I was a successful young manager, doing well, and progressing well in my career. That’s what my managers told me and what was written in my performance appraisals. My internal conversation was quite different. I would worry, and be so nervous about making presentations to staff and colleagues, let alone the wider business audience. I avoided making them as much as possible.

A kind supportive more experienced colleague could see right through my projected image of “perfection”, and encouraged me to join Jaycees and participate in their Public Speaking course. Thankfully I did.

Although at the time it seemed quite traumatic. I vividly remember having to prepare a 1 minute presentation. On any topic I chose. 1 minute only! That should be a “doddle” you would think. To make it worse a video was being taken of the presentation to be replayed upon completion. From memory I had a least 7 cue cards, and practiced and practiced.

It was my turn to speak. The conversation in my head was the fastest I think I had ever experienced. I managed to get through 45 seconds, got completely flustered, forgot what I intended to say, realised I had shuffled my cue cards and that they were out of order. Out of my mouth came the words “Oh S… I’ve stuffed this up”. My Tutors encourage me to keep going, it seemed like minutes were flashing past me and I was stuck for words. Eventually I got back in to the presentation and made it through to the end. I sat down thinking I was complete failure.

As my heart started to slow down I realized next on the agenda was the video replay. Oh no. In front of my eyes I watched a very well presented young businessman, who appeared to have really good self-confidence, speaking with charm and persuasion. At one point he paused in what seemed to be a very natural tempo and said “Oh S… I’ve stuffed this up”.

A great learning experience and eye-opener for me. How I presented to the world, how others saw me, was at the opposite extreme of my internal assessment of myself. It was the start of a journey to “get real” about myself. Being realistic in my self-assessment. Listening to others feedback about the effective, powerful likeable young businessman. Seeing more of the positive things about myself and what I did, rather than just automatically believing my negative self-talk.

Moving a long way further on, I believe personal power is taking responsibility for bringing realism to your self-assessment. If you know your tendency is to be highly self-critical of your deeds and actions, and you can notice when you do it, then you have an alternative. You have no excuse for not reflecting on the successful things you have done, the positive things you have contributed, the difference you have made in your presentation, project, your job, or whatever it is that you have been doing. And to use this realism to empower you in your life throughout the day.

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