Have you ever had a shameful secret, something you hid from the world, something you wished more than anything that you could get rid of?
I did. Growing up, I had a severe stutter that was often so bad I couldn’t get out any words at all. One of my earliest memories is hiding in the janitor’s closet during recess so I didn’t have to talk to anyone. In second grade, I stabbed myself with a pencil so I could get out of answering in class. That piece of pencil lead is still in my leg as a testament to my shame.
If only I could get over my deepest shame, my terrible fear.
Surely fear is something bad, because it prevents us from reaching our goals. Books and movies are filled with stories of success that only come after overcoming fear and facing adversity. So how do you select for the good parts of fear that build character rather than destroy confidence? In my struggle to come to terms with my stuttering, here are three lessons that helped me the most:
In February, after more than 30 years of hiding, I finally “came out” and talked about my stuttering in this TED talk. Becoming open about your deepest, darkest secret—it’s not easy. Actually, it’s downright scary to open that closet door when you spent your whole life keeping it shut.
Today, I encourage you to join me: to find what it is you’re really ashamed of and bring it out into the open. To figure out what it is you really want to do, and do it here and now. To reframe your fear and turn it inside out, from shame for yourself into action for others.