A couple of years ago, I was in Boston, at an international marketing conference.
Every day was packed with sessions, tracks, keynotes and speakers to die for. It was impossible to choose one over the other.
The venue was greater than the big town square from my hometown. It was so huge so I had to sprint in between tracks to make sure I got to the ones that I eventually and nervously picked.
The one talk that nobody was going to miss: Michelle Obama’s keynote (from the second day of the conference, at 9 am).
Due to security issues, everybody was asked to come in painfully early on the day of her speech. You could see the waiting lines stretching for blocks and feel people’s excitement building up as the hour approached.
From the moment she stepped on stage, everybody went crazy and greeted her like the rockstar that she is. I had to pinch myself in order to know that I wasn’t dreaming. More than 20k people were taking notes and jotting down her words for their future quote tattoos.
While answering questions and being her natural awesome self, she said “You can’t lead with fear”. The crowd went wild. Everybody got up. You could feel and see the energy. And even I, a dreamy eyed girl from across the world, got to share a slice of that magic.
She was right, of course, but the thing that struck me the most is that so many people needed to be reassured of that. And how much I needed it.
She was referring to leadership and the Trump administration, but my fragile bones sucked it in like a double dose of effervescent calcium. I knew I was not only leading every aspect of my life with fear, but I was letting fear lead me. I felt the ripple effects of those words in every cell.
Years later, I still remember that moment like it was yesterday and like Michelle Obama was talking directly to me. Like she was my bestie and casually dropped a call to bust my balls for not doing better. For not taking chances. For not believing in myself and not making the changes I know I need.
I started thinking about all the faces of fear that seemingly make their way into our lives and take control. About all the situations I’ve let fear handle. All the people, opportunities and talks I shied away from. And, most importantly on how fear still creeps into my life.
As it turned out, fear had many faces, and I got to know them all across the years:
The perfection pitfall
I need to be perfect. I don’t even know what that means all the time, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. How stupid is that?
My nails. My hair. My clothes (if you’re wondering, women don’t care about how they feel, they care about how they look).
My words. My work.
It doesn’t just stop at me. The need for perfection poisons everything it touches. I want my partner to be perfect too. My house. My family (Lord help me!)
Moms want perfection for their kids, and their clothes, their grades, their careers and relationships. I even know people that have made all the arrangements for their funeral and burials. They’re not sick. They’re not dying (not more than the rest of us). They just want everything to be “taken cared of”.
The obvious thing is they’re not living, either. I wasn’t and if you are also caught up in “what you’re supposed to be doing” instead of what you truly want, you aren’t excelling at living either.
The desire to control the outcome
Control is nothing more than perfection’s lieutenant.
A big, bad guard dog that follows orders to the T and never disappoints.
We need everything to go as planned. We don’t leave room for mistakes. For random things. For fun.
We never stop to think that we’re not a drill sergeant. We’re partners, mothers, daughters, friends and what all these titles mean is that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. A family. A group. A tribe. A purpose.
Control will keep us safe, in a small hidden box. I can tell you one thing: while that box might be neat & tidy as hell, I bet there was never enough room for your potential.
Shame is the “you’re not good enough” speech that might be on loop since you were a kid.
Or the “what are others going to think about it?”.
Or “who do you think you are?!” .
These thoughts have paralyzed progress for so many years. They stopped me in my tracks.
They’ve tricked me in believing they’re true and set me on a sabotage mission. I was working against myself. Undercover. Knee-deep in shame. Finding reasons and ways for every negative statement about myself to come true in real life. Compromising every small attempt to do things differently. Not standing up for myself.
Are you guilty of the same capital sins against yourself?
The Crippling Comparison
Comparing myself to others felt like suffocating.
At first, it seemed harmless. I was just scrolling, reading, checking up on how others are doing their thing. I called it research.
But it became so much more than that. Soon, I wasn’t feeling inspired. I was down. I thought like I never could rise to do such amazing work. I was never going to be able to articulate the topics I wanted to address and that “it was all said and done before” anyway.
I felt like the biggest impostor. Like my voice is too small, or that it wouldn’t matter, so why bother trying?
Chase Jarvis said something that made a difference: “stop comparing your regular days with other people’s highs”. Yasssss! So true. Ok, thanks Chase, I could breathe a little better.
A while ago, I stumbled upon an old talk in which Michelle Obama was invited. The usual happened. She walked on stage. Everybody flipped. She was her regular awesome self. People were taking notes like it was 1720. Then she said something and my world stopped: “I still feel like an impostor”.
OMG! Even the most awesome and fierce women ever feel that? Even the ones who always have the right words, the best reactions and the perfect lessons for the entire world? Even the ones that fill arenas with just their presence?
Then, in another talk where Brene Brown was interviewed she admitted she had trouble feeling like she belongs.
That she’s extremely introverted and feels ok at home, where she’s just her and her data. Not on stage. Not on tour. Not on talks. And yet, she’s killing it every time. And she still feels shame after 25 years of researching it and becoming the world’s leading expert on it. She still feels like misfit while entire generations are forever in her debt.
So, yes, even the most outstanding people feel this way at times. The one thing they agree on is that comparing yourself to others is certain death. So stop doing it. Marie Forleo says we should “create, before we consume”. Thanks, Marie, that’s why this little world doodler blog exists!