Have you ever had one of those out of body experiences where you find yourself showing up in a way that you thought you’d addressed? This happened to me earlier today. I’d been invited to present an aspect of my research at an academic conference. This was my first time attending this particular conference. The conference started yesterday and I was struck by how this community felt collaborative and inclusive. This was a marked difference from other academic conferences I’d spoken at.

I was sharing the virtual stage with a well-established academic. We both arrived in the room 10 minutes prior to the established start time. During those few minutes, I explained that this was my first time presenting a post-dissertation defense. He shared with me that this audience would be inviting and supportive.

Despite this, the moment I began presenting, I was hijacked by the old script that had me feeling like I didn’t deserve to be in this room or presenting to this audience. I felt myself tripping over my words as I read my notes and fumbling to respond to questions from the audience. I was brought right back to my prior academic presentations…even though the audience was, indeed, collegial. In fact, when I later checked my FitBit, it registered that 40 minutes as being a high-intensity workout!

The moment the presentation was over, I sat at my computer in disbelief. How had that happened? Where had that overwhelming sense of insecurity come from? I had honestly thought that having successfully defended my dissertation, those days were behind me. 

Clearly not!

And yet, I know that I have made great strides in addressing it. I didn’t get derailed by it. I’m not chastising myself that it happened. I truly believe that I was welcome in that space and that my research is appreciated – as evidenced by the number of people in the room and the questions they asked. So, while I was surprised at how I showed up, I see it as a great opportunity to see that I’ve still got some stuff to work with, while appreciating how far I’ve come.