“Do you want to be famous?” That’s the question leadership coach and author Marshall Goldsmith asked me, point-blank, while we were chatting together one evening. I can’t be sure how I replied because I was so taken aback by the question.
“No,” was my honest answer at the time. I went into executive coaching because I wanted to help other people, not because I cared about personally gaining notoriety and fame. I want to share new thoughts with the world and help leaders and teams become less toxic and more supportive. But did I want to be famous?
Marshall shook his head knowingly. “Of course you do, Lisa. Do you want to make more impact in the world, or less?”
“More,” I replied.
“Do you want more people to hear your messages or less?”
“If you published a book, would you check your ranking status on Amazon?”
“And if your book reached No. 1, how would you feel?”
“Ecstatic and amazing.”
“Then,” Marshall concluded, “you want to be famous. Stop being so scared and letting excuses get in the way of owning that.”
A part of me wasn’t ready to describe my ambitions in those terms, but when a world-renowned executive coach shines a flashlight on your blind spot, you’d better be open, ready and willing to do the work to listen. So, I thanked Marshall and took the lesson home with me to reflect.
What was holding me back? I wanted the ability to make the massive impact that a famous person can, but I didn’t want the scrutiny a famous person faces. There is too much pressure, too much inspection, too much judgment. Do I feel ready to declare myself an international thought leader? Am I smart enough? Am I original enough? Can I handle failing on a much larger scale? Could I possibly live up to those high expectations that come along with being in the spotlight? Can I handle the criticism and constant scrutiny?
This realization took me by surprise because, while an estimated 70% of Americans experience feelings of impostor syndrome at some point in their lives, I didn’t know I did. I’m the person who loves speaking in front of huge crowds. I’m the “talks-to-anyone networker,” the coach who tells executive management boards what they don’t want to hear. I’m the person who happily accepts a challenge way outside of my comfort zone. So I didn’t know I was also the person holding myself back from truly succeeding.
Up until that conversation with Marshall, I had been subconsciously telling myself I wasn’t enough yet to be famous. I still had more to learn, more to practice, more to develop, more to refine. I wasn’t ready to be in a big spotlight because I couldn’t be brilliant and perfect there yet. The fear of the truth coming out so others could see that I wasn’t smart or capable felt like it would kill me. The fear of judgment, both from inside myself and from others, held me back from contributing my whole self.
If I had realized my feelings of impostor syndrome, I could have worked to take action against them. Yet, that’s the tricky part about blind spots: We don’t see them until somebody points them out to us. And I’m not alone in this. Even if we don’t realize it, all of us are holding ourselves back from succeeding in some way. Including you.
It turns out, I was only building success based on opportunities that were given to me — where someone had invited me to speak or asked me to write an article. I was inadvertently seeking the validation and permission of others to say when it was safe for my voice to be heard because they wanted to hear it. I realized the perfect metaphor for my success: I was taking the biggest risks I could on the side stage as an opening act, but I never dared to reach to be the star attraction on the main stage.
These thoughts led me to a framed quote sitting atop my bookshelf, a poem by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you … And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I was, indeed, playing small — and it doesn’t serve the world. And your playing small doesn’t serve the world, either. The world needs to hear our unique voices and contributions. We must all be willing to reach for a spot on center stage. We must be willing to break past the barriers we put up for ourselves, even when the fear is strong. We must be open to looking at our blind spots and finding those places where we are holding ourselves back.
Armed with this courage, I reached out to a Harvard professor about collaborating. I asked Marshall to consider co-authoring a book with me. I co-wrote an article on a new management concept. I began writing a book proposal. I asked to be considered for a management board position. In other words, I went all in.
Going all in will look differently for everyone, but whenever that voice inside your head tells you to stop, remember what Marshall told me: go.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com