The first time I was under the spotlight as a public speaker, I had no clue what kind of role I was supposed to play, what kind of person the audience was expecting to meet. My natural reaction was therefore to think, “I’m going to give them the perfect version of me.” Which, of course, is a non-sense.
Perfect is probably the most subjective word of all. What I consider as perfect might not be perfect to somebody else.
Here is an easy example:
Let’s say I’m going to have a dinner date with a man I find outrageously attractive. I put high hopes that this date will be the beginning of a romantic and wonderful relationship. So I want to make sure I’ll look perfect for this date and decide to wear the perfect outfit: a mini-skirt and high heels. It turns out Mr. Outrageously Attractive swears by casual dress. The date ends up a total disaster. It’s a silly example – especially because you’ll never see me wearing mini-skirts – but you get my point. Conclusion: Trying to be perfect is a waste of your precious time.
The day I discovered I may have a natural gift for public speaking changed everything. You have to cultivate a gift for it to reveal its full potential. But before anything else, you have to respect its core nature. I understood that if I was to be at my best, I had to bring my true and vulnerable self onto the stage, and not be afraid to share openly and sincerely my dark past, failures and doubts.
Of course showing myself “naked” in front of hundreds of strangers was scary (and still is). Becoming a public figure also got me some haters, people who attacked me on personal matters. This, I must say, is the most difficult of all to deal with.
Even so, as I delivered speech after speech, I got deeply convinced that authenticity and vulnerability were my greatest strengths and tools to reach out to people and inspire them. By showing I am no Wonder Woman, that I have my own weaknesses, fears and failures, the message I pass on to the audience is that they, too, can choose courage and take actions to fulfill their dreams. The language of vulnerability is a universal one, and it resonates within each and every one of us.
At the end of the day, I’m no actress and it’s much easier and less exhausting for me to be my true self than try to be somebody else.
“Be yourself, everybody else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
It’s still hard for me sometimes to show this true and vulnerable self to others – especially to my closest ones. I still have this old habit of giving my family the old version of me – innocent and inexperienced Christine. I perfectly know what’s behind this: fear (as always). I have the fear that my family won’t like the new version of me – the mature, self-aware and self-improved Christine.
If I was my own client, Coach Christine would tell me, “It’s not that they don’t like this new version of you; it’s rather that they’re not used to her, because they haven’t met her yet. What about you offer them the opportunity to get to know her? I’m sure they’d love that.”
I still have fears, but I’m working on them. Baby steps. Every day when I catch myself taking the path of Fear again, instead of the one of Courage, I don’t blame myself for not being perfect – there’s no such thing as perfection. Instead, I welcome this fear that I’ve been able to pinpoint; I’m excited to get to know her and to start working together to create something beautiful and unexpected. And I’m looking forward to the day when I’ll go on stage and introduce this fear as part of my true vulnerable self to others.