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By Matt Hearnden
It was the first day of my new job and I had no idea what I was doing and my colleague said “ok, Matt, introduce yourself.”
“Oh, erm, yeah, I can do it now…”
I was standing at the front of the room, in front of about 20 new graduates, and I was expected to say… what?
My stomach was drenched with nerves. They were beating down my chest. They wanted to protect me from this judgement.
I can’t remember everything I said. I do remember saying that I’d already worked at the company for a year and so if they needed a different perspective then they could come to me. How exciting. I could tell at least one of them was listening. His eyes looked like he was trying to burn through my mind. But, still, it helped.
It was my first time delivering a training course in my new job. A leadership training course.
I kept thinking “I’m going to be younger than everyone.”
I kept thinking “I haven’t prepared enough.”
I kept thinking “I HAVE to be fucking awesome.”
I said hello to everybody as they walked in because that made me feel less nervous.
But, as more of them came in, my nerves thumped.
I was on a panel of 5 people at my local university and we were all going to be giving a 10 minute talk to about 400 students.
The guy who went before me used to go to the university. He was funny. I was enjoying his talk.
And then I realised I was next.
What if I wasn’t as good as him? Should I try to make mine funnier? I should’ve fucking planned what I was going to say!
I was about to do my final presentation for the leadership programme I was on when the “clicker” stopped working properly.
I tried turning the computer off and on. Obviously. I tried turning the “clicker” off and on. Other people tried to help me.
I hadn’t been that nervous but I was now. I could feel myself going red. But I wasn’t even embarassed! Was I?
After about 5 minutes of trying to make it work I gave up and decided to do it without a “clicker.” I’d just have to press the button on the laptop to go to the next slide.
But wouldn’t that make the presentation jagged? Would it turn people off? Would I lose my rhythm I’d worked so hard on?
I was on a course and the trainer told us we were going to do a “1 minute mile.” A one minute mile, she said, was where we talked about who we were for one minute.
I fidgeted in my seat. Nerves rushed. What was I going to talk about?
I wanted to make mine the best. I wanted to impress people. I wanted to leave them in awe.
I stood in front of them all. I felt my knees vibrating. I took a deep breath. I spoke. The trainer stopped me. They clapped. I smiled.
Someone said they wanted to hear more. Other people nodded.
I’d done it.
Someone else said “I didn’t think that was quite… Matt.”
In that first story, the one where I spoke to the graduates, I was nervous because I felt inferior to them.
They were graduates and on the proper graduate programme. I was a graduate and not on the proper graduate programme.
I didn’t feel I had the right to speak to them. To tell them anything. Why would they want help from me?
In that second story, the one about delivering a training course, I was nervous because here were all these older people, these people with years of experience, and I was about to teach them something.
I didn’t feel like I should be doing that. I felt like they’d question why I’d been allowed to do this. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be in the trainer’s seat.
In that third story, the one where I was on that panel, I was nervous because I didn’t think I’d be as good as that first guy.
I didn’t want to be a disappointment. I wanted to inspire everybody. But could I do that if I was worse than this guy?
He became better. I wanted him to become worse.
In that fourth story, the one about doing my presentation for the leadership programme, I was flustered because I felt like something that was out of my control was going to ruin my presentation.
I felt like I had to be even more dynamic in keeping their attention because I was going to be flitting in and out of momentum.
I felt like I had to give more of a performance.
In that fifth story, the one with the one minute mile, I was nervous because I only thought about how much I could impress, how much I could dazzle, how inspirational I could be.
And, when someone said, “that wasn’t quite… Matt,” I thought “fuck you.” Because they were right.
Because I hadn’t been Matt. I’d been a person who wanted to impress, and dazzle, and be oh so inspirational.
All of those things were more important than being Matt.
And I’m grateful to the trainer for what she asked me next.
“What stopped you from just… being Matt?”
The voice came straight away.
“Because I didn’t think I’d be good enough.”
That’s what stopped me from being Matt. And not just in that fifth story. In every story.
It was in that moment that I realised that. That I’d felt inferior, and jealous, and like I had to perform… all because I didn’t think I, Matt, the real me, was good enough.
What a relief.
Yeah. It surprised me too. I thought thinking that would’ve hurt. Would’ve made me doubt myself. Would’ve made me wonder who I really was.
As soon as I thought “because I didn’t think I’d be good enough,” I smiled.
Because I know I’m good enough. I was just convincing myself that I wasn’t because I thought that’s what it took to be an inspirational, brilliant, charismatic, dazzling public speaker.
I thought I had to be someone I wasn’t to get something I wanted.
I was wrong.
On the last day of my last job I gave a terrible speech.
The words flowed like tar. I mostly looked at the floor. I cried.
I thought about performing. Giving in to the bravado. Being oh so very inspirational.
And, for a moment, I thought that’s what I’d do. I thought I’d say “no” to being vulnerable and “yes” to being what I thought was strong.
But, finally, I knew I deserved better than that. I knew all these people listening deserved better than that.
I only managed to get about 3 phrases out.
“I’m going on to do something I love.”
“It was the people.”
Whenever I did look up I looked into other people’s tears.
I cried because I was emotional. I was sad. I was drained.
I’ve never felt better after a speech. I’d let myself loose. I’d stopped thinking about performing, and being inspirational, and dazzling, and being polished, and leaving people in awe.
I just wanted to show them who I was.
Because that’s enough.