Photo credit: ThrottleUK, Creative Commons/Flickr

Photo credit: ThrottleUK, Creative Commons/Flickr

Hey, y’all. It’s been a while!

Because after five years, a break is well deserved. However, I’ve been up to a lot in the past two months:

  • I’ve launched IdealistCareers.org, a new blog by Idealist where we provided resources, tips, and stories on how to find, land, and love your social-impact career.
  • I’ve said farewell to Brooklyn, New York and am getting settled into my new apartment in Montclair, New Jersey.
  • I’ve been accepted into the Mobilize.org Speakers Bureau and spent the past weekend connecting and learning from fellow young leaders.
  • I’ve met amazing people from amazing companies as part of my personal and professional development plan to grow my network and learn more deliberately from my peers.

Yet during each of these opportunities (and many others) I had moments where I wasn’t fully present. This is because with each opportunity comes more visibility, and with more visibility, my fear of being uncovered as an imposter grows. You might know the feeling: the crushing self-doubt that wonders, “Am I really good enough for this?” As a result, I would try to do things quickly; just get them over with and move on to the next project, instead of savoring and sharing.

Then I started reminding myself: People are depending on my leadership.

Are you showing up?

People are depending on your leadership, too. People are depending on your insight, your encouragement, your action, and your questions. Your mistakes, your vulnerabilities, and your story. So you have to show up if you plan to make your mark and bring about the change that motivated you to get into this field in the first place.

By reminding myself of what I have to give, it’s easier for me to be fully present and be the leader I want to be. Here are a few other ways we can push ourselves to lead:

  • Be confident. At the Mobilize.org Speakers Bureau retreat this weekend, the public speaking coach mentioned that the way to get through the terror of public speaking (it is terrifying, for me anyway) is to have confidence. But confidence isn’t some vague emotion or cocky attitude; it is the belief that you will recover. This moment will pass and you’ll be fine. So just go for it.
  • Own your story and your skills. Why are you here? What do you have to bring? Again, I don’t mean a vague idea or emotion; I mean why have you been hired, recruited, or contacted? Why do you continue to write, research, and create? Why this field instead of another? In other words, we have to be deliberate and thoughtful about what we offer to the world.
  • Commit to excellence. Invest in yourself and being the best you can be. There is nothing wrong with taking a chance and going for big opportunities; there is something wrong with not using these opportunities to push yourself to grow. What conferences should you plan to attend this year? What books are on your reading list? What new challenges are you picking up at work? For me, knowing that I am getting better and am being deliberate about growing make me more comfortable trying new things.
  • Be nice to yourself. Have you done this before: you’re getting praise and suddenly someone gives you negative feedback and you’re filled with doubt. I know have. Of course, critical feedback is healthy; but taking this feedback and making it useful does not mean your efforts and ideas are completely wrong. Cut yourself some slack.
  • Brag occasionally. “You’re great. You just never tell anyone what you’re working on.” I heard this in elementary school, high school, college, and continue hearing it at work. I focus on the work and working well. But if I want people to cheerlead for me and support me, I have to tell them what I am doing! Sounds logical, but it’s so easy for me to put my head down and hope my work speaks for itself. Sometimes it does, but many times it doesn’t. So, if you’re like me, know it’s ok to brag a little!

Do you struggle with showing up and being a leader?