Dr. Robin Smith and I think alike, as you can see from our unplanned color coordinated dresses. Her empowering keynote speech for women entrepreneurs was the highlight of the annual Beyond the Glass Ceiling Gala, honoring women advocates, trailblazers and leaders in South Jersey. The author of Hungry: The Truth About a Satisfied Soul started her keynote speech by encouraging the audience of 250+ women (and a few men) to get real with themselves, asking, “What are you hungry for?,” meaning what do you really want out of life? That’s a big question. Dr. Robin went on to share that most of us go about our day wearing a mask, and when someone asks, “How are you doing?” we falsely reply, “Great!” We’re afraid to open up and show our vulnerability by sharing how life is really going. Maybe our marriage really isn’t so wonderful, or we hate our job, or our kids are not the perfect children we make them out to be. To the outside world, it’s all good.
Dr. Robin Smith spoke about a chapter in her book titled Identify Theft, a reference to the fact that we allow others to define who we are, stealing our true identity. I sat in the audience nodding in agreement, thinking about the first chapter of my book, titled You’re Not Who Everyone Thinks You Are. She was speaking my language. We’re so busy living up to everyone else’s expectations, we don’t have the courage to be who we truly are. Dr. Robin said, “Like a plumber whose pipes are always broken, I felt like a fraud. Here I was on Oprah, advising an audience of millions how to fix their lives, while I was starved for my own personal fulfillment. How could I tell my mother, who loved telling friends that her successful daughter was on Oprah, that I wasn’t the happy, fulfilled woman everyone thought I was?” Oh yeah, I’ve been there, done that. Hunger is the reason I left a successful corporate career, going from riches to rags, to follow a crazy idea and become an entrepreneur. My mom wasn’t too thrilled to tell her friends that her BMW-driving daughter decided to downgrade her car, her job, and her lifestyle. There went her bragging rights, which I now know fed my mom’s own hunger for self-acceptance. Turns out hunger is a vicious cycle.
During the awards gala, each of the honorees was encouraged to share their own “hungry” story. Instead of giving the typical acceptance speech, they opened up and shared empowering stories of real life. How refreshing! Trailblazer of the Year, CJ DiRoma, CEO of The Asterism Group, told the story of her six year old daughter. She peeked up from her coloring book while CJ was working from home to ask, “Mommy, what should I be when I grow up?” CJ’s initial thought was a reach-for-your-dreams answer like, “First Woman President!” Instead, she held back, replying, “Whatever makes you happy, honey.” As soon as it came out of her mouth, CJ realized that somewhere along her crazy, busy life she forgot about happiness. Instead, she was doing what everyone else expected her to do. It was time for the Trailblazer of the Year to blaze her own trail. I hope you do too.
Lynn Bardowski is an award-winning entrepreneur, radio host and best selling author of Success Secrets of a Million Dollar Party Girl. She speaks to global audiences about entrepreneurship, vision and branding and is a resource for press, media and bloggers. Like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. You may republish this article in full, as long as you list this paragraph and provide a link.