Have you ever been so overcome that you simply couldn’t speak? That just happened to me a couple weekends ago. Yep, me—the one who loves to talk, isn’t afraid of public speaking, and has a degree in Speech/Communications.
I had the pleasure of being a presenter at the Illumination Event here in Minneapolis. The event’s tagline: “It’s Time to Shine!” What a perfect place for me to share the Following Your Joy message and soak up all the inspiration of the day.
What happened to me there probably wasn’t a big deal to the participants in my session, but it was to me. A few minutes into my presentation, I became so short of breath that I could barely get my words out. I had never experienced this before and was completely stunned—I wasn’t nervous, I had done this before, and I was speaking on a topic I was passionate about.
Why this day was different
To-date, the majority of my presentations had been geared toward business groups and associations, focused on Time Management and Work-Life Balance. Some of what I talked about previously was based on the research of other experts, so it never felt too personal for me; I could easily keep my personal beliefs and ideas at an arm’s length from participants. And in these business settings, people listened to me because they had been encouraged by a supervisor to attend my presentation; it wasn’t necessarily the attendee’s choice of how they wanted to spend their time.
On this day, though, at the Illumination Event, it was different. There was a roomful of 50 or so participants who wanted to be there; they all deliberately chose me for their first breakout session.
The past several months, my Following Your Joy session had morphed and evolved from my previous business-focused “Time Management” presentation into a focus on joy, because after all—living a better life all boils down to identifying: 1) What brings you joy, and 2) How to get more if it in your life.
So right off the bat, it felt very personal. And in a very wonderful way. I couldn’t have had a more supportive, loving, and welcoming group right in front of me. In fact, when I first felt like I might not be able to continue and I had to set my microphone down, one of the women in the back said, “It’s okay, you’re among friends.”
Her words move me to tears even today, because I felt so vulnerable at the time.
Gasping for air
For a few moments, my breath became incredibly shallow. I felt like I was gasping for air and I could barely squeak out my words. The more I talked, the more I had difficulty breathing.
Even though I innately knew that everything would eventually be fine, in those few moments I felt like I was failing. Failing to deliver a great presentation like I told the event committee I would; failing to deliver an energizing morning for the lovely people in the room who had spent their time and money to be there; failing to live up to my own expectation of the joyful presentation I intended to share.
Earlier in the day, a phenomenal keynote speech was delivered by my friend, Joan Steffend, a woman I admire greatly. She talked about the importance of being yourself—unapologetically. That we are each perfect and wonderful exactly as we are. Her honest and compassionate presentation made my heart race that morning. The message resonated with me deeply.
Looking back on my own presentation, I think I know what the source was of me losing my breath.
Somewhere in the myriad of messages in my brain are embedded comments from a couple folks who’ve told me in the past that I don’t know what real joy is or that the joy I speak of is a false sense of joy. Those thoughts have settled in my core and have always been in the backdrop, even as I’m sharing my joy with others. That’s a tough pill to swallow when it comes from someone you love.
Being true to myself
On this day, my presentation was chock full of personal stories and beliefs that are dear to my heart. Thankfully, this was an audience eager to receive the message and share in the joy!
For me, it felt like a ‘coming out’ of sorts, and I didn’t realize the magnitude of it until I was thrust into the moment. I often pause before I hit the “publish” button on a blog post as my stories can feel so personal. But sharing my stories this way—live, unedited, unplugged, raw, unfiltered—made the Following Your Joy concept so much more real.
When I had a session with my coach later and shared what happened that morning, she said it sounded like I was metaphorically jumping off a cliff.
After I paused, took a drink of water, and caught my breath, I was able to continue the rest of the presentation. And it flowed, felt comfortable, and I enjoyed it. I ended up receiving a lot of nice feedback afterwards. :)
Not everyone will always agree with my philosophies or beliefs, nor are they supposed to. And that’s okay. I’m choosing now to focus on the wise words of my friend Joan, along with what one of the women so wisely said to the rest of the group in my session: “We should never apologize for the things that bring us joy.”
She probably didn’t realize that she was speaking directly to me.
Grateful for the gift of shining my light
So a thank you to all of the sweet souls in my session (who may not even remember me tripping up) for holding the space for me to be “me,” for cheering me on, and making me smile with their “oooh’s” and “aaah’s” after hearing my stories of the power of following your joy. What a gift they all gave me!
Later that day, I had the privilege of attending my friend Liv Lane’s Choosing Beauty breakout session. She reminded each of us to pay attention to the beauty around us and how it can often come disguised in ways we might not even realize. I’m distanced enough now from my experience to know that the “beauty” in my stumbling experience was that it was just an additional part of me coming out a little more and shining my light—unapologetically. Definitely something to celebrate in my journey!
To those who inspired me that weekend and to my beautiful readers who each have a brilliant light of their own to shine, here’s a favorite quote by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to manifest the glory that is within us. And as we let our light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Like the concept of shining your light? Here’s a related post on my experience with the meaning of life and understanding why we’re here.
Care to add your thoughts? I’d love it.