You're sitting in a meeting, a class, a conference. And you're lost. You have no idea what the speaker's talking about. Scanning the room, you're just certain everyone else is following along. A few hot shots are eagerly nodding, scribbling notes, banging on tablets.
But not you.
Your mind's spinning. You desperately want to ask for clarification, but you just can't. Because you're sure they'll discover you. You don't belong here. You're not who you say you are. You're a fake.
I had a moment like this recently, when I attended a chic after-hours networking event. The speakers worked for cutting edge companies, and during one of the presentations, I got lost. Really lost. And I desperately wanted to understand, but I couldn't bring myself to raise my hand. I was so afraid everyone would wonder, what's this girl doing here? Clearly, she's in over her head.
And maybe I was. I'm a freelancer after all, haven't had the benefit of brainiac colleagues or a big corporate name behind me since I hung up my corporate card and carved a new professional life from a messy desk in my home office. I was there that night to learn. Problem was, I was drowning, and I never worked up the nerve to ask for a life preserver.
I didn't know a soul at this event, because I'd just recently relocated and hadn't made contacts around town just yet. Honestly, I was just glad I'd worked up the nerve to walk in, knowing I couldn't catch one familiar eye in this new region full of uber smart people. I'd left my home office and my kids and my comfort zone. I tried to convince myself that in itself was enough, but it wasn't.
So I turned sheepishly and asked the savvy looking gal sitting next to me - hey, were you tracking with that second part? Nope, she said - she was lost, too. Ah, sweet vindication!!! Maybe I wasn't as clueless as I thought, after all.
Still, I wish I could go back. Get over my ego, my fear, my embarrassment and just ask. Um, I'm sorry. I don't get it. Can you just clarify a bit? Why was it so hard?? Why couldn't I summon some Wonder Woman courage for just 20 seconds?
I came home and hugged my kids hard. How many times had I told them, there are no dumb questions? How many times had I encouraged them that surely someone else in the classroom would be so glad someone else asked? I admitted to them that mama hadn't taken her own darned advice. My bad. It was humbling, and felt for them. How much harder would it be to ask at their age?
At the heart of it, I think, we all have these moments. We feel small, lost, overwhelmed, insecure. We believe we'll be seen as impostures, like someone's going to discover our hidden secret. That keeps us from raising our hands. From taking a chance. From actually learning something new and getting better.
For me, it's times like these I remind myself who I really am. I'm a daughter of God and a sister of Christ. I'm far from perfect, but I'm loved anyway. I'm the apple of my Father's eye - and so are you. Through His loving lens, we really have nothing to prove. We can reside squarely in the messiness we are, while always seeking to improve. What do we really have to lose by raising our hands to ask? By exposing the secret that we really don't have all the answers? I believe our redeemer loves us so perfectly that the more we seek Him, the less we seek the approval of others. And if we had all the answers, how could we rely on Him so fully?
Next time, I vow to let go of my need to measure up. And just maybe, at least one other person will be relieved I did.