I stood at the front of a room full of people. Everyone’s eyes stared my way, expectant, waiting for me to speak. And as I stood there, I felt my shoulders straighten, a smile spread across my face and the dread of public speaking fall away. As I launched into my speech, I felt myself grow, my words seemed to fill the room. The people around me listened! They wanted to hear what I had to say. I felt seen and heard and appreciated. I felt like I was doing what I was put on the earth to do.
That was a two and a half years ago at the launch of the first print issue of Inspired Magazine. Despite a life-long fear of standing out, I finally felt like I’d found my thing to do in the world – sharing stories about inspirational people. I know these stories fired me up, and they seemed to do the same for others. My belief in the good of what I was doing led me to overcome years of self-doubt and fear and insecurity. I felt I’d found my purpose.
Of course that high didn’t last forever – but I felt I’d inched my way forward in a lifelong journey to step out from behind the shadows and allow myself to shine. And while that familiar voice of fear continues to lurk ever-present, I’m less likely to heed it these days. And that really, truly excites me. If I can just continue to step up, stand out, do good, maybe, just maybe I could be capable of greatness. Maybe I can truly let the fears holding me back drop away to reveal an amazing me who can lead, shine and inspire.
Fear of being seen
As a kid, maybe four or five years old, I remember standing in pink gumboots, my hair in pigtails, among a group of adults. I moved to my mum, grabbed her leg and snuggled into the warmth of her body. But, when I looked up, it wasn’t my mum laughing back at me. I had grabbed the wrong leg. Everyone laughed. I still get emotional at the way the way little five-year-old me felt. I was, quite simply, mortified.
I HATED standing out, loathed it, and would do whatever I could to make myself smaller. I’d get dressed up for fancy dressed balls, but be too scared to go inside. My mum would labour over making me gorgeous handcrafted outfits, which I’d wear, then stand outside the dance hall watching through the window as my friends danced under flashing lights in their crazy attire, great smiles spread across their faces.
I got better – when my sister, four years younger than me, bounced into her first fancy dress ball in Year 1, I decided I had better go inside too. I would stand out even more if my little sister had the courage and I didn’t. And in Year 7, I took a lead role in a school play and shocked my family by saying my lines loud enough for the audience to hear. I even had the courage to batter my eyelids.
Lit up inside
But I still hated standing out. When I got my dream job as a journalist I was so excited. Here was my chance to do good for the world – to fight corruption, expose evil and change the world. But it wasn’t long before I found myself dreading my job. I loved the writing. But I hated annoying people. I hated standing out. I hated the focus on negativity, the pressure to sensationalise. And standing up in front of crowds to take photos? Yuk, I couldn’t stand being noticed.
But, in between stints of world travel, I endured in the job for years. Who was I to say things should be different? However, I also had the chance to write human interest stories; to do long interviews and write in-depth pieces about people and projects I admired. This is what really lit me up inside.
Eventually I hated the news journalism side of the job so much I garnered the courage to quit and go freelance. I managed to fall into freelance travel writing. This was more like it. It wasn’t long and I was established as a travel writer being assigned to fancy and far-flung locations to report on my holiday experiences. It was amazing and, yet, I remember sitting in a swanky hotel room in Mauritius and berated myself for feeling this still this wasn’t it. Writing about beautiful places might be entertaining others and giving me brag-about experiences, but did it move readers or improve the world? I still didn’t feel like I’d found my thing to do in the world.
Next a dream job landed in my lap – editor of a nature conservation magazine. This was the chance to write about the natural world I loved so much, and all that was happening to protect it. And, most excitingly, the job gave me the chance to write books – a lasting opportunity to remind people of the marvels of Mother Nature, to inspire wonder at her magic. Finally I felt this was a way of contributing some good to the world. And to do it from behind the scenes, the attention on the book, not me.
But, with ever-reducing budgets and a change of magazine policy, I again found myself searching. I knew I wanted to write. I knew I wanted to write in detail. I knew I wanted to inspire wonder at the world. And yet freelance markets wanted shorter, cheaper, fluffier, or doomsday content. The solution? Create my own market.
But again that source of fear spoke up. Who was I to do this? No one would want it, no one would care. This time, through the help of a life coach, I finally sucked it up and decided to do it anyway, despite the fear, despite the voice of fear in my head telling me not to be so ridiculous.
Urge to hide
When I started Inspired Magazine I remember noticing the urge to write the stories, put them online, but then hide and not tell the world they existed. Then I could say I tried, no-one read it, but I gave it my best shot. Oh well. And go back to my corner.
Yet when I started writing Inspired stories I loved it so much, I wanted success so desperately, I sought mentorship from a purpose coach to make it happen. She wouldn’t let me hide. She push and cajoled and pushed some more for me to put me and Inspired out into the world. And I realised, it was only in finding the courage to step up and stand out, that I could do my piece of good for the world. Playing small wasn’t serving anybody.
Time to shine
While it hasn’t all been plain sailing since – I mean, I launched a print mag at a time when print media is renowned as being in its death throes – I do feel like I’ve found my ‘thing’ to do in the world, my calling. I’ve launched Inspired Live, in which I interview inspirational people to share their story to a crowd. And we’re introducing Inspired Journeys to take guests to other countries to interview future Inspired subjects, see their charities firsthand and roll up our sleeves to help.
And, yes, doing these things will involve stepping up, speaking in front of people, demanding attention. While that still frightens me, I now see it as another great way stretch my comfort zone and shrug off the shackles of fear. While I still have doubts, I still wonder if I’m enough, I still hear that voice of fear ranting away, I’m also frickin excited. It’s terrifying but exhilarating. I now know that by stepping up and embracing my chance to shine, I’m in the right position to do my part in making our beautiful world better.