Recently, I had volunteered to help out with the PTO at my child’s school. A few days before the first meeting commenced, I started researching for ideas that I could share with the other moms. You see, I am not exactly a quick thinker and giving ideas on the spot could be disastrous. Armed with a list of ideas, I felt confident and ready. Or so, I thought.
I arrived early to the meeting. Other members started trickling in and soon, the meeting started. The first thing we did was to introduce ourselves. As we went around the room, I learned that one mom was a doctor. Another was a journalist who frequently contributes at a reputable newspaper company. There was also a scientist who works for a renown firm and one who was the PTO president. Then there was me, with the least glamorous resume, I noted.
A spirited discussion ensued. As I listened, I noticed how eloquent they were. They uttered their thoughts with the calm confidence and conviction that I have never mustered, and I suspect, never will. I felt the need to jump into the discussion so I started looking through the ideas I had written down. Hmm…They started to look terribly lacking to me. Almost juvenile. I couldn’t possibly offer these ideas! Not in front of a doctor, a well-known journalist, a scientist and the PTO president herself. I felt as if I was shrinking. I felt small, much smaller than my short stature.
There were anger and disappointment. At myself. Not for the ideas I had come up with but for the strong grip of my own insecurity. I thought of the advice I had always given my children. I always tell them to do their best, to never be afraid to voice their ideas and to hold their heads up high, no matter what. I always remind them to take pride in knowing that they have tried and never to be afraid of what others might think. The hypocrisy! I felt like I betrayed myself and my kids.
I was sinking and crumbling quickly inside. Smaller and smaller I became, like a speck of dust sitting on the wooden chair. Voiceless. I was quietly grappling to come to my senses when the PTO president next to me nudged me and asked me to simply speak up. While the others were talking, she had sensed and seen my struggle. I was mortified. I felt intense heat on my face. With good intention, she nudged me again, more gently. This time, I just opened my mouth and spilled out the first idea I had written down. I heard myself blabber some nouns and verbs, all jumbled up in nonsense. Thankfully, it hardly mattered because I spoke so softly that no one heard me as they continued talking.
This was getting ridiculous, I suddenly thought. Why should I feel inferior? So what if I am not a doctor, a journalist, a PTO president nor a scientist? I volunteered my time, just like they did. I showed up to help and I needed to complete what I had set out to do. I had to be able to look my kids in the eye when I tell them that I, too, tried my best and had my voice heard despite my fears. It was important to me that I practiced my own advice, that my words weren’t hollow. It was time for me to escape the clutch of my insecurity and to remember my goal when I stepped into the room. I was there to help and help I should. It was not about me. It was about the school.
The meeting was wrapping up soon. I had a choice to just be a mere observer in the room or to maybe try and make a difference. I took a few breaths and forced myself to speak in a louder voice. This time the other ladies stopped talking, looked at me and listened. One mom even wrote it down on her notepad. I nodded at the PTO President in gratitude.
Tongue-tied no more, I was finally heard. I was even able to join in the discussion of other mom’s ideas for the remaining time. Were my ideas the best? Hardly. But, I really really tried and prevailed over my insecurity for that one brief moment. Does that mean I am no longer insecure? Far from it. This wasn’t the first time it made me feel diminished. It wouldn’t be the last time either. But, I received a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, I can prevail again next time.
Have you experienced something similar? I would love to hear how you overcame your insecurity.