I attended the Integrating Woman Leaders (IWL) Women's leadership conference a few weeks ago. This was the first time I was representing my company, my brand, and myself. In times past, I was either representing my job or I was attending as a proverbial fly on the wall.
I chose this conference because I had an agenda and purpose. I wanted to be surrounded by like minded women who were unashamedly taking action to advance themselves or their organization. I wanted to set the precedent of investing in my personal develop. And I also wanted to understand the issues facing my target market.
During the morning inspiration and call to action, I was very excited. Then something strange happened. As I was listening to the wonderful speech about taking risks in the game of life by Jennifer Wolfgram, VP of Commercial education at Roche Diagnostics, all of a sudden my shoulders began to droop. I took my eyes off of the speaker and began looking around at the 500 plus attendees and they I heard this...
"What are YOU do here? You don't belong here. You're just a little company and these women are in BIG business and are serious."
I will admit I entertained that thought longer than I should have. I looked around at the women on stage and in the seats next to me. They all looked so sure of themselves and confident. I started to go down the path of self loathing but then I stopped. You see I've been down that road before so I knew exactly where it would lead me. I would spend the rest of the conference feeling like I didn't fit in, that I was a fraud, and secretly kicking myself for investing in a waste of time. Well I didn't want that. I wanted a different kind of day. So I decided to own my leadership and address the question.
The speaker, Jennifer Wolfgram, was just saying that on the road of life you will be tested. This was my test and I recognized it. I told that devil (you call it whatever you like) that I was not going to fall that trick. I squared my shoulders, lifted my head, and won that battle with the internal declaration "I am here because this is where I belong."
The theme for the conference was "Purpose, Passion, and The Will To Lead". In that moment of temptation, I had to make a choice. Will I surrender my purpose and passion to uncertainty and intimidation or will I take the lead? I took the lead. After all the money I spent on hotel, travel, and a new outfit, I was not going to let anything stop me from being open to the wonderful things awaiting me that day.
There were so many wonderful things awaiting me that day including:
- a fun keynote by Karen Hough, author of Be The Best Bad Presenter, on how to use improvisation to open yourself up to possibilities and negotiations.
- a phenomenal breakout session about how women can develop their strategic thinking skills by Jennifer Zinn. This was by far my favorite session.
- A signed copy of No Excuses: 9 Ways Woman Can Change How We Think About Power by Gloria Feldt.
- a great networking lunch where I met several connections.
- meeting some awesome women
- a big boost in my confidence
As women, we think that if we have a thought then we are the originators of that thought. That is not true. Things are suggested to us all the time. We've all experienced it. We're on a diet and we see the ad for the brand new meal at our favorite restaurant . We then think "I want that". And the cycle or self loathing begins and we beat ourselves up for having the thought. But the truth is, your thought was a suggestion originated by the advertisers of that restaurant.
Let me put it another away. You've just been promoted. You're excited to lead your team but then you hear this thought :
"What makes you think you can run this group better than the last guy? Who do you think you are? You're the only woman. You don't belong here."
Before you agree with these thoughts, take a minute to examine the result of accepting them. What benefit will it produce? Will it give you the energy and confidence to move forward? Will it open up your creativity so ideas can flow freely?
If the answer is no, then veto that thought.
Of all the wonder that I experienced at the conference, it was during the days following the conference that I realized why I was trying to be distracted at the beginning.
In the airport the day after the conference I initiated a conversation with one of the panelists from the "Mentoring Women, Achieving Results" session. She and I talked for almost an hour and found ourselves reveling in the camaraderie. Once I got home, I followed up with EVERY person I met. One particular woman and I had such a good time validating each other, encouraging each other, and talking business that we literally had to make ourselves get off the phone so we could get back to work. We decided to speak monthly just to keep each other accountable and moving forward. I also was able to connect a job seeker with a potential lead.
None of that would have been possible had I surrendered to the intimidation and fear.
At the moment you're tempted, you don't know what lies down the road. All you have is the present information. I implore you my dear love to face your doubt head on. Be brave enough to face it with the knowledge that something amazing must be about to happen since the opposition is forming so early.
This blog is about inspiring you live BRAVELY and giving you practical ways to do that. So here are some practical takeaways from my conference experience with doubt.
How to answer when someone (even yourself) suggests you don't belong
- Remember your purpose and your big "why". Why are you there? Doing what you do? What is the reason or purpose driving you?
- Invoke your veto power. You do not have to accept every suggestion that comes your way. Kick it out by creating an empowering thought.
- Fuel your new empowering thought by remembering all the evidence of your past success.
What are some ways you've overcome self doubt?