A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in familiar territory, but doing very unfamiliar things.
I was sitting in front of my laptop (as usual), my "idea notebook" open with loose pages strewn around me (as usual), tapping my foot and bopping my head to Jay-Z like I do when I'm in work mode (as usual). However, instead of crafting a new blog post or working on a pitch like I might usually be doing, I was working simultaneously on an audition tape and an application to speak at an upcoming conference. For both submissions, I had to go through the awkward process of crafting a biography detailing the work I've done.
Now - I could write a whole post detailing the somewhat dual identity I have in life. There's the woman who goes to work Monday-Friday from approximately 9am-5pm, and then there's the woman who writes blogs and gets articles published by Chatelaine and speaks on panels and does social media consulting - but I won't go there today. Work in this instance was work related to the latter-described woman, and as I started documenting all of the non-9-to-5 I've done, especially the various speaking engagements I've had, I realized something that made me almost giddy.
I'm definitely not the same woman I used to be.
I have always described myself as shy. My parents tell me I was a ham of a baby, and the pictures show it - but my shyness started when I got admitted to a performing arts school in Grade 4. I loved the arts and did well in school - but I usually hated having any kind of attention on me, which has persisted for most of my life. I've become used to drawing attention to myself - being a 6-foot tall Black woman with hair and heels that add another few inches usually makes people take notice - but I've rarely ever been comfortable enough in my skin to just relax and let it be.
Public speaking was one of those things that was a major "hell to the nawl" for me. Take, for instance, the speech competitions we had to do in school. I always had so much fun writing them, but the week of speeches left me with a churning stomach and cold sweats until I finally stammered through my piece and booked it back to my desk.
When it came to public speaking, there were so many things I wasn't confident about. Would I be able to get my words out effectively? Would I sound smart? Would I be interesting? Would I get that yucky pasty white stuff in the corners of my mouth? Would a curse word slip out? Would my habit of talking with my hands get so out of control that it looks like I'm trying to fly away? So many questions, so many concerns, so little confidence.
It's almost been a year since the first speaking engagement I got as Bee the blogger - not Bee the student or Bee the employee. The first speaking engagement where someone thought I personally represented something of value, and thought I would have something of value to share with them and their circle. Since then, I've done panels and podcasts and co-hosted webshows - and it wasn't until recently that I felt little Bee tug my sleeve and said, "Do you see what you're doing?" In my mind, I looked back at her, held her hand, and said, "Yes I see it - and I'm doing it, aren't I?"
Then, while drafting my biography, I realized that the difference between little Bee and big Bee - confidence.
I've been feeling a lot more confident these days - much more than I recall feeling previously in life. I feel a change in the way I carry myself, the way I talk, the way I choose who is and isn't given the priviledge of being in my space. That confidence has slowly become intertwined in the things I do on a daily basis, and now I find myself much more willing and excited to do something that used to make me physically ill - public speaking. Fears of how I am perceived, received, and understood haven't completely subsided, but those fears are no longer as crippling as they used to be.
The fact that I came to this revelation while submitting an application to speak at a conference (what?) and while submitting an audition tape (WHAT?) is really mind-boggling. Little Bee is somewhere watching and laughing - not at me, but more in amazement at what I'm doing (and trying to do) these days. Coming out of my shell, getting over fears, and having fun with the result makes it all worth it.
Have you been able to get over any specific fears in your life? How much has increased confidence affected fears you once held?