The Lesson that Took Me the Longest Time To Learn...
I just returned from Washington, DC. I was asked to speak at the Attachment and Trauma Network Conference which was attended by hundreds of teachers and educators from around the country. My role was to speak as a survivor of childhood trauma and to hopefully give the teachers some insight into how to spot a child who is being abused. I must admit that when I arrived I felt like a guppy in a whale tank.
The other presenters who were holding workshops were authors, doctors, clinicians and school directors. How did a real estate agent from Sayreville, NJ end up here with her own workshop? What could I possibly say to these accomplished men and women that they didn’t already know? And, the bigger question…would anyone show up to listen?
The truth is if I compared the attendance at my workshop to the 8 other workshops going on at the same time, I probably came in 8th place. I was up against two very well-known speakers and they were arguably the hottest tickets in our time slot. Very slowly several teachers trickled into my workshop but the disappointment in not filling the room to capacity was starting to overcome any joy I felt by simply being asked to participate.
I greeted each person as they walked in and thanked them for attending. Several of them admitted that they weren’t sure what information they were going to bring away from my workshop, but the other workshops were filled so they decided to check it out for themselves. At that moment I felt like I was 9th in an 8 person race. I went from “I can’t wait to speak” to “I can’t wait to get back in my car and go home.” A few more people started streaming in and as I prepared to walk to the front of the room to begin my presentation the moderator approached me.
“You okay? You look a little nervous.” He was a friendly man from Georgia whose wife was one of the conference directors.
“I am. And, I’m a little disappointed. I hoped I would fill the room, but I see I’m against the big guys.” I smiled, shrugged my shoulders and nervously laughed a little.
“Don’t be. You’re here. These attendees are here and when you’re done they will know who you are. Always remember no on starts big. Everyone starts small until they build momentum. You’ve been invited to begin building momentum so go up there and just do it.”
Ironically, my daughter said something similar earlier that morning when I admitted how nervous I was that no one would want to hear what I had to say. So, with their words in mind I walked up to the front of the room and gave my presentation as if I was standing on the stage of a huge concert hall. I jumped out of my fear, out of my doubt, out of my disappointment and set a brand new goal: I promised myself that by the time I finished, the teachers in that room would leave believing they saw the best kept secret of that conference.
I accomplished that goal.
At the end of my presentation, those attendees who said they weren’t sure what information they would take away from my workshop asked “Are you speaking later? We want to bring our colleagues to hear you.” When I told them no the disappointment on their faces told me everything I needed to know about whether or not I left an impression or made an impact. I had. After packing up to head back to my room to get ready to head home I ran into the woman who invited me to speak. She came from around the table, hugged me and said “The feedback has already been tremendous. They loved you. Consider yourself our first speaker invite for our 2019 conference. You touched them Maureen. They will tell people about you.”
And, there it was; the moment I finally learned my biggest life lesson. A lesson that took me forever to learn.
I learned to trust myself.
I learned to believe in myself.
I learned I was enough.