By sheer coincidence or not, my oldest daughter took her statewide English Language Arts test the same week I was preparing for my first leadership workshop with a new coaching group that I am thrilled to be joining forces with. Tensions were high in my neighborhood, where over 50% of students opted out of the controversial state testing this year.
Walking my daughter through our reasoning behind the test being a non-negotiable in our household, while simultaneously navigating my own fears and creeping doubts about stepping into this new space of training women how to be leaders—work that is directly connected to my WHY—was nothing short of surreal. "Of course we want you to do your best, which we know you will do, but we also want you to practice taking a test. To know that this may be hard AND you can do hard things in life. We want you to know that we love you and you’re going to be OK, no matter how you do. We’ll work with you to help you learn from your experience of taking this test. This is all a chance to learn something new in your life."
As the words left my mouth, I knew they were also meant for me. That may or may not be why I had tears in my eyes as I spoke. Meanwhile she turned to me and said, "It’s OK, Mom. I know. I’m actually excited for the test!" So, perhaps the pep talk was a bit more for me than for my march to the beat of her own drum kind of girl.
I sent my mentor off to fourth grade and decided to create some space for myself to practice, to move through the fear, and to be imperfect.
I danced it out to my favorite power song, Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Then, I wrote the word, "COURAGE" in all caps across the white board hanging above my desk.
I told myself, "My first time walking through this is going to be truly rough. Right now, I’m simply learning the content. It doesn’t need to sound good yet." Imperfection in progress. I’ve learned this lesson with my writing over time and I’m completely on board with writing a "shitty first draft." (Thanks, Anne Lamott!) Somehow, a shitty first pass coming through my voice has always been tougher to bear! No better time to learn. "I’m excited about the test!" Oh yes, what an exciting chance to practice. And I’m not just practicing, I’m expanding.
Every time I tripped up my words and became frustrated, I thought about my WHY.
Get more women into positions of power.
And I redoubled my energy and my efforts. I thought of the rapt faces of my imminent audiences. I visualized telling a room full of 30 women to stop apologizing and imagined the impact that very statement could have had on my early career.
In day two of my preparation, my daughter was home sick and begged to watch me practice part of the workshop. My immediate response was nothing short of sheer terror, but then I thought—if I can teach her these skills at age 10—imagine how badass she’s going to be? I walked through a couple of my slides and she was FULLY engaged. "What are filler words? What do you mean by up-speak? Oh yeah, why do people talk that way?" Smiling from ear to ear, she interrupted me to say, "Mom! You are such a good coach. I could listen to this stuff all day."
In that moment, I’d already won. She saw my fear, my hard work and the space I created for imperfection—and it was worth it for me, because getting to my goal as exactly who I am was more powerful than my fear. I’m proud to learn that lesson at my age and if you can learn it at 10, imagine what else you can do.