About a decade ago it occurred to me that I was in an on-again-off-again relationship — with my own voice. Maybe you can relate? Perhaps you feel as if you are tap-dancing on eggshells as you strive to be liked and to give the right answers. Or maybe you spend a lot of time hoping, with every cell in your body, that nobody will call you out for not being enough of whatever you conjecture other people want you to be.

And then at other times, sometimes in close proximity to those former times, you have an insufferable need to be recognized and praised for your achievements. You know you were born to make a big, positive impact on the world. And whether or not you believe you are on your way to leaving that legacy, you do know that you want to do more, say more, be more.

If you’re thinking, Oh, heck yes, that sounds a heckuva lot like me, please know that you’re not alone. For much of my life, even as I grew a business dishing out career and leadership advice to other women, I was insanely uncomfortable speaking up and being seen by the people around me. Simultaneously, and frustratingly, I was someone who pushed herself to excel. I entered and won talent shows, scholarships, student council races, and even the Miss Junior America Pageant. Growing up with an abundance of love and a ton of privilege left me frequently feeling guilty and embarrassed, if not downright ashamed, for my feelings of not-enoughness, which rode shotgun next to my insatiable desire to perform like a dressage horse and win.

What I’ve learned through my work is that too many women, irrespective of our backgrounds and the privileges afforded us, are doing this super awkward Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde routine. We flip-flop between demonstrating our supposed confidence and experiencing near-paralyzing insecurity. While we might fear that if we speak up we’ll underwhelm or offend, the mental torture we put ourselves through is usually far worse than any communication coming from us.

A woman would need to have been stuck in a cryonics chamber for the past few years not to have been confronted with the litany of media, books, and courses telling her why she struggles with her confidence and influence — despite women in industrialized nations being more educated, earning more money, starting more businesses, and running for public office in greater numbers than ever before. Over the past few years, millions of women have spoken up on behalf of our rights and the rights of others. But it’s one thing to show up to a march or broadcast your views in a social media post. It’s an altogether different thing to tell yourself, and actually believe, that you possess the power and ability to advocate for yourself — especially if you are in an environment, professionally or personally, in which the people around you are complicit in maintaining the status quo. Media outlets such as CNN, PBS, and Inc. predicted that 2018 would be “the year of the woman,” but how many of us really feel like we have the moxie we need to consistently speak up, tell our truth, and create the future we want for ourselves and our loved ones?

There has been no shortage of experts promising women tools for presenting our ideas more successfully, advocating for social change, and shifting our self-talk from self-critical to self-compassionate. Yet in conversations with my coaching clients, and with the smart, savvy entrepreneurial and professional women I meet through my presentations and trainings, I hear the same refrain over and over: I can’t stop my cray-cray self-talk — or the verbal vomit it often produces when I open my mouth to speak.

Okay, not exactly their words, but you get the gist.

Despite how we might puff up and posture, too many of us are powering through our lives with wretched self-confidence, and we are not fulfilling our potential or squeezing all the juice out of our lives as a result. We are overdue for a new paradigm for our empowerment, one that recognizes the impact of sexism, racism, classism, and all the other isms that have not gone away — and in many cases are actively being stoked. A paradigm that provides a holistic pathway for each of us to (re)claim our voices. For if we are to speak up and out for ourselves, and the many causes that require our championship, our pathway forward must enable us to cultivate the mindset and behaviors to transform our communication with ourselves so that we can transform the communication we put out into the world.

Excerpted from the book Step into Your Moxie: Amplify Your Voice, Visibility, and Influence in the World. Copyright ©2018 by Alexia Vernon. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.

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