On Friday, I gave a presentation at work, originally intended to be my final mission for this Confidence project. The presentation included some potentially controversial subjects, the kind of thing that has recently distracted me while I’m talking as I criticize myself for each misstep and scan the audience for any sign of disagreement or anger. I was nervous. Throughout the presentation, I felt like I was talking too fast and gasping for air, but everyone in the audience looked intrigued and supportive. There were missteps that distracted me, when I was sure I had said something wrong and that my entire understanding of my job would be questioned. Afterwards, I was so exhausted from talking that I couldn’t pay attention to anyone’s comments and therefore facilitated a very bland discussion. But in general, it went well.

I started listening to Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg the other day— a book that has been recommended lately by everyone, both those who hate it and those who love it— and it began with a discussion of how women often don’t trust their accomplishments. That really hit home. It reminded me of the time when I was on the cover of Fast Company, and I still completely write it off as a silly mistake. It also replayed in my mind as everyone told me that I did a great job after my presentation on Friday, and their compliments flew over my head as I searched for the real meaning behind them— what did I do wrong?

Thinking about all of this rattled me up pretty well for the rest of the day, but one coworker’s comment made me feel a bit better. Right before I began speaking, I was asked if I thought I should wear a microphone, and told that if I didn’t wear it, I’d have to be loud enough on my own. I said I’d be loud enough. When I started talking, I was prompted to project more. I did. Afterwards, I was sure that my voice had slowly petered out as the presentation progressed, as I had less and less attention to pay to keeping the volume up. But my coworker, who has a second life in acting, told me afterwards that at that moment when I made the choice to be louder, she saw a change in my body language and it seemed like I had found my center. That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out! She said she’ll teach me some exercises to practice finding it on command.

Also, now I have a video of myself speaking, and my presentation mentor has already said that I’ll have to watch it. Not looking forward to that, but I’m sure it will be very helpful.