I stood in the dark parking lot for several minutes before going inside the restaurant that waited for my arrival. The expectation of the night remained unknown. I was unprepared and uncomfortable and really, I didn’t genuinely want to be there. Yet the discomfort of the invite drew me in as a means of addressing one more fear I’d long held.
It wasn’t meant to be a big deal, this networking dinner I’d been asked to attend. My friend said “come mingle and meet people in your field”. I knew it was a good idea, meeting new mental health professionals who had long worked independently. I loved to share my views on mental health. I wasn’t new to the work, but I was just beginning my private practice so I didn’t at feel like I knew what I was doing. I was insecure in my ability to share my opinions independently, not representing anyone else other than myself.
I heard the question in the darkness break my internal stillness….”Who am I going to be tonight?”
It was a valid question. I’d spent most of my career in a profession that required me to filter my words and opinions. I had to craft my views wisely to ensure the face I showed was acceptable to the employer I represented. I could not have been successful if I didn’t curb my true inner thoughts and feelings…which was also the reason I was no longer there. I longed to break free of the constraints and in that parking lot, I recognized that I was free. This was my choice, my gig, my terms, and yet I wasn’t exactly sure what that looked like. I wanted to assist whichever part of me was going to show up to be prepared.
After a brief assessment of who was best suited for the presentation, I heard the next question…”why don’t you just be yourself?”
The exhale came fast. I was terrified. The internal fears flooded quickly. “What will they think of me if I share my non traditional views? How will they reject me once they realize I am not one of them? Will the start of my new career be the end of it?”
And then…”wait, what am I really afraid of? I have absolutely nothing to lose. Go be yourself and try her on. What’s not to like?”
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