A woman I’ve gotten to know has had one of the most incredible professional trajectories I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness. In six years she’s gone from an off-the-street volunteer/intern into a key player in a global organization. It’s not just that her job title or her responsibilities have changed – she is a fundamentally different person (or, more accurately, she’s taken huge strides towards becoming the person she’s meant to be and who the world needs her to be). Amazingly, the organization she works for has been able to keep up with her trajectory and give her bigger, more challenging roles.
When we talk about her career and her life, we keep coming back to the fact that one of her biggest challenges is having her confidence keep pace with her abilities. While the people around her realize who she’s become, realize what a linchpin she is for her organization, at times the echoes of her former self, her former self-image, her former limitations, all reverberate, if only for her.
For a while I thought that this reflection was just for her, because most people don’t transform as quickly as she does.
But of course it is for all of us.
Most of us carry the mantle of our former selves – the intern we were, the person with the entry-level job clamoring for attention, with all those perceived limitations holding us back.
Worse, we make the mistake of spending time and energy clamoring for that bigger job, the new job title and formal responsibilities, energy that could instead be spent on actually doing bigger, better, more audacious things. And we get even more confused when our asking for more actually gets us more, reinforcing the specious notion that real authority, ability, and voice come from anywhere but inside of us.
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