Discomfort — I don’t find myself in this situation often. This particular time it was in the intimate setting aside 50 or 60 thinkers and doers. I scanned the small crowd with reticence, knowing that I was different from the other attendees. Now — there were other minorities present; in fact, most of the attendees in the room were minorities. And yes, there were other men present. Yet, the room still could be considered a mixed audience. Two things stood out like a green hat with an orange bill: 1) I was probably the youngest person in the room and 2) I also had the least amount of titles and clout compared to others in attendance. I shared this voluminous space with executives of Fortune 500 companies, Presidents, Chancellors, and tenured professors of esteemed colleges and universities, appointed and elected officials — you name it. Without having to further appraise the audience, I felt as if I didn’t belong.
However, as the meeting progressed and I engaged other attendees, that feeling of “not belonging” dissipated. I felt more comfortable and confident in conversations. I remembered what I could contribute. An overwhelming sense of purpose and providence fell over me; I had something to offer, and added value to the discussion. I was needed in the meeting. I belonged. I deserved to be in those four walls.
Often times we uncover that ill feeling, the subtle voice that whispers in sweet monotone…”you don’t belong here”. Maybe its because we are shy, or we have insecurity. Maybe its because we transiently suffer from imposter syndrome. Regardless of the reason, you have to acknowledge your inherent value, and be cognizant of what you bring to the table — whether it be an event, meeting or experience you are attending.
Here a a few tips on how to be prepared and overcome the feeling that you don’t deserve to be in the room.
- Know the purpose of the meeting and do your research ahead of time. Be prepared.
- Research the anticipated audience and speakers for the meeting or event.
- Have a story or comment ready to share that relates to the meeting topic.
- Have a goal for the meeting, what do you want to get out of the experience.
Remember, you deserve to be in the room just as much as anyone else. Sometimes you are there to learn, other times to contribute, and even to lead. Regardless, you deserve to be in the room.