You Belong on the Stage
“Life’s a stage and you only get one performance. Make it a good one.” Unknown
Two years ago, at the height of the pandemic, I was struggling. I wasn’t able to give as much as I wanted to my students and I felt I needed to do more for others. So I joined an app called Clubhouse and started to practice my storytelling. I joined the ADHD group and I was running small breakout rooms there. For those of you who are not familiar with Clubhouse, it’s a live podcasting app where you can have conferences of hundreds if not 1000s of people. People join groups that interest them. Usually, there is a panel of people moderating the group and others can come in and just listen or participate and ask questions.
After I had been on Clubhouse for a while, a woman asked me to join her conference on the topic of courage. She said it would be a small collection of people and I would be one of the panellists. I was asked to share my story of courage in taking over and running a dance school. It was such an incredible honour and without thinking I said yes.
The conference day arrived and the “small group” had over 2000 people. There were six panellists and I was number three in the speaking order. It was intimidating to be in such a large group, but I was ready to share my story. So as the first two panellists were speaking, I practiced my story while listening to the other panellists as well.
As I was running through my story, the first panellist started his story. “I ran an ultra-marathon after I lost my leg.” My jaw was on the ground as I quickly abandoned my practice and simply listened to him. He spoke about running a multimillion-dollar company and all of the struggles he has gone through.
As he continued to share, I started to feel more and more inadequate. I have all my appendages. I don’t have a multimillion-dollar company. What the heck am I gonna share? When he wrapped up, I could tell by the energy of the crowd, how excited they were about his story and they wanted to hear more. That further cemented my insecurities. What did I have to compare to his story?
Then came the second person. She grew up in a war-torn country and was orphaned and abused. She is now one of the top 100 most Influential Women. She is on multiple boards and has degrees from Harvard and Yale. The list of her accomplishments went on and on. So now two people who have overcome massive traumas and thrived have spoken. I was up next. But what did I have to share? Both my parents are still alive, I did not grow up in a war-torn country. I’m only Aleks, who runs a dance school. A business that at that point I feared might not even survive the pandemic.
And as the moment approached, I was looking at my phone and contemplating whether I should close the app. I wanted to run away. As I looked around my room, there was no one there to hug me or say “I believe in you.”
I was about to panic and spiral but then I imagined my frightened inner child – eight years old, with curly hair, looking up at the adult me and crying. He does not feel he deserves this moment. And I bent down and hugged my imaginary younger self and said; “You do belong here.”
At the same time, the moderator said “Aleks” and I began to speak. And within 20 minutes people were applauding me. People were asking me questions, people were complimenting me on my story and my courageous journey. And the craziest part was a day later, the panellist from the war-torn country messaged me, and asked if we could hop on a call. During our call, she said, “Thank you for reminding me what courage is.”
I was stunned. “Why? What do you mean? How could I remind you?” I hadn’t overcome anything like what she had. She was an orphan from a war-torn country and went on to greatness.
She must have read my mind. As she smiled, she said; “You don’t have to be an orphan to belong on a stage. We all have a place here. We all belong because everyone has a story to share, a unique experience. So thank you.”
That is the most important lesson. It is easy to compare yourself to others. Someone is a better dancer, is more handsome, more intelligent or whatever it is. But everyone has a story to share and there is plenty of room on the stage for everyone. The tragedy is that most people don’t step on the stage and share their stories. We all have to believe in ourselves more because there is room for everyone on life’s stage. You do belong there.
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