Turning on the lightbulb: Chapter 1

Whose Permission Are You Waiting For? A series on finding your voice and giving it a professional megaphone

by Portia Taylor @PortiaTaylor

This series of blog posts is a journey, one potentially fraught with emotion, chocked with challenge and packed with punchy strategies to help you trust your voice and make it heard professionally. Come with me as we travel back in time to a darker place where negative internal monologues reign free…

It begins with my own struggle with imposter syndrome. When I voice this, it’s usually met with, “What, you? Lack confidence? For real?” with much accompanying sniggering/disbelief. Yes. Me. For years. Being forthright about your opinion in meetings doesn’t mean you don’t go home constantly second-guessing yourself. Having the difficult conversation doesn’t mean you don’t then become completely paranoid about what people are saying about you. Standing up in front of a room of forty-plus amazing professional women and sharing your ideas, doesn’t mean you aren’t constantly worrying about whether it is being positively received by all of them.

It’s social awareness that is a vital part of emotional intelligence and we all know how key this is to becoming a great leader. But what can we do when our emotional-cue-detector goes into hyperdrive?

The inspiration for this topic stems from my lightbulb moment. It happened in the school kitchen, five years into my assistant headship. I asked my head at the time whether we had to come in professional dress for the following training day. He stopped in his tracks, looked me straight in the eye and asked me, “When are you going to stop looking to me for the answers you already know? It was my mistake last time; I forgot my civvies. You are right. Trust yourself.”


This threw a floodlight onto my insecurities. He was right. I was right. It didn’t matter anyway!

I had to stop this constant doubting of myself and paranoia about people’s perceptions and do the thing I knew to be right.

It’s still essential to follow the sagacious words of Vanilla Ice: we must “stop, collaborate and listen” before we form our opinions. It’s just when the thinking is done and the speaking up begins, the self-doubt doesn’t get a look in (or if it does make a sneaky appearance, it isn’t allowed to hang around for long.)

So, I decided to be 10% braver and share my ideas about how to increase your confidence in putting across your ideas at the #WomenEd Unconference 5 this weekend. I thought, I bet there are other women who have felt like me. I’ll put this out into the ether and see what comes back.

I have been blown away and massively humbled by the response from the session. So much so, I felt I should write it up. Maybe this will help a few more people who think, “That’s me!” and then enable and empower them to take forward a proposal, make a change or have a conversation they’ve wanted to but don’t know how.

And, just maybe, we might help switch on a few more lightbulbs.

Coming soon…figuring out what progress means to/for you and how to take a bulldozer to any perceived barriers.

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