Strength in Weakness

This morning I pulled into a parking spot in the empty corporate garage. Instead of popping out of my car immediately I took a deep breath and typed a quick status update on Facebook. It said:

High stress today as I do my final readiness for a big presentation this afternoon. If you have a moment to think calming and supportive thoughts my way, it is appreciated. It is in these moments that every ‘I’m inadequate’ worry bead rears its ugly head — no matter how much work, thought, preparation, etc. I’ve gotten to the point where I know it is just the way I’m wired and I lean in through it — but it still sucks.

Staring at the screen of my phone, I paused again. I knew as I was writing it that it could be viewed as needy. What if someone thought I was fishing for compliments or wilting in the face of pressure? What if someone read it years from now and thought, ‘That’s not leadership behavior. We need someone confident.’ I considered and cross-referenced and contemplated how it would be interpreted…

…and then I clicked post.

Over and over I hear that social media is damaging because it only shows the best of us. The best pictures of our best families acting on their best behavior in the best circumstances. Young people, especially desperate to meet societal standards of milestones, stress themselves out because they haven’t checked some box, or they haven’t checked it as well as someone else who has a better marriage, more accomplished kids, a sexier job or a bigger house. I’m sure I’ve unintentionally contributed to that stress as people compare their lives to mine, especially on those rare nights when I head out on a date night and post happy, smiling pictures of Mel and husband on the town.

The problem is this: in any given year there are a handful of date nights, compared to 100’s of work days when I come home and collapse into bed without feeling anything but exhausted.

And that’s why this morning I chose to acknowledge that my life wasn’t perfect. I am a strong, intelligent, capable and prepared businesswoman and I was feeling stressed by a big presentation. In my head I knew it would be ok, but in my heart I wanted my support network to remind me that it would be ok. I needed to be strong enough to be weak, to own the stress, not just for me but for the others that I knew would read it.

It helped that two nights ago I was up late chatting with a peer on social media. Somewhere amongst our back and forth he simply typed, “You’re an inspiration.” It reminded me of a blog post I wrote last year about being Inspired to Inspire and how difficult it has been for me to accept the fact that my words and actions matter. I may not understand completely why they matter, but I have to admit they do matter. So if you’re reading this looking for inspiration I hope you’ll take one thing away from this: it takes confidence to admit that you are struggling and it takes even more confidence to ask for help.

Do it.

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Middle-aged business exec who had aspirations of being a writer someday. I believe that lifting people up through authentic and vulnerable storytelling creates connection and possibility. My story may not be the most inspiring, but it is the one I know the best and have the right to share.

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