“We all have our own story. Tell it. Listen to others. Elicit it from others even, and from within ourselves.”
Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road
Gloria Steinem has spent her life devoted to securing equal rights for women. She has done this through listening, learning, writing, and speaking largely on the road. She has done this with the intent to make the world better for all, not just women, with the core belief that if women are seen and treated as equals everyone will benefit.
I admire Ms. Steinem’s command of data to support her arguments and her savvy about the politics surrounding an issue and how to effectively navigate through it. She has an amazing vocabulary. She is authentic, without pretense or vanity.
Most of all, the trait that strikes me most about Gloria Steinem is her courage. She has always been a trailblazer with a simple, yet radical (to many) message. And shockingly, she had always been terrified of public speaking! Who would have ever known that? The only reason I know it is because I read her most recent book where she writes about it. As one of the most articulate, motivating, and persuasive speakers in recent history, this is remarkable. This is bravery. This is boldness. This is power.
I believe this kind of transformation starts by knowing one’s own truth, and trusting that it will resonate with others. Ms. Steinem was wise to realize that her writing alone, while essential, was not enough to create the change she envisioned. She stated that she knew that if she didn’t overcome her fear, it would not only hold her back, it would hold the women’s movement back. She put her fear aside and did it anyway. Then she soared, and brought us all along with her.
As a fellow reluctant speaker, to put it mildly, I am in awe of this feat. My fear of public speaking has held me back most of my life. It has stifled my voice and my pursuit of opportunities. It has limited my accomplishments, contributions and even my ambition. My inner dialogue is something like “I can’t be a successful writer because I would have to promote my work through interviews and events where I would have to speak publicly.”
Until this year, this belief has held me back from pursuing writing as a vocation. It’s not that I’ve lacked in thoughts or insights, useful or not, I have plenty. What this fear has done is limit my expression and my potential. As a result, for many years it has left me feeling isolated and lost.
I wish I could say that I’m over it. I have yet to be called on for a speech – thanking the universe for this pardon at this point. I have however reached a place, with Gloria Steinem as my role model, where I am willing to listen to myself, hear my voice, write it down, and put it out there for others to see. I feel liberated, inspired, and open to possibilities.
If by some fluke I was given the opportunity to share my voice with an audience by giving a speech, I hope I wouldn’t self-sabotage and pathetically bow out with a humble “thanks but no thanks.” I hope that my inner critic and my fear wouldn’t be in control telling me “I can’t do it. I will botch it. It’s just too scary. NO.”
I’m thinking that there will come a day when I’m ready to put my fear aside and do it anyway. Ready or not though, should that day come, I will borrow some courage from my hero Gloria Steinem and hope to soar.