You walk onto the stage in front of hundreds of your colleagues, family and friends. The spotlight blinds you.
The silence is horrifying. You hear nothing but the click of your heels as they echo across the humid, stuffy auditorium.
With no podium to shield you from hundreds of eyes, you step up to the microphone. Center stage. Exposed.
It’s just a short speech, but much is expected of you. Your preparation has spanned the last three weeks, yet you can feel your mind going blank.
The ensuing few seconds tick away like a clock in slow motion. The floor creaks beneath your feet and sounds like thunder.
You clear your throat … and begin.
For many, this scenario is as frightening as anything they’ve ever experienced. For others, though, it’s as comfortable as having a conversation in the den. Why the difference?
How many times in your life have you been told, “Just be yourself”? Imagine getting this clich￩ advice before going on stage. You might respond, “Well now, just how am I supposed to do that?” It’s counterintuitive, of course, but true nonetheless.
If you indeed want to make a difference in your work and this world, you must first become at ease with yourself. Confident leaders and managers find their source of confidence in who they are. The rest have to mimic confidence. They believe that in order to gain acceptance, they must act like someone else; someone whom they are not.
Sure, the world tells you every day that you don’t measure up: The TV, heartless supervisors, envious people, jealous back-stabbers. But name any person you respect, and I’ll show you how he/she doesn’t measure up in some way. Chances are that person will gladly admit to having shortcomings.
Confidence doesn’t come from donning someone else’s persona, rubbing on a bit of new learning or shining up your bad habits. It comes from utilizing your greatest gifts and accepting your flaws. Here’s proof: Why do you think your friends like to be with you? First, they are attracted to you because of who you are. Second, they don’t worry about who you are not.
When you’re on that figurative stage, whether it be in front of one person or thousands, the audience doesn’t want to get to know someone else; they want to get to know you. Just give them what they want.
People who matter will always give you permission to be who you are.
But remember this: You don’t need permission to be yourself; you just need courage.
When you step out on life’s stage, don’t fear being accepted. You will be. But it has to be you walking out there, not someone else. The only courage you need is the courage to accept who you are, as you are.
If you do, they will.