As the orchestrator of various women’s gatherings and groups, I often send out invitations with the underlying feeling that I’m bothering people. Although I’m inspired by my work and confident that the women who attend will have a deep and amazing experience, my message sometimes feels like it comes across as a small, shy voice asking for help.
When I notice myself feeling this way, I wonder why I can’t just get with the flow and be confident reaching out to my community, putting together empowering and mutually-beneficial gatherings with awesome women who all love and support each other. I think this has a lot to do with the fact we tend to feel more confidence as a result of success, meaning that when someone accepts an invitation or compliments us on a successful event, it helps boost our confidence and we find our doubts dissipating.
It seems we can really only get to the point of being fully confident in ourselves and our message and our offerings by going through these periods of self-doubt.
Ask for feedback on your approach
I know this is a very common feeling for many of us who are leaders and coaches, but I don’t think it needs to be this way. A lot of confidence can be built up through practice and through seeking feedback from those we are potentially going to lead.
I would encourage you, if you struggle with this, to ask members of your group or class or whatever it is you’re leading to tell you what felt good about your invitation. Why did they accept? Give them the opportunity to respond with what they liked, what they were drawn to, or what they specifically noticed about your invitation.
It can be uncomfortable to ask this of your friends, let alone those you are supposed to be leading, but there’s value in this practice. First of all, you’re going to receive valuable feedback about what is working, but also, what didn’t work and what could be improved upon.
Over many years of engaging my clients and students in this way, I have found that most people are not only happy to offer their feedback – they feel honored to be asked!
Find the balance between authenticity and over-sharing
An important element to note is that over-compensating for a lack of confidence when you’re pitching yourself and your services by pretending to feel more confident than you do can actually come across as unprofessional and less trustworthy. People may feel like they are being pushed away by it, or feel like you come across as insincere, even if they can’t articulate why. That’s because you’re posturing, or puffing yourself up in order to try to not feel your own uncomfortable lack-of-confidence feelings.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, going on and on about your lack of confidence and asking for feedback as if you have no idea what you’re doing will make people lose faith in your ability to deliver or trust you as a leader. That’s because this is a form of collapse, in which you are not feeling your own spine, and are leaning on others to boost your confidence. Being willing to reveal the vulnerable truth of your heart and show people who you really are, without using them to dump all your insecurities out on, is part of what being a real leader in this day and age is.
I know this concept can be scary for some people – especially anyone who has been told they have to look, sound, or be a certain way in order for people to like or trust them. And it can be a hard balance to walk – especially when it comes to written or digital invitations where your tone is so much harder to portray.
The common denominator is the willingness to feel your own nervousness, without either trying to pretend it away, or abdicate it onto other people.
Shake out your nervous energy
Something I like to do when I find myself freezing up or resisting sharing a message because of feeling a lack of confidence is to express my nervous energy in some physical way. One of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to dance – jump around, stomp my feet, shake my head, make sounds – the bigger & sillier the better – all the things that help me relax and get loose, and in some way get my adrenaline up so that I am able to just make it happen. Sometimes, just acknowledging how over-the-top and silly my actions are can make it easier to send that message – I’ll tell myself that whatever I’ve written in that email or that Facebook message or whatever it is can’t possibly be as bad or as silly or as embarrassing as how exuberantly I was just dancing.
Dancing and singing may not be the right thing for you, of course, but shifting from a freeze pattern does require movement – not just thinking differently!
Let your nervousness spill out as excitement
Remember that creating these opportunities for people – whether it’s running a focus group or starting a Facebook community or leading a women’s retreat – you are providing the opportunity for people to connect and be in community with each other, to help each other and hold each other accountable, and that’s such a beautiful offering.
Many of these People may never get to connect with other people in this way, or have never gotten to share some of these things or experienced the kind of space that you’re going to create for them, or had the permission that you’re going to give them to acknowledge what has been true about the ways they’ve either had to work, or to conform. Honor the gift of the space you are creating and offering, and stay connected to the deeper why that had you create it in the first place.
Showing a little bit of nervousness in your invitation to join that kind of group is normal – in fact, it just makes sense. But let that nervousness sit with you, and let it bubble up out of you not as a negative, but as excitement at the opportunity you’re going to give to so many people.
Inviting people to partake in your programs isn’t selfish
The last piece I want to touch on here is something I’ve heard many times from many different people: they feel that they are putting an obligation or expectation on people by inviting them to be part of something. By sending invitations, people often feel like they’re unfairly guilting the other into doing it, or that they’re asking too much of people in terms of energy expenditure, or that they’re only asking because it will benefit themselves.
I challenge you to imagine that as you write invitations to people you think would be a good fit for your programs, you’re actually inviting them to a party. One with a beautiful catered meal, or a great band, or a waterslide! I wonder if you would feel the same hesitation.
If it was a party, of course it would still technically be a request for their time and their energy (and maybe even their money), but you may think less about how this could benefit you. It’s true that it does, but you know that it’s not your goal, and that what you’re doing really has a much larger benefit to the world compared to the benefit you’re getting.
You’re inviting people to join in on an incredibly awesome experience, and if they don’t want to be part of it, that’s okay. Someone else will.