There are a lot of messages that, women especially, subconsciously pick up from the world we live in. I don't think there is anyone person who told me these things, but the message I have received is you are too much. You're too smart (boys won't like that), you're too bossy, too weird, too bitchy, too fat, too animated, talk too loud, move too fast, talk too fast, take up too much space and shine too brightly.
I am typically the person who jumps right in, who sees a problem and wants to solve it, who speaks up when others are silent. Yet, that getting things done attitude can sometimes come across as bossy or bitchy. So, slowly I grew quiet. I stopped stepping in and using my words. I would go to things and hang back.
Last year I went to a couple of really awesome events at Chicago Ideas Week. We were in a group and tasked with using design thinking to create a prototype of an exhibit. And I hung back. I let other people step up and take the lead and honestly I felt like crap. I felt like I didn't have a voice and I wasn't a part of the process that was unfolding in front of me.
I hold back in other ways too. I don't take credit or I minimize the hard work it took to do something. Or I make it seem like it was no big deal (when it kind of was). I've been dimming my light and for what purpose?
Dimming my light doesn't mean that other people shine less. There is plenty of praise and accolades to go around. When leaders don't step up stuff doesn't get done.
Tuesday night I went to one of my favorite events Idea Potluck at Mac & Cheese Productions. The format of the evening is 8 people talk for 6 minutes about anything they want. It's great fun and I always learn a little something new. Before the program started they mentioned one of the speakers was sick and they were looking for a volunteer to fill in. I sat in the dark with the rest of the audience and my first response was 'I want to to do it' and yet, I sat on my hands and waited for a few moments in case someone else volunteered.
Thankfully no one else did and I gave a fun and engaging talk (no really I did!) and I loved doing it. I love speaking in public. I'm smart and witty and super passionate about some cool stuff and I love to share my knowledge with people.
Except, for the space of a few breaths, even though I knew this was something I wanted to do, I didn't raise my hand because...why? I'm not sure if I can answer that. Was it because I had spoken at the event a few years ago and I wanted to give someone else a chance. Was it because I didn't want to draw attention to myself? Was it because I didn't want to shine too brightly?
Was it a bit daunting to come up with a six minute talk on the fly? Yes, but I'm so glad I did it. I also now know that I don't have to wait. If I want to speak, or be the leader and get things done, then I need to speak up.
You are not too much. We need all of you with your voice, spirit and actions moving through the world like you own it. Have you found yourself hanging back? Then I suggest you step forward because amazing and magical things can happen.