I recently spoke at a one-day summit sponsored by the Willow Creek Association addressing #metoo & the church. The topics of the summit ranged from abuse and the church’s response to creating a path forward for men and women to thrive working and doing life together. I spoke on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, which, compared to some of the other topics, felt light and breezy. The summit was recorded for distribution to churches and non-profit sites throughout the U.S. and Internationally. We’ve seen that the church is not immune from congregants and staff who can say #metoo, the topics addressed were critical for understanding and moving forward.
Prior to the event, there was a speaker’s dinner. A chance to get to know the people I’d be sharing the stage with and talk through a few logistics. Pastors, a psychologist, justice advocates, actresses …basically, amazing, intelligent, well-versed people. People who are fighting for the rights of women and children. As I sat among them, a not un-familiar feeling crept up on me. What…am…I…doing…here??? Seriously. My evenings are spent binge watching Parks and Recreation and going to bed by 8:30. I said as much to my boss/friend who was on the trip with me for moral support. We laughed and laughed.
Let me name it. I was experiencing a strong case of Imposter Syndrome. It’s a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite evidence to the contrary. In that moment, I was thankful I’ve been “doing my work,” understanding my emotions and reactions and where they are coming from. The girl inside of me who feels uncertain that I have anything worth saying was front and center in that moment. The one who wonders if she’s getting it right, who looks to others to be the authority rather than herself. The one who feels small. That girl.
Nonetheless, I pressed forward the day of the event with as much confidence as I had within me. Knowing that I had God on my side, my inner guide. Afterwards, I marveled at what everyone else had shared, and downplayed my own piece. Because, that girl inside me also wrestles with foreboding joy. It’s a self-protecting move where, when something joyful happens, I start planning on being hurt, or disappointed, or have it not turn out as expected. (Brene Brown – Dare to Lead) I plan ahead, with an underlying fear of disappointment. I recognize that I’ve done it throughout my life. Waiting. Knowing that plans could change, joyful moments could be dashed, yanked away. And as a strategy to survive I started anticipating the joyful moment not being followed through. I can trace it back and know where it comes from, but the feeling is real today, despite evidence to the contrary.
The interesting thing about my internal wrestle, both with feeling I was out of my league and foreboding joy, was that I knew I was in the ring fighting it out. I was witnessing my own emotions and feelings and was able to call them out. While I might not have fully believed it, I told myself that I was there because I had something to say. That after nearly 30 years in my field, I know a thing or two, and my voice has value. I also directed myself to lean into the experience and enjoy it. The joy of connecting with tremendous people, the hope of sharing my voice in the future.
Being able to name what I was feeling was powerful. It didn’t make it go away, but it allowed me to confront it head on, to know the name of what I was wrestling with. I didn’t let the emotions take me down. I leaned it, trusted God, and spoke. Granted, my topic wasn’t earth shattering, but needed. And if it has impact on a few people, I’ve done my job.
What feelings do you need to call by name? Maybe wrestle with? They’re different for each of us but when you can lean in, fight it out with yourself, you will come out stronger on the other side. Be brave friends, I’m on the same journey you are.