By Susan MacKenty Brady
Nothing like standing up in front of 600 women and talking about your imperfections. I did that a few weeks ago. Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute™ provided me a unique opportunity to take the stage—not as emcee, as I have done in years past, but instead as a keynote speaker.
I won’t lie. I wrestled with what I should say for MONTHS. That process of wrestling gave me plenty of practice in managing my inner critic:
“Susan, who are you to take that stage after a Princeton-educated best-selling author and before an Academy Award-winning actress? Who on earth do you think you are and what on earth do you have to share with 600 women?”
And then it hit me. I would “out” my inner critic. And I would ACT OUT my inner critic. For all 600 women to enjoy. I figured, maybe if I tell them about the chaos that runs around in my mind, they would relate. I decided my goal was simple: to show how I return to a place of enoughness when I catch myself feeling better than or not as good as another.
I explained that there is no arrival at ENOUGHNESS. Holding ourselves in warm regard is tough business, and requires ongoing practice. I ended by reminding them that I was a fellow traveler in this practice—and that my inner critic was waiting to throw a massive party on my behalf (balloons! streamers!) once I got off the stage. And I would coach myself back into enoughness when it happened.
Then it happened. I was on my flight home from San Francisco to Boston, and found myself alone and quiet for the first time since I’d given the keynote. I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback and appreciation the audience had for me, and I decided to look at a few of the celebratory emails. I opened an email from one of my colleagues who sent a photo of me while I was on stage. I decided to carefully examine the photo and inspect every inch of my image. (Seriously? Can you not predict what happens next?)
And then the party my inner critic had been patiently waiting to throw officially started.
“Oh my. What was I thinking? Those pants are a tad snug and look—well—TIGHT. The blazer is too short with the pants that aren’t ‘just a little snug.’ They are WAY too tight. Really, Susan? You should have tried on different pants and asked for opinions before deciding what to wear! They really are not very flattering AT ALL. Did you REALLY wear those in front of 600 people? For your ‘coming out’ keynote? You set yourself up for a shame attack!”
And then, I pushed PAUSE. I pictured in my mind the photo I used during my talk—the whistle-blowing woman who depicts the coach to the inner critic. I breathed. I thought about that big PAUSE button. And then I did what I just showed 600 women how to do. I said (in my head) to myself:
“Sorry, love. You may not sabotage the wholeheartedness you have felt since giving this keynote. You, Susan, are enough. You are worthy of love and appreciation. You are courageous and authentic and you did something very special this week by introducing a large number of people to your innermost thoughts. How about you decide that the outfit you had on was just fine, and how about next time you speak, you indulge yourself by taking a bit more time to be sure you feel good in whatever you pick out to wear? It’s OK. You matter and your voice is needed. Too-tight pants and all. Now breathe and know that you are OK. Whole. Complete. This very minute.”
Have you ever crashed your inner critic’s party? And how did you get yourself back into enoughness? Share with us in the comments below.
About Susan MacKenty Brady:
Susan MacKenty Brady is the wife of Jamie Brady, the mother of Caroline and Abigail Brady, a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend to many (too few hear from her often enough), the Executive Vice President of Global Programming and Market Strategy, and Principal Consultant at Linkage, an Executive Coach, and a champion of advancing the acceleration of women leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Susanmbrady1.