On a sunny August day in 2018, Tessa and I went for a walk in Provencher Park. As Executive Director of 1JustCity, she had asked if I would go for a coffee to talk about how I could get more involved in the small but mighty non-profit.
I was expecting her to ask me to volunteer for an event. The folks at 1JustCity actively love the underloved and who the hell can say no to that? It’s even harder to say no to Tessa. She’s a force of nature and the reason I took the meeting was that I was feeling a bit frail and thought some time with a super dynamic woman might be the lift I needed.
I was four months into singledom, still figuring out what I was going to do, how I was going to survive and what my life was supposed to be after leaving a 9-year marriage. If you’ve been there, you know. It’s a wildly disorienting time.
So we’re walking and she’s talking and Tessa talks fast. She’s so full of ideas, they sometimes fight to make their way into the world all at the same time. It’s a lot of fun to witness but sometimes hard to follow. She had made the pitch about her Board of Directors and how I should join and I wasn’t sure I had heard her right so I asked, “And you would like my role to be…?”
“Board chair. You’d be awesome.”
When we talked about this conversation a year later, Tessa told me she saw me open my mouth to speak at least twice, but nothing came out. Part of her gift is leading people right to the edge of a decision and then letting them tip themselves over the brink. So she didn’t say anything else and just watched me slowly put the pieces together. Eventually said I would think about it.
Here’s what was running through my mind, in no particular order:
· I’m not capable of this.
· I need someone to tell me what to do.
· I need someone to tell me that I AM capable.
· Seriously, I’m not capable of this!
I took some time to myself and realized that this was my new life. That if I wanted to figure things out, grow and become something more than the small, scared person I had morphed into over the years, I was going to have to be my biggest champion. I had thought that having a husband who believed in you was a critical part of being successful. I thought I needed someone to prop me up. By that summer, by the time I went for a walk with Tessa, I was starting to realize that abdicating my belief in myself and letting someone else do it for me had quietly eroded my self-worth. By the end of my marriage, I thought I was only capable as an extension of somebody else.
I distinctly remember having the thought, “What would he have said? He would have said you could kick some serious ass as a Board Chair. Ok. He’s gone. Say it to yourself, dummy.”
I got much better at my self-talk over the years and my pep talks no longer include insults, but it did the trick. Despite my massive trepidation, I took on the role. And let me tell you, I GREW. It was hard and out of my comfort zone and there was a particular board meeting where I thought someone might spit on me but I’m nearly done my term and Tessa would tell you that I really was awesome at it.
Self-belief isn’t a constant. Three years later, in the middle of a pandemic and a polar vortex, there is a pretty loud voice in my head screaming almost daily, “What the fuck are you DOING?” but there was a 6-month period before that where it was saying, “Damn, girl, you are unstoppable!” It ebbs and flows, doesn’t it?
The point is, I told myself I could do it, I did do it, and I did it all on my own.
*insert arm flexing emoji*
small//shift: Be your own cheerleader. You know who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you could be doing with yourself and your gifts. When an opportunity comes along, give yourself the pep talk you deserve. See all the good, all the potential, all the opportunities, and believe in your own damn self. You have everything you need.