“Congratulations on your award,” said Lynn Clements, director of the Virginia Aquarium. “I’m introducing you.”
“Umm, thanks, Lynn!” I mumbled, smiling, as I continued viewing displays of community projects by local Girl Scouts. I had known I would receive an award at the annual conference for the Girl Scouts of Colonial Coast in March. I wasn’t sure what the award was, however, and being typically busy with life, I hadn’t bothered to ask. I just bought a new outfit and showed up—all the while thinking I would be among a group of many women receiving recognition.
However, that morning, I’d received an email from the Girl Scouts’ communication director, Marcy Germanotta, telling me to be prepared to say a few words. In the car, I had practiced a short speech that I hoped would be enough to get by. Like many people, public speaking for me is just slightly less painful than having a baby. Of course, I was honored to be recognized in the community—though I still wasn’t sure what for—as well as having an opportunity to increase awareness about Tidewater Women.
As people gathered in the ballroom of the Renaissance in Portsmouth for lunch, I thumbed through the program and found a long list of awardees in the back with brief bios. Oddly, mine wasn’t there. About that time, a women sitting at the table introduced herself. “I’m Valencia Ingram,” she said. “I’m getting the same award you are.”
I felt so clueless. Then I turned to the front of the program, where I saw my photo and bio, and discovered I would be receiving the Girl Scouts’ “Women of Courage, Confidence, and Character” award. Funny enough, as I contemplated the huge audience I would be addressing in a few moments, I felt very little courage and confidence. Fortunately, I rallied and, after Lynn’s kind introduction, managed to speak to the crowd without putting my foot in my mouth.
The whole episode seems a little surreal to me, but I learned a few lessons. Obviously, I would make sure in future I knew exactly what kind of event I would be attending and what would be expected of me. Second, I learned that I could rise to the occasion when needed and that often the only person keeping me from moving forward is me.
I’m sharing this story not because I want to brag about winning an award. (I still feel there are many more deserving women in the community than I.) Rather, this story illustrates an obstacle that many of us face in life—our self doubts. I think we have a tendency to convince ourselves that we aren’t capable of certain things—changing a tire, fixing a broken phone, or figuring out our taxes—when in fact we are amazingly capable. All it takes is effort, and we will surprise ourselves with our supernatural powers. I’m sure of it.
About a year ago Sally Kocen of the Frieden Agency called and asked if I would accept the nomination for president-elect of the local chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). My first thought was “Me?” My second thought was “No way!” as a million excuses jumped to mind. But then a little voice came through—quiet at first, barely discernable. “You can do it,” the voice said. “You need to do it. It’s the right time.”
So without too much thought, I took a deep breath and accepted Sally’s invitation. Now as I contemplate taking over in June and leading the local NAWBO chapter, I’m filled with excitement at the possibilities—and reminded that each of us has so much to contribute to the world. We only need to remember the supernatural powers we possess—and then use them to make the world a better place.
Have a merry month!