I've never been afraid to let my voice be heard. For as long as I can remember public speaking has come naturally to me. Since age 5, I've had access to the most exceptional training for public speaking, which gave me a huge advantage. I grew up volunteering within my faith community, participating weekly in public witnessing campaigns where I had to approach strangers and share a message with them. There's really no better way to get over the jitters of speaking in public than to do it over and over and over again.
In my family, in school and in professional spaces, I've always used my voice to advocate for others, to show love and support for others and to help rally and lead others. Somewhere along the way, I started to let my voice to enter a room, even when I stayed behind somewhere in the corridor scared to be seen. I became most comfortable leading by giving voice to others, by elevating their stories, their experiences. I would tell myself that this is because I value generosity and wanted to give others a platform. That's not a lie, and it's also not the whole truth.
I've never liked being photographed. In a photograph, there's no sound. My ideas, my diction, my voice cadence can't be conveyed. There's nothing more terrifying to me than the idea that without the ability to send my voice, my validator ahead of me, someone might see me and make a snap judgement, and that I'm powerless to influence or shape their view of me. Growing up my mom used to say to me some version of the expression, "Better to be thought a fool than to open your mouth and take away all doubt." I never worried about being thought a fool when I opened my mouth. I would reason that no one would ever hear me speak and draw that conclusion. I felt most impressive when speaking and most insecure when I was just being seen, when I couldn't explain myself.
But what about when words fail? What about when pesky, annoying habits creep up and tell a different story about your character than what you're selling or than what you're saying? There's no hiding from that. What about when you discover that you deal with anxiety, that you struggle with self-acceptance, and that these "hidden" battles sometimes show up in your daily interactions with clients and partners, regardless of how much you try to control them? Isn't that imperfect, clumsy version of you also the "real" you? I learned that polished perfection is an illusion a long time ago, yet I continued to demand it from myself until it almost killed me. When would I tell that version of my story? How would I account for that woman? She deserves to be seen. She's worthy too.
As I spent the early weeks of #2019 gearing up for what I knew would be a tremendous year for me personally and professionally, I started to contemplate what would be my intention for the coming weeks and months. It occurred to me that I wanted to practice being seen, that I wanted to bring more than just my brand into the rooms that I occupied, that I wanted to bring my full personhood along. I'm a founder's founder. I'm building a company with real human women entrepreneurs in mind. I know what it's like to feel underestimated, to feel underprepared, to feel under-resourced and yet to have a burning passion to bring something to life for the benefit of yourself and others. I know many other women founders who have the same feelings.
I've been afraid to be seen because I feared what might happen if others knew that I have moments of paralyzing doubt, that sometimes my personal struggles make it feel impossible to meet my professional obligations, that I often wonder where I can go for true support and validation on days when my morning pep-talks to myself aren't quite enough.
That all stops right now.
If I'm going to live up to my commitment to always curate experiences for women and new majority founders on a mission to make money and make a difference that are authentic, affirming and enriching, I have to be seen.
Follow me as I live this intention via our company page right here on LinkedIn and please sign up to receive our newsletter at shethinkspurple.com. You'll be excited to know that my team is hosting PurpleCon at the FHI 360 Conference Center in Washington, DC on Friday, April 5, 2019. This will be an incredible opportunity to connect with social entrepreneurs, tech innovators, digital creatives and impact investors who are committed to helping real founders make real progress and make a real difference in the world. Visit purplecon.com to claim your early-bird tickets and learn more about sponsorship opportunities.
You'll see me there, and I can't wait to see you.
[Photo credit: Create It Photography]
Danielle Kristine Toussaint, founder + CEO of She Thinks Purple, is a storyteller, strategist and social enterprise brand whisperer. She has been the writing pen behind op-eds and speeches for Huffington Post, Forbes.com, and TEDx. Danielle holds a B.A. in Political Science and African American Studies from Yale University and a M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. She’s a founding member of Tide Risers and a graduate of Founder Gym and #BFFLabs: Black Female Founders Pre-Accelerator. She'll see you at PurpleCon, April 4-5, 2019 in Washington, DC.