I don't generally get very nervous when speaking publicly -- in fact, I kind of enjoy it. But recently, an organization I'm passionate about and whose board I'm on, AIDS Foundation Houston, asked me to speak at a special event -- a leadership camp for HIV+ teenagers.
The truth is I wasn't very worried about the topic. As part of the camp, the kids were going to be taught how to blog, and I was supposed to discuss what blogging has meant to me; and let's face it, I have that subject matter down cold. What I was worried about, though, was the fact that I haven't spoken to a group of teens since I was in my late twenties. I'm now in my early 40's. And all I could remember was that when I was 16 and some 40-year-old woman was coming in to talk to me, I would've considered her a total dweeb.
(Dude, what do you want from me - it was the mid-80's when I was 16. Trust me, "dweeb" was a Bad Thing.)
So after a few days of mild panic, I finally decided to start chanting my Mantra of Last Resort:
Fake It 'Til You Make It.
This is not to say, of course, that I just walked in there on Friday winging it -- I did a lot of preparation, outlined what I wanted to say, that sort of thing -- but once I walked into the room, I pretended I was a Person Who Spoke to Teenagers All The Time. Someone who didn't try to act younger than she was ('cause, seriously, DWEEB), but instead, someone who spent lots of time around teenagers, and who was comfortable around them and who they felt comfortable around. I walked into the room telling myself, "There's nothing to be nervous about, after all, I do this all the time."
It seemed to work: the kids were amazing, so warm and fun to be around. At the end of the presentation, I got tons of hugs. And most importantly, they're blogging -- so I take that as a good sign.*
And so, my lesson for the day? The next time you're called to do something that's out of your comfort zone -- maybe an unexpected presentation, or you're asked to teach someone something, or hell, you're called on to cook the next big extended family dinner -- remember: do your homework, prepare well, and then?
Fake it 'til you make it.
It works wonders.
* If you're so inclined, feel free to leave the kids comments. I'm sure they'd be tickled pink.
Images: Photographed with Nikon D300, and my ancient 50mm manual lens.