By Jill Sherer Murray
Here’s a secret: I almost said “no” to an invitation to give a TEDx talk, something I’d desperately dreamed about doing a full year before I actually got the chance to speak on the TEDx Wilmington stage.
It’s true. I was afraid. Not of public speaking. No, that sounded exhilarating. Not that I would fail. I knew me—I was a girl scout. A Type A Capricorn on the cusp of Sagittarius, and a proud INFJ on the Meyer’s Brigg’s scale. I got to the airport three hours before my flight left. I had a veterinarian and a reservation at doggie day care two months before I got my Golden Retriever Sophie (miss you, my sweet baby). I always turned in my stories a full day before they were due when I was reporting for magazines.
I mean, sure, I had the normal butterflies and concerns about speaking: That I’d get on stage and start coughing or forget my lines or have to pee or that the back of my dress would be hiked up inside my tights and no one would tell me. I also knew that someone would—and that I’d prepare for the talk the way I prepared for everything in my life: thoroughly. For this experience, in particular, by rehearsing more than 600 times, practicing on a treadmill to combat nervous breathlessness, and even test driving various brands of cough drops.
So, no, none of those things scared me enough to take a pass on the experience.
You know what did? The fact that I would look FAT on camera. Yep, that’s right. Years of body shaming by a well-intentioned mother, anorexic images of beauty in the media, and an even harsher critic—me—played in a loop in my brain, along with a running script of why “I’m not good enough” to have earned a spot on that much-coveted stage.
The fact is, I’d been here before. Many years earlier, when I had just turned 40, as a weight loss diarist for Shape Magazine. I had written a column for a year that took readers through my journey to lose weight. It required me to put my pounds and inches in a national magazine for millions of readers. In doing so, I thought I’d gotten over the hump of reviling my body, but that’s the funny thing about life and about being human. Old wounds often call us home—especially as things change and we age. It’s up to us whether we go peacefully or whether we resist.
And now, here I was again, at 53: My own bad thoughts about my body potentially getting in the way. The choice in front of me was whether to hold on to them and let the opportunity to give a TEDx pass. (There’d be other opportunities, right?) Or, to let go and give myself the experience of a lifetime.
The former was tempting. After all, it eliminated the need to go through the grueling exercise of finding a nearly bionic outfit—you know, the kind that would slim me in the hips, thighs, and mid-section, and shield me from the punishing effects of looking bloated on camera. And, on the day, there would be several pointed in my direction.
It would also save me from having to get up in front of a room full of strangers and a live-stream—where I was sure some of my ex-boyfriends would be watching. Not to mention the judging YouTube audience that would see me, and the additional 10 pounds gifted to me on film, into perpetuity.
It felt a whole lot easier to just keep talking about wanting to do a TEDx talk, without actually ever doing it. Or facing this fear.
To put this theory to the test, I shared it with my how-to-find-a-life-that-sends-you coach, who at first laughed and then said, “Are you kidding? You’re perfect. Stop it.” And that was it. That was all she said about it.
While that may seem like it was insensitive or even harsh, it wasn’t. Not indulging me in a long conversation about why I felt the way I did was the perfect response; it was like telling a toddler who’d fallen down that “you’re okay, you are!” before they started to lose it, while gently picking them up off the floor.
Her response reminded me of the perspective I desperately needed. It showed me that I had a choice: I could let my lifelong struggle with my body hold me back from doing this really cool thing. Or, I could let it go—at least for now. After all, I knew that getting rid of my body issues for good might not be that simple. But then again, what if it was? What if I could just let go of them?
This is how letting go works, people. Step by step. One choice at a time.
Giving a TEDx was a defining moment for sure. And not just because I earned a standing ovation, but because I didn’t for one second think about how I looked on stage. I was too busy trying to convey my message in a way that mattered for the people watching.
I was too distracted by the thing that actually meant something.
So how did I do it—let go? Here are some of my tricks. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful in dealing with whatever is holding you back from doing your own version of a TEDx talk, whatever that may be:
- I got a coach. Asking for help is the meaning of life (along with having good credit, seriously). If you want to do something big in your life, don’t go it alone. Get a coach or a therapist or some sort of skilled support. Every successful person I know has a bench. Because you’ll need people to lift you up when self-doubt and insecurity scream at you like a scorned spouse on the Dr. Phil show.
- I gave myself a pep talk. Instead of telling myself I couldn’t do it and letting the voices of other people talk me into a ditch, I made a list of all the things I’d succeeded at in my life and all the qualities I really liked about myself. Then, I posted it on my bathroom mirror.
- I reminded myself that it wasn’t just about me or my dress size. That giving a talk of that magnitude was about helping other people.
- I put my feet in the dirt. A shaman I once saw taught me the importance of “grounding”. When you put your feet in the dirt, the earth’s electrons provide antioxidant effects that not only help reduce inflammation in the body, but can help you mentally as well. It also feels kinda nice.
- I meditated. A lot. Sometimes twice a day. I practiced a method called “Heart Math”, which has you focus on gratitude while you breath. According to a number of studies, gratitude can actually change your physiology, making you calmer, thinner, and healthier overall.
- I remembered my favorite poem. Called “She Let Go” by the Reverend Safire Rose. In it, she gives permission to see letting go as uncomplicated: “Like a leaf, falling from a tree, she just let go…” Google it. You won’t be sorry.
- I got a theme song. Yes, you read that right. Every morning, on the way to work, I’d listen to “I Really Want It” by a Great Big World and imagine myself standing in the red circle in front of friends and family and a very welcoming audience. Hey, it sounds silly, but that visualization not only shortened my commute and felt terrific, but helped me manifest the TEDx experience.
- I shopped. A lot. Of course, I wanted to look perfect on that stage. And that was no easy feat – there are rules for what to wear on camera: no prints, no black, no ruffles, etc. A lot of people I noticed broke those rules, but like I said earlier, I’m a girl scout.
- I took care of myself. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I just embraced my body. Heck no. I ate 36 lettuce leaves before the day (maybe 37), coming eerily close to organ failure. But given the fact I’d need to decompose to lose weight at this point (thank you, aging metabolism and tired adrenal glands), I focused on the goal of wellbeing. I wanted a healthy glow. To feel at peace with who I was and what I looked like. And through clean eating, movement, community, meditation, and, most importantly, joyful anticipation, I felt pretty good on the day.
Was I a super model by the time I got on that stage? No, but I was the best version of me I could be. And that’s what I was aiming for. Letting go truly got me there. And it can get you wherever you want go to too. Whatever that is, I say, let go for it!
Fans & Followers
Watch Jill’s TEDxWilmington Talk: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go
Learn more about Jill Sherer Murray: www.letgoforit.com
Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies creativity, relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.