We’ve been writing for a while about how speaking up and getting heard is an important step in advancing your career. Have we convinced you? If so, what should you do next?
The act of speaking itself can invoke a ton of involuntary fears. I have an active imagination that can blow up a simple doubt into a conflagration. I still have those ghastly dreams of walking naked down Main Street. Do you? What are the chances of that happening in real life. Slim. Many of the fears I experience before speaking are like that. Unrealistic. Impossible. But I imagine them and they paralyze me. Call them out. Recognizing them and understanding them is an active first step.
Okay, so we recognize that speaking invokes irrational fears.
One fear felt by many women (and men, too) stems from the believe that leadership is earned, not taken. By volunteering to speak, you might believe that you’ve taken, not earned the right. To take leadership is to jump the queue. If you believe the best leader is chosen, not self-selected, then stepping up to a podium may just feel wrong. As Catherine Tate says in her brilliant satiric show, “how very dare you?!”.
Then there is the whole alpha male deal, the scenario where the right to lead is taken by force, by the strongest and best fighter in the group. This certainly puts a male in command. Not a female. You aren’t going to fight for the right to speak, so are you a legitimate leader or not?
Another fear is of standing alone at the podium. This is an unprotected moment for us tribal creatures. As our primitive brain knows, separating yourself from the pack is dangerous. The lone human is vulnerable. The best way to deal with this innate fear is to recognize it for what it is: an ancient involuntary instinct that has run its usefulness. There are no longer lions and tigers ready to pick off the straggler. It’ll still feel scary, but it isn’t dangerous.
So let’s consider all this.
First, in the grand scheme of things, it is not just okay to try out your wings, it is necessary. In “the best of all possible worlds” it is possible to wait to be selected, but this is not the best world, especially for women. A man might wait to be chosen, but rather than wait, a man is more likely to step up unrequested and ask to speak.
No one becomes a leader without practice and without failure. Even alpha males risk failure and defeat. Courage isn’t developed in a vacuum. Only by taking a risk will you develop your courage. And without risk you’ll never grow. One of the biggest tasks for us all is to grow and improve.
It’s scary, but do it anyway.
Speaking before an audience is one of least dangerous of all risks, but it will help you grow. It does take courage, but you will not die. Embarrassment can’t kill you. If you do fail, fail spectacularly. You will remember your failure for years after and possibly, once you’ve made peace with it, it might become a funny story to tell your friends – or even use in a presentation. And then, you just might be a smashing success.
Consider all this and weigh and balance your next move.
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