Today’s Daily Prompt over at WordPress asks: When was the last time you stood out in a crowd. Are you comfortable with that, or do you wish you could fade into the woodwork?
Short story is no. Generally, I don’t like standing out in a crowd. I’m a people watcher from way back.
Heck – I was a lifeguard through high school and university, so I had a good seven years getting paid to watch, rather than be the centre of attention. Then I worked in politics after graduation where my job was to prepare others for the limelight.
Now as a public servant, I still prep others for the limelight. I’ve gotten pretty good at prepping others to be successful; at not voicing my own opinion; at usually not being the focus of attention. I am successful at what I do because I do this well.
It’s become so ingrained as part of the job it’s sometimes a struggle to remember how to not internalize it in other aspects of life. I’m currently in a rather large volunteer leadership role – and a visible one – and it’s really hard to make the shift – to be comfortable with being the focus of attention – when for years my job has been so clearly the opposite. And in the odd time that my job requires me to be the centre of attention – to do a presentation or to brief a senior official in a very formal meeting scenario – it takes a moment to make the jump into that space. Because it is so far removed from the normal space I’m expected to fill.
But it wasn’t always so. I remember the first time I held the attention of a room. And LOVED it. Every time I’m asked to do a presentation, or chair a meeting, or in any way be the focus of attention – I try to remember THAT feeling and THAT confidence.
I was eleven. For our public speaking assignment that year we were asked to write a speech outlining who we’d want to be, if we could be anyone.
It was 1988.
And the boys got up and talked about how they wanted to be Wayne Gretzky.
Me? I got up and told everyone I wanted to be the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.
Why? Well, because there was a woman with the power to take care of business!
Suffice to say I won the speech contest.
My reward? I got to give the speech, in the gym, in front of the entire school.
I gave that speech. And I OWNED that gym.
My speech basically ran through everyone I would decapitate in my new role as your Queen of Hearts.
As a brunette, I found it troublesome that all Disney Princesses seemed to be these blond-haired blue-eyed types who didn’t really DO anything (Aurora, Cinderella – I’m talking to YOU). Off with their heads!
And Snow White? The one readily available brown-haired princess back in ’88? Was she suppose to be my girl? Keeping house for seven little dopey guys while waiting desperately for a prince? No, thank you. I’ll save the Evil Queen the trouble. Off with her head!
I then took out my piano teacher because she made me “hold my hand like I was holding an orange” while playing piano (Off with her head!)
And my swim coach who made me get up before school to practice (Off with his head!)
And anyone in the audience who thought this made me just a little too judgemental (Off with your head!)
The weatherman, who just COULDN’T get it right (Off with his head!)
Then I went political (yup – that 11-year-old) and knocked out our Governor General at the time for spending all our money taking fancy trips (Off with her head!)
This of course freed up her lawn to play croquet.
Given this was the late 80s, I of course would obtain my croquet mallets by finding people who happened to be having a birthday.
See? A lawn full of croquet mallets.
Anyone care for round? Hmmm? Just don’t win – ’cause you know how I get.
As for this speech contest?
Yes, well, I think we’ve all agreed I’ve won, right?
‘Cause if not….
Oh? We’re good? I’ve won?
You’re too kind.
Thank you so very, very much.
It was comic. I paused for effect. I pranced around in Queenly fashion. Everyone laughed. I held the attention of everyone in that room. It was a powerful – an empowering – feeling.
I’ve gotten close a few times since. But I honestly don’t remember the last time I felt that confident in front of a crowd.