Right now my head is a bit stuffed up thanks to a cold, but the little voice inside my head usually takes no prisoners. This past weekend, however, it was not expecting such a direct confrontation.
"Why don't you think you're an 'A-level' speaker?" asked a respected colleague of mine.
The little voice inside my head was very quick on its feet and replied, "I actually don't do a lot of teaching and preaching so I don't get as much practice as an A-level speaker would have. I tend to ramble a bit. And, I let life hijack me and my emotions too much to bring my A-game every time."
I'm fairly comfortable in front of a crowd, can make eye contact, etc. Larry Studt, my high school speech team coach, taught me well. I'm a good public speaker, not great. Good. At the same time, I've never considered putting my name in the hat to be the Bible expositor at our summer training weeks, nor have I considered myself to be of that caliber. Self-promotion is not my MO. I was raised to believe that if you are that good, someone surely will notice and advocate on your behalf. There is no need to toot your own horn if you're that good, right?
Um. Sort of. Sometimes? Maybe? Not always?
I've often wondered if there is unique flavor to female self-doubt, or perhaps a unique spin to a woman's self-confidence. I know so many strong, successful women who are often surprised when asked to consider putting their names in the hat for a promotion, a speaking gig, a leadership role. Add to that any cultural layers that explicitly or implicitly limit a woman's role, and there you have a interesting combination -- confident self-doubters.
My colleague later asked me what I could only presume was a rhetorical question: "Why aren't you out there more speaking?"
There are a lot of good reasons. I've spent the past 14+ years having and raising three amazing children. Speaking gigs don't always fit in between childbirth, nursing, weaning, teething, potty training, preschool, kindergarten, and suddenly high school registration.
And perhaps there were a few opportunities to put myself out there and to get a little more training and experience when I let the little voice have too much space. Perhaps.
I've found ways to quiet and calm the little voice -- mentors and trusted colleagues and friends who will give honest feedback, trying new topics and speaking in front of new audiences, and listening to my own voice.
What does the little voice inside your head stop you from doing or trying or experiencing? How, if at all, does gender or ethnicity play into your experience of self-doubt? How have you silenced that voice of self-doubt or have you found it helpful?
This past weekend was good for my soul on so many levels, and I'm still thinking about the questions my colleague threw at me. And I'm rethinking, reconsidering how I might answer them the next time those questions come my way.
Kathy Khang is a regional director of multi-ethnic ministries for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and blogs at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com