The Courage in Taking Space for the First Time

I can remember sitting around tables - all kinds of tables: boardroom tables, kitchen tables, restaurant tables - and feeling my heart beat faster as I thought about what I wanted to say, and finding the right moment to jump in. 

I'd have it partially rehearsed with what I wanted to say, and the point that I wanted to make. When I jumped in, I'd speak quickly and quietly, slightly raising my voice at the end of each sentence that added a questioning note to what I said. 

At that time I didn't have much awareness of my unease, all I knew was that I had important things to say and that, as I was starting my career and getting more of my own opinions, that I wanted to share them and sometimes it was really terrifying to do so. 

Inside of me there was a lion, and what was coming out was a mouse. 

I lived with me every day, and I knew that I was intelligent and had ideas to share about a variety of topics. I often remember hearing other people voice what I had thought in my head (but hadn't said) and getting praise, and feeling so discouraged with myself that I didn't speak up and get credit and attention. 

I felt like a cat getting ready to jump and doing that back and forth sway like it's still questioning whether it can make it. This video accurately portrays it (and my fear). 

What underlay it was an intense fear that I'd make a mistake. And even worse, that that would mean I was a mistake.

Those words weren't floating in my mind or present on my consciousness, but rather inner fears about who I was or was not that sneakily strategized and manifested in my small voice and lack of assertion in my voice. 

To take space, having all the eyes at the table on me where I would slowly and confidently speak what was on my mind, came with such intense pressure to be perfect and be right that I often never even tried. Because if I tried and I failed, it meant that I wasn't good enough and my inner critic would make it mean that I was useless at my job, a bad friend, ignorant, stupid, and a whole host of other nasty critiques. 

Needless to say, taking space didn't come easily to me with all the baggage I had created around it. If you fall in to this category too, I want you to know it's not a life sentence.

It's tempting to complain that other people aren't listening to you, or don't make room for you to speak. You may not want to hear this, but you've actually trained them that way. 

The person who is in charge of speaking clearly and confidently is you.

The person responsible for speaking about your idea with the excitement or passion in your voice is you.

The way you develop your confidence is by speaking up, going through the inner resistance, and doing it again. 

Often the ideas and gifts that we have to share that we're holding back on can make a profound impact. That blog you want to start to inspire others about something you've gone through? It will make a difference. The business idea you've been contemplating for years? What if it was successful - how would this world be different?

And perhaps the most motivating factor for me in learning to speak my voice was getting present to the cost of not doing so, or said another way: the cost of remaining silent. 

Your voice matters. Speak up, let your heart shine through.