I’ve never thought being my authentic self was difficult. As a matter of fact, sometimes I have to turn down the “keeping it real.” I typically have strong opinions, confidence (sometimes to the point of pride), and finding a smart or witty response isn’t usually too challenging. I consider myself articulate, well-spoken and very thoughtful. However, none of the words aforementioned describe the person I projected in an embarrassingly humbling moment, when I stumbled through a very simple question.
The question: “What was one of your best moments in your job?”
The audience: A few hundred ears and eyes of employees throughout my organization, including my boss (who is a V.P) and a bunch of her colleagues; whom waited patiently for an impressive response, that would inspire and encourage.
My response: After stumbling around in my mind, tripping over empty words, I practically said “that time we had so much free food.”
Needless to say, not inspiring, not witty, not interesting, shallow and worst of all it was a lie. After the meeting I was thoroughly mocked by my superiors and colleagues, including my boss who said “that was the worst best moment I’ve ever heard.” I was mortified.
For days I struggled through negative thoughts “they think I’m simple and greedy,” “I’m so stupid,” “everyone is laughing at me.” I couldn’t think of anything except how terribly I responded to the question. Then I decided to really think through why this happened. How did I foolishly turn an opportunity to shine into one of my worst moments to date?
Rushing it– I didn’t take enough time to stop and think. I was put on the spot and instead of taking a breath and saying “let me take a minute to think about that” I allowed the pressure of the clock to get to me.
Everyone else– My mind went to everything that everyone else would want me to say (my boss, my colleagues, stakeholders, audience, etc.) and it clouded my thoughts, caused me to be superfluous and confused.
Disingenuity– I wasn’t my true self, I didn’t allow my mind and heart to connect in a meaningful way. I was concerned about appearance, being impressive and ironically this thought process did only the opposite. Instead of sharing my true feelings, I buried them and said a bunch of shallow crap instead.
Realizing the “why” behind my response didn’t immediately erase the feelings of failure, or suddenly make things better. The perfect me (you know the imagined one, that has no chill and plenty judgement) shook her head at the imperfect me saying “girl, you blew it.”
Well, she’s right, and you know what? It’s okay. The beautifully imperfect me has accepted that in that moment I wasn’t my best self, I did blow it. However, I’m ready for the next time I’m put on the spot, because next time I’ll take time to think before I respond, I won’t spend time worrying about what everyone else wants me to say and above all I’ll be my genuine self.