I realized this is a blog about divorce, but it is also about healing and letting go. I learned that in an even greater way this week.
I was given the platform for a keynote speech a few weeks ago in front of my entire organization of about 600 people. I was pumped. I was excited. I spent weeks, preparing, organizing, and trying to figure out how to best provide each member of the audience with the ideas and inspiration they needed to hear in that moment. The theme was Everything’s Connected: Digital Learning. The whole take-away I was trying to make was that connections are only real when they are birthed out of relationships. They can be digital or traditional, but you can learn something from the connections you make with others. So I used stories about connections I had made from my past and how I got here today. I was pumped. I felt the message was awesome and in the moment I felt like I was in the zone, speaking from the heart, and giving something to each audience member they could take with them. Nice people I knew texted me and nice people I didn’t know emailed me or hugged me in the hallways. I was excited to know that the message was heard and well received.
And then I read the feedback from the anonymous survey. Here are just a few of the parts that really stung, “this was an administrator trying to convince us about how important she is” and “the keynote was confusing and too self centered. She showed a lack of knowledge of technology.” And then there was this dagger, “The first keynote speaker was an incredible disappointment. The presentation lacked clarity, came across as self-serving and failed to inspire the audience. The keynote speaker was very ego-centric and self centered. I gained no educational value on that 50 minutes. That 50 minutes has been lost in my life forever.”
And then, failure, insecurity and doubt hit me. Hit me hard. I was crushed. I felt like I had completely failed. Failed the organization. Failed my colleagues. Failed myself. Embarrassed. Disappointed. Crushed. I wondered how I could face other’s the next day. I cried. I felt bad. I was indeed a loser. I began to wonder if every time I saw someone who didn’t say something positive that maybe they were the one who wrote the negative comment. I perseverated for weeks about these negative comments. At work, they would randomly appear in my head. In the car, I would hear the word “ego-centric and self-centered” over and over. It was like I could not let it go. I was aware of the thoughts but they would continue dto bombard me. I couldn’t understand why they were allowed to far outweigh the personal success stories that individuals, whose names I knew, shared with me from listening to my keynote.
Because in our humanity it is so easy to judge. It is so easy to look at what we don’t have instead of what we do. It is our natural mode to look for the annoying things that people who aren’t trying to be annoying do to push others into the land of Continually Being Annoyed. Whether it is traffic, teenagers, rotten bananas, or a keynote speech. Everything is annoying. Nothing is worthwhile or worthy of finding pleasant. Annoyed is on automatic.
So after a few weeks of wallowing in self-pity, I did something about it. Tired of feeling shamed, I choose brave. I printed out all of the negative comments. I read them over and over again. I sat with them until they didn’t hurt so bad. I didn’t make excuses. There were parts that were disorganized. There was a lot of biographical information in the keynote. I did in fact compare myself to Michael Jordan. Those things were true. And I do have a healthy ego. Because an ego is what it takes to pull yourself on stage in front of all of your colleagues and say here I am. Here is all of me. My human imperfections. My flaws. My lack of clarity at times. My false confidence which I used to convince myself that the risk of looking like a fool was a risk I wanted to take at the expense of hoping that someone would get a message they needed to hear. That even if that one person was me, and only me, wasn’t that one person worth it?