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In Which a #Speak Up Conference Speaking Critique is NOT American Idol for Speakers…

This nest and bird have been in my foyer for 3 years..... please note it's exactly the same bird.
This nest and bird have been in my foyer for 3 years….. please note it’s exactly the same bird as in the centerpiece from Speak Up that I posted yesterday.

Speak Up Conference part 2: The Speaker’s Track- Small Group Critique

“We won’t get rid of your butterflies, but we’ll help them fly in formation. A little nervousness is good.” Carol Kent- Speak Up Conference- 2014.

I get nervous before every talk I give- but I’ll be honest- I love writing and speaking so much- that my nerves are about 50% excitement, at this point. It’s not so much feeling afraid as excited and a little nervous that I’ll suck.

Not so much at the Speak Up Conference – Small group critique session. this was pure terror. Butterflies? Mine had razor blade wings-and I could feel them slicing up my guts.

The butterflies sprouted razor blade wings for 3 reasons:

1) The timeframe for each of the talks I gave to be critiqued- was: 3 minutes. Hello-3 minutes? I have a hard time saying my name in 3 minutes, let alone giving a cohesive and connecting devotional talk. 30 minutes? I got that. 3 minutes? Razorblades.

2) In my mind- “speaking critique” sounds like: American Idol for speakers. I was convinced that  every one doing the critiquing would be Simon Cowell in disguise.(Okay I wanted to say in drag.. but I stopped self. kind of.)

I could already hear the critiques- before leaving home: “Keep your day-job.” “You’re just not Idol material..” “You owe me a refund for the 3 minutes of my life you just wasted.” Honestly? This is also what I fear about book proposals, acquisition editor meetings  and agent meetings. I envision people sitting around a table ripping apart my words (and heart) like judges on the early episodes of every season of Idol.

I should probably stop watching that show- I always end up feeling bad on 2 levels- 1)That these poor people really think they are good- and 2) That they aren’t -and their dreams are being crushed before an audience of millions. Everytime I watch, I wonder: why did their friends/ family let them go on there? Why didn’t anyone tell them they just don’t have “it” in a loving way?  It’s the epitome of the classic story “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” played out on stage.

I was pretty sure that during my Speaking Critique- I was about to find out I’ve been walking around naked as the Emperor, without even an honest child to warn me.

3) My Butterflies were manageably contained- until I realized there would be a man in my small group. They became slightly tornadic a that moment. But something alone an F1. They went super cell– F5 when I found out that the Facilitator- pro for the second talk -would be a gentleman, as well.

I did’t think I had issues with men. Hello- I live in a house full of them. I deal with men all the time. My husband and I lean into each other’s strengths and respect each other.  I’m not a doormat or a dormouse who’s intimidated by men. But- when I realized I’d be teaching a devotional and critiqued by a group that included men? I lost it. It didn’t’ help that I’d planned to present a micro-version of what’s commonly known as “my stripper talk.”  Which involves me taking off all the things we try to hide behind, in order to avoid authenticity and allow others to see our weaknesses. (No actual nudity- I just end up makeup-less and in my real mom yoga pants and top. Which is way outside of my typical-multi-spanxs wearing speaker gear-comfort zone. But, it’s also a great visual and demonstration that God longs to shine through our weaknesses.)

At first- I thought I was just concerned about the appropriateness- of “stripping” with men in the room. I tried to get out of it. I stayed up till almost 3 A.M. trying to come up with some other message.I got: nothing. Finally I decided that to do a modified version- but I’m so used to speaking to an audience of women- that I knew I had to change up my opening and re-write the talk to fit the new audience. By the time I arrived at the small group session- I was still trying to get SOMETHING useable.

This is NOT normal.  Coming up with an opening line and content- for an audience is not usually my problem.  It’s honing it down so it’s not a firehose of info and emotion- hitting them in the face-that is usually my issue.

As I sat through the other group members’ critiques- I realized what the problem was. I come from a background that communicated (verbally and non-verbally)  that women should not to “teach” men. In giving this talk- I would be teaching: Men. (Man- one missed the second season.) Who am I to teach men? Besides- would men really “get” the point of this? My style? My approach to this scripture?”

Seriously? Do I really believe that? Apparently-yes. More than I knew. But- I paid to receive this critique and learn from it. I also: teach my men at home- all the time. I’m a mother of 3 boys- 2 are full grown men for pete’s sake. I had no idea that I could ever feel so inadequate, un-called and possibly even in sin- for giving a 3 minute talk.

I almost left the room. (I also- almost threw up.) Finally, when  everyone else in the room had taken their turn, received their critique and I was the only one left. I seriously considered  bolting. I also thought about throwing down the “My husband has cancer card” .

I didn’t. I Just: told the truth. I said I didn’t feel prepared- I said I know everyone has to fail on occasion and that’s how we learn. I said: “today will probably be one of mine.: (FYI: not a great t up for your audience. Don’t do that.)

And then I got up- took my place- and let it go. (Yes- you may picture me as the chunky italian version of Elsa in the movie Frozen- finding out what she could do once she allowed herself to try and find out instead of holding back.)

I didn’t suck. The message connected. Simon Cowell didn’t show up in drag or otherwise. My critiques were all good. For the most part- have an outline. (Um yeah- in general I do- but this was  a total freak out- so not so much that day.) and 2) Worry less.

I’m not sharing this to toot  my horn- because puhleeze- I’m almost always writing about my screw ups- if you’ve read before- or scroll through- you’ll discover that as truth.

I’m writing this because- I’m not alone. I’m sure m not the only one so afraid of criticism that I hold back and protect myself from it. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who is constantly discovering another layer to the onion of my insecurity.

This weekend- it was a stinky layer of insecurity of speaking to a group with men. And being open to criticism- (and I ended up pleasantly surprised when I stretch and move out of my comfort zone only to discover that I CAN DO IT. Including give a talk in 3 minutes. Who knew?)

So- What’s your thing ? What’s holding you back? What pair of gloves are you wearing to keep yourself from really touching others? What are you hiding behind?

Let it go. IT’S TME.

“His power is made perfect in my weakness.”

Dear Lord- I pray that you’d unleash all that you have created in me- and every reader- help us to do the things you’ve created us for– scared-  and jacked- up crazy-or not. In Jesus name- amen.  

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