Today I woke up to the following thought:
“I am tired”
This could be because I spent most of the night awake with a massive “wisdom tooth” ache, but I am sure it is not only that. I haven’t had a full-weekend break since… late February. Between my private coaching practise, teaching, testing, writing, submitting abstracts, co-organising different events, and preparing my way out, there hasn’t been a weekend in which I can simply engage with other activities beyond work.
Curiously enough, Facebook reminded me today that three years ago I was in the middle of nowhere with my DSLR camera, taking random pictures of people, flowers and any other object that inspired me or made me feel somehow positive. Seeing that on my phone screen I realised that I haven’t touched my camera since then, and it’s not because I haven’t got it with me in the UK. It’s simply because… I have done nothing else than work over the past three years (except writing my “Sex and the City” posts in this blog – thank God, I have no interest in being the academic here!).
Next week I’m flying to Lisbon and I haven’t even had the time or energy to book train tickets to get to the airport. I’m indeed over-worked, but luckily enough I’m not burned out as in the past. I’ve been enjoying what I’m doing and the time to submit this PhD is almost here. Four more month to go, and yet there’s still an enormous list of things to take care of around public engagement and social impact. These are indeed exciting times… but I do need a break, so I hope Lisbon will treat me well.
I have done a lot of work on myself to express my inner voice over the years. It has been a long way, from a super shy and introverted teenager to a young adult who is now brave enough to teach in a cinema room or reach out to people who are often perceived by others as “VIP” or powerful.
Earlier on, I knew I had to find my voice and speak up no matter what, if I really wanted my ideas and passions to fly away from my writer’s desk. I think I can say I have done a reasonable good job on putting myself out there whenever there’s the need to. With baby steps, I have overcame the fear of failure and social rejection. I go out there and I just allow myself to be whoever I am, with all the good, bad and ugly things that are part of me. Maybe that’s why some clients are signing up to work with me on the same problem I used to have. They want to find and give space to their own voice in the world and within themselves.
And maybe you face the same struggle. Maybe you are also afraid of looking silly, of doing mistakes or saying all the wrong things you can imagine when talking to someone you barely know. You know you have to overcome these barriers if you want to feel confident and safe out there, just as my clients and I did. So what’s stopping you?
I can’t say I know exactly what’s stopping you, but I can share with you what was stopping me at the time. Here is a short list of reasons I can recall from the top of my head:
- I thought I was not an interesting person
- I thought I had nothing to say that people would like to hear
- I thought people would find me weird as soon as I started talking to them
Of course I don’t feel expansive and confident all the time – no one is! -, but I find myself much more at ease whenever I need to speak to 200 students, express my opinion in public or attend a business party. The acute anxiety and stress peaks are no longer as harsh as they used to be, and believe me I would be paralysed. So what helped me in those scenarios? Three particular thoughts that refute the thoughts I wrote above:
- Everyone is interesting and therefore so am I
- I’m not the one deciding whether people are or are not interested in what I say, that’s up to them
- Everyone is weird and everyone is great, so why fear?
We spend much time in our heads, that’s our biggest problem. And we tend to think the whole world gravitates around us. Does it? The freckle you think someone will spot on you will probably go unnoticed, because just like you everyone else is too much in their own heads to acknowledge that maybe, maybe that one person in front of them is actually feeling the same way they are – anxious, awkward, stupid. So why prolong the suffering?
My final pieces of advice:
- find your voice and give it space
- be open, be yourself, be brave
- focus on the process, be in the moment, forget about the outcomes