I’ve written before on how important it is to step out of your comfort zone–to be on the lookout for ways you can stretch yourself as a writer or person. I still believe this to be wholeheartedly true. Growth almost always occurs when we step outside our comfort zone.
This past week, I had the chance to do just this. You see, last weekend, I was asked if I’d come speak to a group of ladies (International Association of Women) about balancing family, work, and life, and even though there was a part of me that screamed, No way! Public speaking is the devil!, another part of me said, Yes, Casie. You NEED to do this.
As a published author, you may very well be asked to come speak at schools, libraries, conferences, etc. So I knew this was an important first step for me. And even though I’m not necessarily an expert on finding balance in life, I do feel like I know a thing or two. 😉
Admittedly, the idea of speaking publicly is not as terrifying for me as it may be for some people since I spent ten years of my life standing in front of large group of people, talking most of the day. Granted, they were middle schoolers, but they can still be a harsh crowd. As a teacher, you also get to do fun things like talk to a room full of blank-faced parents on Back-to-School night and present awards in front of the whole school at assemblies. So yes, I’ve had some experience at talking in front of people. But that doesn’t mean public speaking the easiest thing in the world for me. Far from it, actually.
I was mostly worried that what I had to say wouldn’t be interesting or inspiring. Personal stories are important when speaking publicly, but were my own experiences really interesting enough to talk about? I could only hope they would be. Needless to say, I spent quite a few hours preparing for this event. There was no way I was just going to wing it.
I was nervous, yet confident when I arrived at the event Thursday morning. I didn’t know anyone except for the woman who’d asked me to come (a fellow writer), but everyone was friendly and professional. I’d condensed my three-page speech into one page of notes, and I was happy to find I didn’t need to refer to my notes much at all. Even though I was likely one of the youngest women there, I immediately went into “teacher” mode as I began talking. I was *almost* completely at ease. And surprisingly enough, it went even better than I expected. People were listening and engaged, taking notes, and even asked questions after I was finished speaking. A number of women came up to me afterward to tell me how much they appreciated my words of advice and how they could really relate to what I’d said. It was an amazing experience and one I’m definitely glad I agreed to take on.
It’s funny because by now, I’ve learned to tell the difference between things I don’t want to do because I genuinely don’t think they’re a good idea and things I don’t want to do only because they’re a bit scary. Scary can be a good thing sometimes. I’ve also learned that when I stretch myself and take on tasks or set goals that aren’t within my normal realm, I find that I’m capable of more than I previously believed.
So whether you’re attempting to write your first book, taking a new job, going on a blind date for the first time, or maybe going to a conference or workshop all by your lonesome, remember that stretching is not only the best way to grow, it’s the only way to grow.
So start stretching!