When a dream is finally realized, your inner judge may try to sabotage it. Here’s how I finally quieted the critical voices and just let go.

forgiveness photo“Mommy, you were amazing!” my teenage daughter exclaimed as she hugged my neck. It was the first time she’d seen me give a keynote, and this one was in front of thousands of people. It was a dream fulfilled to speak at an arena.  I had imagined the moment to be one of the most exhilarating of my life, a moment I should have been overjoyed to share with my daughter, but all I could say to her was, “I don’t think so.”

My keynote on Living Fearlessly, one of many I’d given on a tour promoting my new book, The No-Fear Career, had brought 14,000 people to their feet, but I couldn’t hear their applause, only the critical inner voice that was scoring my performance telling me I wasn’t good enough, I was in my head, not my body, I went over my allotted time…

When you’re in the void that follows a great moment, feelings of self-doubt may plague you.

It’s been over ten years since I first took the stage at a Women In Film event in Atlanta. Since that day, when I realized my true calling, I have always relished my role as a speaker and been confident in my delivery. I have inspired professionals at major companies like Walmart, Microsoft, and Food Network to create personal brands, have a purpose-driven career and practice the art of fearless leadership. My talks are usually given in ballrooms or lecture halls to peers and professionals, not thousands of people. What I didn’t calculate in transitioning from The Cabaret to The Arena was how small I would feel.

During those 50 minutes on stage I stood in an enormous spotlight, revealing my stories and secrets. I made myself entirely vulnerable.  I knew that to speak on the topic of Fearless Living, I would have to tell my personal story, especially the painful parts that had been less than perfect. This speech was the work of my LIFE — and I laid that work out for everyone to inspect and appraise.

The next day and in the weeks that followed, I received dozens of emails and social media posts from people who were in the audience telling me that my words had uplifted them and how I had delivered the tools they needed to live fearlessly. Despite my doubts, I had made a positive impact after all.  Their kindness and connection helped restore me to sanity.

If fear creeps in, gratitude and forgiveness will sweep it right out.

Forgiving one’s self is an intellectual act, not an emotional one.  To quiet my inner judge, I consciously shifted into gratitude. I thought about how fearless it was to give an arena-size speech, to have the courage to live that large and I thought about how thankful I was to receive the audience’s love.  I told myself who I was, repeating my essence words over and over, “I am inspiration. I am powerful. I am passionate. I am enthusiastic. I am sparkle!” It didn’t take long to forgive myself for not showing up confidently for my daughter and for not being entirely perfect.

When my highest self met the darkest part of me, it was a powerful and humbling moment.

Next time, I will walk off the stage with my higher power, not disappear behind a curtain where my Inner Judge will be waiting. No one can live fearlessly in isolation. I’ll say to my Inner Judge, “There you are again. You stay backstage and grumble if you want; I’ll accept the praise.” Then I’ll remind myself that the voice is there to humble me, not slay me, and I’ll channel the doubt into positive energy, rather than let it get the best of me.

I hope that when you are called to do something big and out of your comfort zone, you won’t allow that critical voice to hijack your experience. But, if it does, turn it around by listening to those who love you and tell yourself how courageous you really are. Tune into that love, allow it to guide you back out into the real world, and you’ll find the grace to move into what’s next.

Through the act of self-forgiveness I’m learning to detach from the voices that distance me from the light I long to shine brightly.