Watch the talk at: https://unknowntoexpert.com/videos/tedx-talk-open-yes-video/
I had the opportunity to share with the world one of my stories at TEDx. It’s not often you get an opportunity like that, so I wanted to share something close to my heart: how we can all step into the spotlight.
I believe that no matter if you are an introvert, extrovert or something in between, many of us struggle to move from the shadows into the spotlight. Being open to ‘yes’ enables us to redefine the spotlight, understand we all deserve to be there and share our voice with the world.
I know first-hand what it’s like in the shadows; you are not illuminated and you are not seen and not heard. You are not in the spotlight.
So many of us struggle with this, whether it’s at work, at home or just generally in our lives.
Because the world we live in often only the extroverted or the loudest people get to tell their stories and have the opportunity to stand in the spotlight.
Think of people in the spotlight now, the stars who we are told to aspire to. Many are famous for just being famous. They are often inauthentic and do controversial things just to get attention, and once they are in the spotlight, they have nothing to valid say.
Redefining the spotlight
This is not the spotlight I am talking about. I think we should redefine what being in the spotlight means for each of us.
From my perspective the spotlight is a privilege and a responsibility. And it’s not just for the loudest or the most controversial – it’s where people that are extroverted, introverted or in between can find their voice and share authentic stories.
It’s a place where we connect with our purpose and vision. It’s not about being necessarily centre stage, it’s about being heard.
And it’s about having the courage to tell our stories and hear our own voices, no matter how big or small.
And it took a long time for me to understand I wanted to move from the shadows into the spotlight, but in my own authentic way and it all started with one word.
And that word was ‘yes’.
My story of ‘yes’
Let me tell you the story of how I got to that point of being open to ‘yes’.
I went from being a child who at times was behind the scenes to building a very successful career in public relations where I’ve spent close 20 years putting other people in the spotlight.
I have put hundreds of leaders on centre stage and loved transitioning them and their businesses from the shadows into the spotlight so they are seen and heard.
But I was still standing off stage and keeping myself behind the scenes.
Then I had a profound realisation. I was watching one of my clients doing a TV interview sharing a very impactful story about the work they were doing with indigenous Australians.
I stood there in the TV studio, off to the side, behind the scenes and thought why am I not telling my stories? Why was I putting other people in the spotlight and not thinking I deserved to be there myself?
I realised I said ‘no’ to things more than ‘yes’.
I found that I was being asked to speak at conferences and business functions. The media wanted to interview about my work. But I just kept saying ‘no’.
I realised that when it came to the standing in the spotlight and allowing myself to be seen and my voice heard, I just refused to own it.
And on reflection there have been countless situations throughout my life which I ran away from or said no to because I had to stand in the spotlight. School head prefect, job promotions, speaking to large groups…there were so many.
It was a theme in my life. And it needed to change because I didn’t want to continue to live my life in the shadows.
I wanted to find my voice and connect with my purpose. I wanted to say ‘yes’.
Almost as soon as I made that decision I accepted an opportunity to speak.
Stepping on stage
I was asked to present to 100 people on how to use PR and social media to build their personal brand.
So filled with panic and anxiety, I went to the venue so I could practice on the stage. I thought, “If I can just get up on stage before everyone gets there, I’ll be able to imagine myself presenting to the audience. I’ll be able to manage my nerves”.
I found myself in tears, wanting to cancel the whole thing. Now I was even more nervous and deeply believed I couldn’t do it.
I just didn’t know how I was going to find my voice and change this theme in my life. I kept wondering what if the audience thought I didn’t know enough or my story wasn’t interesting enough.
At 6pm the room started filling up. People were full of expectation. They came to hear me speak and to learn from me.
I looked at my watch. It was 6:25pm. I thought do I run or do I stay? I knew it was time to change the theme. I knew it was time to step out of the shadows. But could I do it?
At 6:30pm I walked up the stairs with the microphone in my hand, trying to not let my hands shake. I walked across the darkened stage and… into the spotlight. And do you know what happened?
I realised that I deserved to be in this very spotlight. I wanted people to hear me speak. I wanted my voice to carry across the room into the hearts and minds of the audience. Because I realised that it wasn’t about me being in the spotlight. It was about you, the audience.
And because I had something to say. What I had to say could change their businesses, could help them get more customers. What I had to say could do so many wonderful things for so many people.
Who was I not to stand in the spotlight? Who was I not to share expert information? Who was I not to have a voice?
And so I opened my mouth and words started to flow. I realised my voice had always been there. I just finally gave myself permission to speak.
It was the start of my journey out of the shadows into the spotlight. Since then amazing things have happened.
‘Yes’ leads to so many other yeses
Saying that first ‘yes’ was like letting the genie out of the bottle. That first ‘yes’ was the first of many yeses that were full of magic and wonder. Since then I have accepted speaking invitations around the world and have just had my first book published.
Through my work I have come across so many people who struggle with standing in the spotlight. It’s not just for those of us that are introverted. I have come across the most extroverted people who struggle to be heard for who they really are and to step into their own unique spotlight.
In my own personal experience from working with people making the transition from the shadows into the spotlight – from unknown to recognised expert – this is what I’ve learnt.
Connect with your why
What is your deeper purpose? It takes courage to be truly seen and heard. And while we might want to have a desire to move into the spotlight, I believe it needs to have purpose. It’s about letting our self-limiting beliefs collapse around us and ask the larger question of why.
I believe it’s not about literary being in the spotlight. It’s about synergy and connections that you create when you are there.
Be of service
I believe we all have stories to tell that will help others in some way. We have experience and expertise we have developed in our lives that should be shared because others will benefit from it. The world needs to hear what you have to say.
As soon as I realised that stepping into the spotlight wasn’t about me, it was about you, and what you take away from hearing my voice, it really helped me because I realised I was being of service.
Moving into the spotlight is not about being someone you’re not. Either is it about changing your personality. It’s about allowing your true self to emerge from the shadows and being illuminated.
And it’s not necessarily about striving and seeking, it can be about standing still and feeling the ground beneath your feet and allowing people to come towards you.
It’s also about being brave enough to be vulnerable. When you are vulnerable you create connections with people because you are speaking your truth, and quite often it’s their truth as well.
Believe in your stories
We live in a world where are encouraged to compare ourselves to others. As soon as we do this, we start living smaller lives. We start thinking our stories are not as important as theirs.
We need to have the confidence to know our stories are valid, not matter how big or small.
And finally, it’s about being open to ‘yes’
Who are you not to shine your light? Who are you not to have a voice? Who are you not to make the world a better place?
It’s not about becoming louder, it’s about becoming bolder. It’s about being open to ‘yes’.
‘Yes’ is magic. ‘Yes’ is illuminating. ‘Yes’ can open up opportunities you never even dreamed of.
So I’ll leave you with a question.
What are you going to say yes to today?
About the author
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as influencers in their field. www.unknowntoexpert.com
Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business. www.cpcommunications.com.au