In early October, I stood in the back of a room filled with a thousand screaming women. They were dancing, shouting, hollering, clapping, laughing… for me.
And as I paced behind the rows of chairs, ready to step onto a stage for the first time in my life, I had a moment that I knew would change the trajectory of my entire career. And—if it’s not too dramatic to say—change the world.
Let me back up just a second. I just starting writing here on this blog (my writing specific to the topic of branding lives at StrategicJuju.com.) But if you’ve been following me on other platforms, you may know that I launched my book and have been on a bit of a “tour,” inspiring women to step up to the second half of life. As part of that process, I was invited to speak–from a stage in Nashville–to a thousand “Lady Bosses.” I was invited by Kaelin Tuell Poulin, a fitness guru with more than 85,000 women in her private program.
It was a real boon, lemme tell ya.
I busted my butt preparing for LadyBoss Live. I got a masterful coach who helped me to prepare a kick-ass talk. I practiced the talk every day, first memorizing 35 minutes of text—90 seconds at a time—and then walking through it again and again to feel comfortable with my gestures, walking the length of the stage, calling the audience to respond. I spent hours choosing the right clothing and smiling at my reflection in the mirror.
LadyBoss Live was the kick-off for my speaking career, and I was determined to feel 100% READY when I got on that stage.
And then the “morning of” arrived. I showed up in the Green Room for hair and make-up, forced down my oatmeal, ran through my talk, and walked through the door of the room where I was to speak.
And there they were. A thousand women… on fire. Pumped and primed and totally open for new ideas and inspiration and leadership. They were practically begging me to step onto the stage…
When someone started whispering this in my ear:
“What are you gonna do if you forget your lines?
What if you trip on the way up the stairs?
What if they hate you?
What if they laugh at you?
What if you’re too much for them?
Too full of yourself?
What if this is your last chance to ever speak again?
How are you gonna feel tomorrow after this all blows up in your face?”
Can you imagine ANYONE who’d say such horrible things to me in the literal moment of my big break? I’ll bet you can. Because I’ll bet that you have a brutal critic exactly like this one.
Right inside your head.
In the past, this nasty little bit&% has taken me down. She’s beaten me up. She’s sent me right through doors crying and left me in bed with the covers over my head.
But that morning, I was ready for her. I knew she’d come along with me to Nashville. She was chattering through the whole flight and chewing gum in my ear when I checked in at the front desk. She was “checking” me in the days before my speech. Making sure to remind me how small I was, and what a bad idea it was to try to go big.
So I knew that morning she’d be screaming over the voices of all those women. I knew she’d be jumping up and down and pointing her finger in my face.
But I made a conscious choice.
To ACKNOWLEDGE her.
To THANK her.
To RECOGNIZE what she was trying to do for me.
And then to politely tell her I just didn’t need her that day.
That she was welcome to watch, but not to make decisions.
And I gave respect, instead, to the truth about what would happen if I gave in to her:
If I missed that moment…
If I missed out on a thousand women screaming my name…
I’d just keep doing it.
And all of my time preparing would have just been wasted days and wasted nights.
And so I told myself what I knew to be true:
I’d done the work, so the words would come.
The message had come TO me, so it was mine to share.
And this was my moment.
And I stepped onto that stage…
It was the most rewarding moment of my professional career. They laughed at my jokes and clapped at the right times and leaned in and listened… and TOOK NOTES! (Can you imagine? Someone taking NOTES when you talk?? What a gas!)
And I saw, right from the stage, that my words were changing them. Some women cried. I could see them lay down their defenses right before me, and take in the message that they were PERFECT. And that they were in for the best part of their lives.
And then, they gave me a standing ovation.
The voice in my head? She didn’t even congratulate me. And she learned NOTHING from the experience.
She’ll be back next time to shoot me down and suck the life out of me. After all, that’s her job, right? To keep me safe?
What about the voice in YOUR head?
What’s she telling you?
How many “back-stage” moments have you had when she’s cried out, and you’ve decided to pay respect to her nasty diatribes?
How many times has she told you what you’re worth, and you believed her?
How many times has she knitted you a sweater of shame, and you put it on?
Here’s the trick.
And listen up, because it’s a life-changer.
She’s not going away.
And believe it or not, although she’s 100% full of bullsh%&, she’s actually on your team.
So treat her like a team member.
Thank her for her warnings.
Recognize her for her commitment to your “safety.”
And then make the conscious choice to just IGNORE everything she says.
Just nod. And then do whatever you want.
Listen, there’s a very good chance that the voice inside my head is actually the SAME voice that’s inside yours. And I can tell ya, she’s a playground bully. Push back, and she’s got NO GAME.
Here’s to your next back-stage moment.