My last couple of posts have been… let’s say “intense.” I’ve been dealing with a lot of heaviness (both internal and external) that has made simply existing difficult, never mind excelling. It’s been a challenge just to survive my circumstances and get myself to the next minute, next hour, next day. Today, I’m feeling a glimmer of something beyond the compulsion to survive and let me tell you: it feels really, really good.

Today, I spoke up in a breakout session about leadership of probably 60 (or even 70) professionals across the nonprofit and corporate worlds. Me, a 23 year old still defining “success” and growing into my professional identity. A woman who has spent the last several months steeped in self-doubt and confusion. A professional who has felt about as far from “leader” as you can possibly be: one step above “sentient rock.” A human being who has endured voices both between my ears and outside myself telling me who and what I am not. A soul who has started to buy into that narrative of inadequacy and incapability.

Knowing all those things, why the hell did I sign up for the session called “Leading From Where You Are”? Because there are pieces of me that know I am capable of more than I am letting myself believe. Because I know those voices of doubt only have power over me if I continue to buy into them. Because I’m ready to stop my subscription to “you can’t do this” “you will fail” and “you are not enough.” Because I want to give myself permission to be vulnerable and to trust and to grow again. Because I may be healing through severe depression, an eating disorder, and a life that I’m still trying to slow down, but that does not make me less strong. In fact, having the courage to name these pieces of my experience and still show up in the best way I can makes me feel stronger.

I am strong. I am capable. I am enough.

Our reality is almost always at odds with our values, whether that means a world that seems to get more chaotic every day or a coworker we just can’t see eye to eye with. The magnitude of that challenge feels designed to make us feel inadequate: how can we possibly hope to change the narrative of our reality when it is so big and we are so small? No matter where we “are” (What are we feeling, seeing, understanding in our current moment? How are we making sense of it?), we have the ability to be a leader in the face of things that make us feel uneasy or make us question ourselves. We have the ability to listen and trust in the face of doubt to connect and seek answers as we work to adapt.

True leadership is found in the courage to be vulnerable and seek authentic connections. To know that we don’t have all the answers and know that sometimes showing up is the best we can do. To trust our own voice in the face of doubt. To trust the voices of others and recognize the limitations of our own perspectives. To put things at stake and truly grow from our experiences and interactions with each other. To tell those doubting voices, “be quiet and watch what I can do.”

I am strong. I am capable. I am enough.

I am currently sitting adjacent to an active construction zone and it still feels quieter than the voices of doubt I have encountered, both inside and outside myself. I felt them quiet when I found my own voice to speak up and share “where I am” in the middle of that session. I felt a piece of the strength I have when I own my struggles and when I continue to show up despite them. I felt some of the worry of being inadequate because of my imperfections melt away, because I am strong. I am capable. I am enough. And I am ready to let myself believe that.

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