I’ve had a goal of doing a TEDx Talk for awhile now.
A TEDx talk is the type of thing I dreamt about doing when I was suffering from my eating disorder. I would imagine myself telling people how I overcame my challenges, hoping to inspire them to overcome their own challenges. I was an actor back then, so I was always imagining myself on stage or screen. Later, these kinds of fantasies gave me hope as I grappled my way through early recovery.
Now that I am fourteen years recovered, I decided that it was time to go for my dream: I auditioned for the TEDx Denver talk a couple of months ago. I’m not sure what possessed me to do so — I guess my optimism got to me faster than my fear.
And then the fear kicked in
I chose my topic — Aging in a Body-conscious Culture — and sent in a tape of me presenting. I have never presented on this subject before, but it is something that has been affecting me on a deep and personal level lately (of course, that’s an entirely separate blog) and I felt that others could certainly relate.
And… I was selected for the second round!
I was given eight days to create an eight-minute talk that captured what I would speak about in the full twenty-two minute talk. I worked on this talk every single day. I went through idea after idea, slashing each idea daily only to start over the following day.
Here’s why it was so hard: there is a feeling that I was waiting for. It’s a feeling I get when I hit the core topic that I want to bring to life. I knew my talk just wouldn’t be right until I had that feeling. The problem was that I didn't feel that feeling for some time!
I won't lie. I was panicked.
Confronting my fear — and my perfectionism
Thankfully, the night before I was to audition, it finally felt right. I knew what I was going to say and it felt amazing. But by this time, unfortunately, I was so scared that I was going to forget the words that I had worked so hard to find.
My perfectionism was kicking in.
Personally, when things get too tough, and I feel like I am not going to be perfect, I usually search for some excuse not to show up. But for some reason, I couldn’t find an excuse that I could live with this time — I find that with recovery, excuses vanish. My not showing up felt like more of a burden than actually showing up to talk — whether it was going to be perfect or not.
During this internal struggle, I thought of all of our new Recovery Ambassador Council members that I had recently been working with.
I have been training these individuals to share their stories. I remembered just how brave and awesome they had been: showing up to learn from others to share their stories so that they could inspire others to find recovery too.
Inspired by these brave souls, I went to the audition.
Facing my fear head-on
Oh yes, I was so nervous that day. I stood in front of two people in a conference room, and even though I was terrified, I knew I had to go into the fear. I imagined myself handing my fear over to a power greater than myself. And it worked. It eased some of the anxiety.
But, in the middle of my talk, my worst fear came to life. I lost my spot. I paused, waited for the words to come, and was able to pick up where I had left off. Phew.
Finally, feeling proud
To be honest, the talk didn’t go the way I wanted it to. It wasn’t perfect. But:
- I was proud of myself because I did it.
- I was proud of myself because I showed up for myself — just as I ask others in recovery to do every day.
- I was proud of myself because I took a step towards my dreams — and that is what recovery is.
No one truly knows what can happen in this big, wide, magnificent, and messy world of recovery. But, I do know this: facing our fears and showing up for ourselves makes us one step closer to achieving our dreams and thriving in recovery.
Update: Last week, I got an email from the organizers. I did not make the October event finalists, but I did make the finalist list for Spring 2017. I mean, OMG! I can’t stand how excited I am about the possibility. Hands on heart, I hope I get selected.
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and the online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.