There is something uniquely invigorating about sharing a room with 12,000 women (and some brave men) in the goal of listening, growing, and being inspired by other extremely accomplished women. At first, as an introvert, the sheer number of people can be daunting and overwhelming. It’s hard to focus on where to look, where to walk, and withhold the urge to tuck yourself into a corner. I’m not a huge fan of crowds. The world, even on a good day, can sound like a thousand radios tuned to different channels, all playing at once. But, a convention center of 12,000? A room? The Pennsylvania Conference for Women on October 3rd was a sold out event.
Fate always seems to give me something to focus on, and this time it was Anne. Anne was a pleasant woman of 64, impressively experienced and warm. She had an inviting personality and we spoke in line while waiting to get in for the keynote speaker. Without her, I would have ended up leaning against the wall feeling awkward and out of place.
Once inside the room, sitting at a large table and listening to the introduction of the morning speakers, I began to settle into the moment. Carla Harris took the stage with a boisterous “Good Morning, Pennsylvania!”, arms wide as if attempting to give all of the women a hug at once. It was a great way to enter a room and definitely caught my attention.
Carla went on to talk, in the third person, about the advice she would give her 25-year-old self if she could. Every bit of that advice was spot-on and resonated with me. Elation grew in my chest to the point of being distracting. I wish I would have taken notes, but I was so captivated by her words that I could scarcely tear my eyes from her.
One that stuck out to me the most: “If you are invited into the room, you belong into the room.” I’ve always had a problem believing in myself, my worth, and my accomplishments. It’s a touch of imposter syndrome, introversion, and the fish-out-of-water experience of being a poor girl from Alabama running with the successful, well-to-do of the north. On the eve of presentations to partners and CEO’s of a firm, I’m always overcome with how much I don’t belong in the room and a disbelief that I’m actually where I’m at. But, Carla Harris’s words struck me. If I had been invited into that room, someone had faith in me. Someone thought I belonged there. If I was invited, I belonged.
But, then Carla went on to remind us that if we belong in the room, then we have a seat at the table. If we have a seat at the table, then we have ears to hear our voice. If we have ears to hear our voice, then we must speak.
“Own your power,” Carla said, a clever smirk and determined stare in her eye.
Own your power… it reverberated within me, like the echo of a chime or the vibration of a tuning fork.
Every year I go through a cycle of creative death and rebirth. Every year I awaken to a desire for more from myself both creatively and professionally. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person, and towards the end of each year, I begin to contemplate what I want those goals to be moving forward.
There are a lot of ideas that often come to me and I always push the back because I lack faith in myself, in my connections, and my place in the world to push for those goals.
Throughout the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, I was greeted with inspirational speeches and conversations with women of a variety of professions. Each of them striving to obtain more. We’d all bought tickets, flocked to squeeze alongside 12,000 others, in order to learn how to get more, be more.
What I realized, moments after Carla Harris had ended her speech, is that we all have power. We all have the ability to achieve our goals and our dreams, if only we accept that power and have the willingness to use it, to own it.
Push doubt aside. Push fear aside. Kick them to the curb. You don’t need them. They are weights tied to your ankles, holding you to the earth and keeping you from flying. Owning your power, accepting that light inside you. Understand that you are where you are because you belong there. Break those chains. You don’t need to be more. You are already more. Own who you are, what you’ve accomplished and learned, and use it.