was the night before my first big 3-day event in 2012 and I was standing in the middle of my stage, in Edison, New Jersey. 130 people had registered for the event. I had the mic and powerpoint clicker in my hands to test sound and visuals – and I was cautiously saying the words to my introduction, “Welcome, I’m so excited that you are here.” But the truth was, I wasn’t very excited.
I stared into the ultra bright lights. I asked for the fifth time, “Can you please turn the lights down?” And received the same answer for the fifth time, “Monica, they need to be that bright so they can see you – you’ll get used to them.” I looked over the room of empty chairs and I felt a chill of terror run through my body.
My event team and mentor were in the audience, staring at me, and telling me, “Monica, just be YOU. You’re going to be great.” The problem was that I didn’t know who ME was. The ME I knew was quiet. She liked deep conversations with one, maybe three people. She was an amazing coach who had deep powers of intuition. But she didn’t love the stage. She wasn’t quite sure what to do in the spotlight. She had always been a natural leader – but it felt like those leadership moments just happened sometimes – it wasn’t something within her control.
During that event, and the years after, I worked on finding ME. I modeled myself after my colleagues who loved speaking and could spontaneously come up with the best talks. I also modeled myself after my colleagues who were more introverted and yet quietly powerful. And I learned so much from the process of watching and learning from those that were doing events around me.
And I practiced. I said yes to every speaking event I could, and I paid for sponsorships to speak on lots of stages. There were some speaking spots that were amazing, and others that were quite the train wreck.
Little by little, I started to notice something. My power didn’t come from trying to be someone else. Learning from them and modeling after them was important, yes, and that’s how I kept getting better. But my true power came from being confident being me. I had to own me. Every part of me.
I had to own:
That sometimes I use the wrong words at the wrong time
That I can’t get a metaphor right for the life of me
That I forget names of people and places – right when I need them
That I move awkwardly sometimes, especially on a stage
That I need help picking out my outfits, especially my shoes
I could go on and on and on.
But there are the good parts, too. The parts of me that I’ve learned to celebrate and count on. The parts of me that make me smile.
I also had to own:
That I’m smart and really good at helping businesses generate money
That I’m a damn good teacher
That I can break down just about anything into simple actionable pieces
That I’m entertaining and funny, and can tell an amazing story
That I can read the emotions and needs of my audience seamlessly
Here’s the most interesting piece – I used to think that my clients and my audiences only loved the good pieces – and that I had to diminish or avoid the bad ones.
This is the learning that has shifted it all – my clients and audiences love the awkwardness as much as the talent. As long as I love me, they love me.
Mastery and excellence isn’t about eliminating all of your faults. It’s about honoring your faults and adding masterful skills on top of them.
This is the key to becoming powerful – learning to love and accept all the pieces of you. Yes, you may work to become more skilled and masterful in certain areas. But you are doing all of that not to change you – but to add to the already perfect you.
Now that I’ve been in business for more than a decade, I know one thing to be true – all of the parts of me that I don’t like are still here. I’ve just mastered the parts of me that I love – to such a degree that the other parts don’t really matter. This comfort with myself has amounted to me being powerful, both on and off stage.
So take a moment and reflect on how can you fall more in love with all the parts of you that you admire and the parts of you that you want to hide. Here’s to simply surrendering to who you really are and stepping into your power in the process.