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I Wanted to Say No

Six years ago, I remember being asked to give a keynote speech on the subject of what I’d learned after interviewing 100 women about their midlife reinventions (for my interview series, Next Act for Women—I’m now up to 350!) and how I’d transformed my life in the process. I wanted to say no.

What was holding me back? In one word: Fear.

Who was I to speak with any type of authority? And how would I tame my fear of public speaking? I hadn’t given a speech in over two decades, since my corporate days, and I certainly had never spoken publicly about my own journey.

Fear is insidious. It preys on you, urging you to play it safe. And every time you give in to it, every time you do its bidding, fear wins. It reinforces your belief that you CAN’T. Fear keeps you small.

But when you push through the fear by taking bold action, you prove something to yourself; you learn that yes, you can. And with each step you take outside your comfort zone, the way you see yourself changes and grows to encompass the new things you’ve shown yourself capable of.

I took the leap and said yes to the speaking opportunity. In my keynote, I shared my journey—from suburban wife and mom to city blogger and life coach. And the sell-out audience listened and laughed and applauded; I felt supported and embraced by this community of women. Some stayed after to talk to me, to tell me how much my message, “it’s never too late,” had resonated with them. A reporter even interviewed me and wrote a lovely article for the local paper.

And I began to think of myself as someone who CAN draw a crowd, who CAN deliver a speech, who CAN overcome my fears. I’ve been giving talks and workshops ever since and, with each experience, I reinforce my belief that I CAN speak publicly, that I have something to say, that I’m worthy of an audience. So if courage is taking action in the face of fear, then yes, I’m a courageous person.

YOUR TURN: When fear comes to call, ask yourself: What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? Then take one step, one small step, toward that fear. And watch it shrink.

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