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Unpacking my Desire to Speak

In: Tips

Last week was kind of a big deal for me. I submitted a proposal to DevLearn and another speaking proposal got rejected. Admittedly, the rejection didn’t feel great but it did give me an opportunity to reevaluate why I want to start speaking at elearning conferences in the first place. I’d been desiring to go to more conferences for more professional development opportunities already when Julie Dirksen’s get-off-your-butt article came out and lit a fire under me. After all, if I wasn’t part of the solution, I couldn’t complain about the problem. So I set a goal for myself of finding at least one place to speak this year. And while that’s a great goal and I haven’t given up on it, I think that (keep your fingers crossed!), somewhere along the way, I began to twist it into something it shouldn’t have been. Sounds a little scary, right?

Impostor Syndrome

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’

– Maya Angelou

You’ve heard of this, no doubt. That sneaking suspicion that you really don’t deserve to be speaking. People shouldn’t be listening to you. I mean, who are you, anyway? I’ve definitely been experiencing this one as I prepared conference proposals. I looked at the bios and credentials of previous speakers and started thinking, “no one wants to listen to me. I’m a n00b at this myself. I don’t have any credentials.” I can tell you, once you start looking at the world this way, things go downhill pretty fast.

Comparing Myself to Others

Comparison is an act of violence against the self.

– Iyanla Vanzant

Right along with feeling like an impostor, I also noticed that I was comparing myself to others more and more. So-and-so has more followers than me; this guy has more experience than I do; this woman is more successful than I am. The list goes on. And the result was that I’d sometimes get a little depressed about whether I was actually making an impact. Was anyone actually listening to me? Could I ever make a name for myself?

Why this is the Wrong Way of Thinking

You may have noticed a pattern in my complaints. I know I did. I started making this into a contest that was all about me and making a name for myself. I mean there are all of these articles about the importance of marketing yourself, right? Building your brand, making your mark, finding your niche. I’m not saying that stuff is bad; but I am thinking that maybe that’s not what I need to be focusing on. Maybe what I need to focus on is being the authentic me, quirks and all, and sharing what I know with others. Over my comparatively short elearning and instructional design career, I’ve developed a passion for learning, for experimenting, and for sharing what I know about design. I don’t stick to one tool; I don’t pimp one methodology. I mean, I come home from work and immediately transition to one of the huge (and ever-growing) list of personal projects I have on my Trello board. I don’t do this because I want to be noticed. I do this because I love to experiment, because I’ve found some things that I’m good at and some things that I’d like to be good at and I want to practice, I want to learn. And I started blogging because I thought it would be good to share. Maybe some other n00b like myself could get something out of it. But even if they don’t, I get something out of the sharing. Articulating my process, the things I need to work, the things I love to do helps me to focus myself. What’s important is that I keep experimenting, keep sharing, and keep doing the things that light me up. This is the thing that matters. Maybe after 20 years in this industry, I’ll have made a name for myself among my peers. Maybe I’ll only be known at my workplace. Maybe I’ll never be known and fade into obscurity. That’s okay, too. I’ve decided to move the focus off of me and towards sharing with others. I know that if I keep my ego out of this, if I keep paying it forward and sharing with others, I’ll do some good, however small.

What About You?

I know there are a lot of other folks new to the learning and development method. We look up to the thought leaders. Do you ever feel like you’re not making an impact? How do you decide to keep sharing?