity came about because I had written an Instagram post talking about how I discovered my self-worth by looking inward instead of outside myself. The group leader saw this post and something told her it was my turn to talk. It scared me when she asked but I knew I had to do it.

I was fine until a week or so leading up to the event. Everytime I would see it promoted on social media, I’d have what felt like a little heart attack and I would quickly scroll past it. Then a couple of days before, I could feel the nervous energy building up inside my body. Thoughts that maybe I shouldn’t have said yes or maybe I should’ve waited would briefly cross my mind but I knew they weren’t true. When I agreed to speak, I knew I wanted to talk about fear and how it’s guided me because it’s a topic near to my heart but I had no clue what I wanted to say. I thought about it for the weeks leading up to the talk, formulating what I wanted to say until I sat in my bed the night before and outlined it in the notebook I’ve been carrying around since I started my journey. I don’t pre-write my speeches, I only do it in my head. It’s how I learned to speak in the WomanSpeak program I enrolled in, which I now lead, to face my fear of speaking. The philosophy of WomanSpeak is that all of us already know what we want to say. We just have to learn to tap into our guts to allow the words to flow.

The day finally arrived and I spoke. I didn’t hold myself back.

We had the very first meeting of the WomanSpeak circle I started at the beginning of this month. We practiced holding space for ourselves and each woman got up to speak about one of her deepest beliefs. One of the members spoke about her belief in inherent joy.* She shared how she had been through darkness. She was an experienced, effective speaker so I was drawn into her story immediately and I could feel what she felt. Then she spoke about discovering inherent joy. We all have it, she proposed, we just have to stop and pay attention enough to feel it. I was so moved by her words and wanted her to invite us to stop and try to feel our inherent joy too…but she didn’t. After each woman speaks in WomanSpeak, we give what we call “refinements.” I told her how much I wanted her to invite us in. She explained that she had planned to do exactly that—ask us to take a moment to close our eyes to feel it. She had written it in her notes. But she told us, as tears welled up in her eyes, that she was afraid we would judge her so she held herself back. She then explained why she joined my circle. I had wondered. She had heard me talking at various business groups and events and witnessed me say what she was thinking but was too afraid to. She joined because she wanted to learn how to stop holding herself back.

We all hold ourselves back. I know I’ve spent a lifetime of doing it. It made me think about why. There are so many reasons. We’re afraid others will judge us. We are afraid others won’t like us for who we are and reject us. We’re afraid of being too “big” when we’ve been told to stay “small.” These are all very real fears but the truth is, we hold ourselves back not because we don’t trust others, but because we don’t trust ourselves. We don’t trust in our value. We don’t trust in our inherent self-worth. We don’t trust in our truths. Whether or not we trust other people doesn’t matter. It’s the trust in ourselves that does. I was scared. I was nervous. I wondered if I was ready to speak this past week. But there was one thing I was sure about. I trusted myself completely. I knew I could do it and even if I couldn’t do it well and failed, I knew I would survive…and try again.

I have reached the last pages of the notebook I’ve been carrying around with me since I started my journey a little over a year ago when I started this newsletter. It is filled with my feelings good and bad, wisdom from friends old and new whom I asked out for coffee, notes from books, podcasts and all the events I attended, WomanSpeak speeches as I learned to trust my voice, and all of my intentions. How apt that while I started that notebook with feelings of so much doubt and fear, especially about speaking, I am ending it with a twenty minute speech about my journey and all the fears that I’ve faced. It’s time for a new notebook and a new chapter in my journey. I have just the right one waiting for me. I can’t wait to see what it will be filled with a year from now. All I know is that it will be filled good and bad, triumphs and failures, and it will all be amazing because I trust myself completely and I won’t hold myself back.

*What happens in WomanSpeak is confidential. This story was shared with permission.

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.