On Being a Fraud

The well-known speaker simply did not believe that he had anything to say; at least, nothing of importance to anyone else. He did not see his years of experience as being all that worthwhile or that it could touch someone’s life in a helpful way. Even though he had years of academic study under his belt, including research and writing, he always compared himself to others – and saw them as more of an expert than himself. He told himself that they should be the ones talking or writing (even though some of those others were not nearly as talented or dynamic at speaking as he was). When he did get in front of an audience, he was plagued by self-doubt and questions of authority. “Who do you think you are, speaking to these people on this topic?” would be the message racing through his thoughts. It was negative self-talk; shame, of the highest order. He felt like a fraud. 

Friends told him countless times that he had an important story to tell and that he needed to share it with others. One said that he needed “to speak into other people’s lives.” One day, a good friend asked him what he was afraid of; focusing on the shame she heard in his voice. He was afraid of being taken for a fraud. “With your experience? With your education? With your story? How could anyone see you as a fraud?” she said sternly into the phone. He identified his ‘shame triggers,’ articulated the shaming voices of his past that questioned his ability (or worse, laughed at his plans), and shared his fear of the unknown (he did not know how the world of publishing worked, how to book speeches, and so on). Would anyone hire him? Could he deliver for them? Would they ‘get’ something of value from him? She said, “that’s why you ask people like me to help you.” A revolutionary idea for this guy! But of course! There are talented, experienced helpers available whenever you’re stuck. Just ask for what you need. 

And so I embarked on this journey of writing and speaking. I spent a year working on “Swing for the Fences: Show up. Dig in. Suck less,” although the idea had been brewing in my thoughts for several years; bits and pieces of it taking shape over the course of many months. I accepted offers to speak at local civic groups. I even secured an engagement that would pay my travel and expenses, give me a stipend, and buy dozens of books. Then another. Then another. And soon, as a friend said, “the more you speak, the more you speak.” With greater and greater confidence, I now ask for “gigs,” opportunities to be an impact speaker for banquets, clinical trainings, team rallies, church settings and more. Even with such bold requests people are excited to help, keeping their eyes open for opportunities. People really do want to help. 

The response from audiences has been very favorable. Not only do they say so, they buy books. They tell their friends about me and I am asked to speak at other groups. I once had a standing ovation when I finished speaking. People love the book and find it very helpful. They even like how it feels – literally, its tactile nature and pleasing color palate. Even these touches were intentional and the product of hours of discussion and planning with experts who were willing to help me. Friends continue to challenge my own “stinkin’ thinkin’” around my work. I know I have an amazing story, one of overcoming odds, living into new life, and have a right – and perhaps even an obligation – to share it. I am not a fraud. I am blessed to write, to speak, and touch other people’s lives with a message of hope, new life – of affirmation. God willing, more and more people will hear that message and find new life and new meaning for themselves.

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