You know how it is when you get talking to someone and that quiet excitement bubbles up inside because they feel so aligned with where you are and it’s almost like the universe has sent them your way? Well, I was lucky enough to have one of those awesome connections yesterday. It’s funny to think how easily the opportunity could have passed us by.
You see, when my new friend first emailed me and explained who she was, those imposter gremlins jumped up on me. This was someone who I saw as being extremely successful in her field, which I can imagine is highly competitive. Sure, I’m a Director of a business but, the gremlins said, I’ve created this for myself. Nobody picked me for this role. I haven’t fought off competition to be here. And besides, this is a small start up. Realistically, we’re at the other end of the scale to the massively successful, renowned organisation that this lady has come from and I still don’t feel like I know what I’m doing half the time (okay, so it’s a little more than half).
So with all that in mind, why would she be interested in meeting me and talking about our little social enterprise? Well, the only explanation is that she thinks we’re something we’re not and she’s going to be very disappointed declares the voice in my head. Ah, those old, familiar gremlins. Mustering up the self-compassion I need to soothe those critical voices, it takes almost 24 hours for me to put on my big-girl pants, take a deep breath and reply with an offer to meet up and chat. She’s only human, I’m reminded.
“I better look professional today” I’m thinking as I choose a black skirt and cream top to wear, like I was heading out to a job interview. But by lunchtime, I’m swapping my black skirt for my favourite floaty blue skirt and trainers (yep, that’s trainers with a skirt. It feels wiser to choose comfort over appearance while I’m dealing with a running injury). I grab a denim jacket to throw over the top as I’m leaving. I’m looking less professional perhaps, but smart enough and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable as I arrive over half an hour early.
We meet and I like her immediately. She’s also chosen the relaxed look and there’s a kind and gentleness that radiates from her. We have loads to chat about; stories to share and questions to ask. We each have dreams that intertwine and it feels clear to me that we’re meant to meet.
Yet, she tells me that she felt anxious about meeting me too, and it had even crossed her mind to cancel. So we’re discussing how easy it is to hide behind a role and play the part expected of us in our careers; with feelings of anxiety and avoidance behaviours creeping in when it’s time to interact outside that role. Suddenly, we’ve lost a piece of our armour. People can see us. There’s a vulnerability in meeting people as ourselves that we don’t feel when we meet with people from the safety-net of our role.
It’s dawned on me that, since diving into entrepreneurship, I haven’t felt that safety-net. I’m showing up as me, doing work that feels meaningful in the best way I can. The Director title doesn’t tell me I’m successful here. It doesn’t tell me I’m good at what I do. It doesn’t tell me that I’m on the right track. Nor that I’m worthy or valued or wanted. All of that insight can only come from me now. I have to trust that I am enough, that I am doing enough. I suppose this was always the truth really. It’s only the way we attach meaning to a job role that we hold that makes it feel different to us.
So I can get myself into a funk where I’m questioning my worthiness and comparing myself against others’ achievements. And I can choose to pick up my old go-to armour of avoidance and miss opportunities that come my way… but do I really want to? I have met a kindred spirit this week because we both chose to be brave, despite the discomfort, and took the opportunity to show up and connect as ourselves. I wonder what connections you could make if you chose courage over comfort too…
Hayley shares her personal stories of feeling shy, socially anxious, ‘not good enough’ and fearfully avoiding the good things in life. Growing her confidence through coaching, gradually stretching her comfort zone and connecting with others, she now uses everything she has learned to help other people grow their confidence in her role as a coach. Hayley is passionate about connecting people with similar stories and creating safe, supportive spaces to make friends and try new things. Hayley dreams of a time when all of the strengths, skills and goodness in ‘quiet’ is recognised and appreciated as readily as being bold, gregarious, and comfortable in the spotlight is right now.