One year ago today, with exactly zero sleep and a body flooded with blinding anxiety, I stood up in front of a group of people gathered for the first Women Who Cowork retreat, in Austin, Texas.
I was there to teach a workshop on using content to market a coworking space, and I was not feeling good about it.
The night before was lovely. I ate veggie food at a famous Austin barbeque joint with a circle of new and old coworking friends, then headed up to the hills and spent the next several hours under the Texas stars with a bunch of dogs, snuggled up in a handmade quilt, swapping stories with my dear friends Daryn and Amy.
When I went to bed, the anxiety started:
What if something goes wrong tomorrow?
What if I forget what I’m talking about?
What if I don’t know what I’m talking about?
Oh, my God, what if I actually have no clue what I’m doing and am a complete hack?
What if this whole thing is bullshit?
What am I even doing here?
Why did I put myself in this situation?
Why am I even trying to do anything?
Who am I to step out into the world and try to do something?
Why did I ever leave my record store job?
I wonder if they’ll take me back?
I can’t do this.
I’m going to tell them I’m sick.
I’m going to see what flights are available and just leave.
I’m going to walk away from this whole thing.
I don’t want to do anything.
I can’t do anything.
I’m completely fucked.
I did this all. night. long.
Around 4am, I gave up on the idea that I was going to get any sleep, and I got up.
If you’ve experienced anxiety, this scenario is probably not foreign to you.
On the ride back into Austin, I mentally went over my workshop. When we arrived at Soma Vida, the space we were retreating in, my friend Bo suggested that we go into one of the rooms and do some energy work. I wholeheartedly agreed and will forever be grateful to Bo for extending that kindness to me.
On that therapy room floor, Bo and I had a conversation with my out-of-control solar plexus. We thanked it for watching out for me. We assured it that, yes, it was risky and scary to put ourselves out there, but that our best life was on the other side of the fear.
We went upstairs and joined the morning session of the retreat.
My workshop went off without a hitch.
Once I started talking about content, the floodgates opened and a ton of information (probably more than the women gathered wanted to know) and strategies poured out of me. People scribbled furiously in their notebooks, bombarded me with questions, and added their own insights and feedback for the other participants.
It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty good.
I had a few minutes to spare at the end, so I decided to share what was really going on.
I told the women about my sleepless night and my imposter syndrome flare-up. My intention was just to let them know that, when they feel like they’re not good enough to be doing what they’re doing, that they are—and that they’re not alone.
What happened next is one of my favorite coworking moments of all time. My friend Iris got up and gave me a hug; then Angel joined in; then Shelley; then Laura. It resulted in the above photo.
What happened after the hug transformed how I think about my life and work.
People wanted to talk with me about feeling like an imposter; about feeling like they didn’t have what it takes; about being brave enough to put themselves out into the world; about trusting themselves and the moment.
No one wanted to talk with me about content marketing.
They wanted to get real.
It was a profound lesson.
Regardless of your title or position, know that below what you do is who you are. That’s what people connect with.
It’s not your fabulousness, or career success, or wealth, or professional network.
Don’t be afraid to be real.
That’s where the good stuff is.
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