Personal Writing

May 17, 2022…I walked through a new door

I’ve been consciously documenting when I can see or feel my professional life changing. I first referenced working with Laura Gassner Otting in this post. Turns out that the first assignment she gave me changed my life in the most profound way, and I (almost entirely) let go of the most singular wound of my life. I wrote a post right before I met Jessica Buchanan so that I could remember how I felt on the front end, in case it turned out to be something important. It was.

And today feels like another one of those moments. I wrote in my most recent newsletter, “Quick newsletter this week. There’s just too much going on in all my arenas. But I hope that some of what is making me so busy will lead to some big breakthroughs, so that’s exciting.”

I had my second talk with two women, Melissa and Angela, of & Ampersand Education, Co. today. Interestingly, Jess introduced me to them. Last week’s conversation was great, but I only got to meet Melissa. This was a chance to meet them both. We talked, they listened (such a lost art for so many people who are technically “selling” something), they asked questions and they talked with (not at) me about how we will grow my work in a way that made me feel heard and validated.

But that’s not what I’m actually most excited about. I did something new for me in this conversation, and it worked out remarkably well.

Let me preface, despite my distaste for prefacing: many people in my life are going to have a hard time believing what I’m about to say, but it’s absolutely true. When it comes to working with experts in almost any field, I can be deferential to the point of absurdity. Most of it is good old fashioned imposter syndrome. Who the heck am I to even have the audacity of this dream much less think I can set expectations of people with whom I am working? My mindset is always that if I am lucky enough to have a person/group who is further down the professional path than I am agree to work with me, I shouldn’t express my fears, should say yes to all that they propose and should be as affable and amenable as possible.

You know where that has gotten me? Right where I am: standing in this little circle of frustration that I have been squirming in for months.

Let me be clear because this sounds like I’m blaming my past coaches, consultants and advisors, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve learned so much from each of them, but I willingly abdicated my own voice and instincts, and that has put me here, floundering and frustrated. I did that; nobody asked or expected me to be stupefyingly passive when what I am is extraordinarily active. I opted to bend myself this way and that in an effort to please and mimic people with whom I admire and work, and I did from a misplaced sense of that being the right thing to do.

So as I was talking with Angela and Melissa, I had some ideas, which I would normally not have uttered because I would have thought, “They are the experts. You don’t need to chirp in here with your questions or suggestions. Just be quiet and hope they agree to work with you.”

But this time, I expressed them. I declared what I want and what my expectations for this contract are. I stated my areas of expertise around my work and laid out what I expected to gain from theirs.

And you know what? They didn’t look aghast and refuse to work with me. Instead, they agreed with my points, were glad to see that I understand my own skill set and appreciated that I was clear with my needs.

I got off that call and felt completely settled; that’s a new feeling for me. Other calls have ended with me feeling kind of fluttery—a bit unsettled—because I knew I hadn’t been completely honest about myself; instead, I was trying to fit a mold I assumed they would want me to fit so that I would be worthy of their saying yes. What a stupid waste of time. I’ve basically been channeling my best nerdy teenage girl getting the chance to go out with the coolest teenage boy self: don’t say too much, don’t be too demanding, just say yes because if you don’t, he’ll realize he’s with YOU, and we all know that won’t last.

I was a lucky teenager, and I’ve been lucky in this phase, too, because everyone I’ve spent time with in both phases has been honorable and taken good care of me. But that certainly isn’t a given, and it’s not the way I want to work with others moving forward.

So I’m walking through a new door, and I expect that these women will walk with me further down this path I’m on. I couldn’t have even gotten to this door without the work I’ve done with others, and I’m beyond grateful.

But this time I’m starting off by owning my strengths and talents. I’m not trying to make myself a blank slate to be filled in by someone else; I’m bringing what I’ve learned and developed up to this point, and I’m setting expectations for myself and those around me. I’m not creating more content in an effort to find the proverbial golden ticket. Instead, I’m trusting that what I’ve already created is valuable and just needs to be tightened up and strategically populated out into the world by experts who do that work day in and day out.

My question to you is this: where have you abandoned yourself, either by expectation or choice? Where have you made yourself small to fit what you think someone else wants of you (even if they’ve never told you that’s what they want)? Where have you shut your instincts away to better match how others show up in the world? And how has that worked out for you?

What would happen if you took a deep breath and trusted yourself? Trusted that the way you are is the way you can and should show up? Trusted that your instincts are right for you?

Open the door, whatever that door is, and confidently walk through it. There will be people there, ready to walk with and support you, but you’ll be most successful when you show up as your truest self.

As a bonus, I’m also going to get to work with Melissa’s son. As a four-year old, he’s likely already a digital native, so I’m expecting to learn the most from him. 🙂

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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