Ashley Stevens

All of us have insecurities. Often times, they're enough to keep us from showing up to try new things in life.

We tell ourselves lies to keep us from going outside of our comfort zone: “No one wants to talk to me." "Everyone already has their group." "I’m awful at small talk." "No one wants me here.”

Sound familiar?

Such lies nearly prevented me from attending a recent writer's retreat at a farm house in the middle of Nebraska with 84 women I'd never met. I was terrified. I had read many of their stories and didn't doubt they would be amazing women. I didn't doubt the content and talks would be worthwhile to hear.

I doubted I would belong. I worried I didn't have the following or credibility that so many others had. 

Women flew from all over the country — some even came from New Zealand — but my insecurities almost let me use my 30-minute drive as an excuse not to go. 

But I showed up — and I'm glad I did. I was welcomed with a hug, and across the room I could see the words "BELONG" dangling across the fireplace. Here are a few things I learned during that amazing weekend.

1. Be authentic. “Be you, do you,” is taking over our social media feeds, but actually owning your own imperfections doesn’t come easily. During the retreat I watched women who bravely shared raw parts of their story be lifted up rather than judged. This made me feel more comfortable owning mine. When we lay down our filters, we become relatable. We hear "me too" more often than we think. Real connections aren’t born until we do so.

2. Reach out to others who feel left out. I teach my girls to include kids that are left out. Many times during the retreat, it felt like I was one of them. It seemed I was on the outside looking in at women immersed in deep conversation and giggles. So I decided to practice what I preach. I found other people joining me on the fringe and introduced myself. Some of my best conversations came from those on the edge of the retreat. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the girl who looks like she’s on the outside. I bet she’s pretty cool.

3. Find common ground. No matter what our stories, backgrounds or creeds are, we are all human. I met a woman who wrote about her son’s cochlear hearing aid. I showed her mine and we ended up connecting well. Just by talking to someone, you're sure to find out things you have in common. Whether it’s where you grew up, how old your kids are, the Netflix shows you watch or what you do on the weekends, you have something in common with everyone. Find the common ground and start there.

Most importantly, don't let the fear of not fitting in keep you from showing up. Own your story, reach out to the edge of the room and find common ground.

By seeing the person before the difference, we teach our children that there really is always more room at the table.

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Ashley Stevens is a speaker, writer, wife and mother of three. After nearly losing her life from being t-boned by a Mack truck, Stevens now writes to encourage those whose life isn't going according to plan. Read more about her here.

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