Last week my friend Kelly wrote an excellent post on her blog Oak and Ivy about why so many of us are scared to use our God-given talents and gifts.
It got me thinking about my own life and how I’ve spent so much time being afraid to use mine and still am at times. But more and more I’m becoming convinced to stop waiting and to take the courage to step out and into what I believe God has equipped me to do.
Maybe it’s because I’m almost 40 and I sense time running out – not on life but on the chance to start using my gifts so they can reach their full potential and be used as much as possible in my life time. Maybe it has taken me this long to become confident enough to put myself out there.
I think it is a combination of both and probably many other factors. Either way I’d like to share some practical steps that have helped me get to the place where I’m more willing to lean into my God-given gifts and start to give them to the world more. If you’re struggling to find the courage to live into who God has made you to be I hope you’ll find these helpful.
Discover What your Gifts are
I firmly believe that all of us have God-given talents and gifts that He has given us to impact the world in a positive way. Most of us probably have a general idea what ours are but it is easy to lose track of them over time. If we aren’t using them regularly, it is easy to doubt their existence in the first place.
The best place to begin discovering or rediscovering them is to think about what fills you up, what gives you life and what you enjoyed doing as a child when you didn’t have any responsibilities. That should give you some clues.
Another excellent idea is to ask people you’re close to what they think your gifts are. Our friends and family often see things in us that we don’t see in ourselves. It can feel weird to ask but I know if someone asked what I think they are good at I would be more than happy to tell them.
I’ve done all of these things over the years and it’s been very helpful. A personal gift that has emerged through this process is public speaking. I’ve always been pretty comfortable in front of people and I’ve had people affirm and encourage it as a talent of mine over the years.
This is where I used and still get caught up a lot. I have grandiose ideas of how my gifts might be used and if my abilities don’t match those dreams I can easily get discouraged.
But even though we have these gifts we still have to develop them. When we start using them our abilities probably won’t match our dreams but we can’t let that stop us.
I’ve discovered that the hardest step is the first one. We just have to get going. We’re going to mess up along the way and that is OK that is how we learn. We can’t let those “failures” stop us. Slowly we’ll get better and grow and since we’re working on something we’re naturally gifted at we’ll probably improve much faster than expected.
I’m fortunate that my job as an admissions professional gives me the opportunity to practice public speaking by presenting to high schools students over 40 times a year. I try to use the time to continuously improve. Each year I update and refine my high school presentation to make it better and I also try to improve my presentation skills by implementing and practicing new speaking tactics. For example I might work on trying speak slower because I know I have a tendency to talk too fast or I might work on moving around the room more intentionally instead of standing in one place the whole time. The point is I’m always trying to get better.
Offer your Gift in Service to Others
I think at first this can feel like self-promotion. But it isn’t if we are truly offering our gift to help people and not about trying to promote ourselves. God gives us our gifts to help others.
Hopefully by practicing we gain the confidence to offer our gifts. That doesn’t mean we need to feel that we’re perfect at them to offer them. Perfection usually keeps us stuck. My tendency is to not put something out there unless it is perfect. I think it is because I’m afraid of what others will think. Using a gift is so personal and if we’re rejected it can feel like a rejection of us as a person.
The problem is we’ll never be perfect and we’ll never be 100% ready. We have to start using our gifts even when we don’t feel totally ready. If we wait we’ll probably never get started. Ironically, when we start using our gifts more publicly we really start to grow and improve exponentially.
Also, in my experience that dreaded rejection usually doesn’t happen. Instead some people will be helped and encouraged by what you’ve shared and others will be inspired by your courage and moved to start using their own gifts.
Even though I’ve been lucky to use my speaking gift in my job for years, I’ve wanted to further use it and share with people about subjects beyond admissions. The desire has been there for several years but I haven’t done much about it. Partly I didn’t think I was ready but honestly, I think I’ve been waiting to be asked.
A couple of weeks ago it hit me that I need to stop waiting to be asked and offer myself in service. So I emailed my contacts at the schools I visit in Oregon offering to share with their students about self-esteem and self-acceptance, a subject that is very personal to me.
Obviously it was risky and there was no guarantee of a positive response. Fortunately I heard back from several schools right away I’m am already scheduled to speak to one school’s entire junior and senior class and a couple of others are interested are just looking for the right time.
Honestly, I don’t feel 100% ready to do this. In fact it scares me quite a bit. I’m afraid the message won’t resonate with the students and that I’ll look stupid. But I know I have to let go of that fear and the expectation that it will go perfectly.
Fortunately I’ve put myself out there in other areas enough to know that the message will probably resonate with at least a few people and that needs to be OK. Ultimately I have to leave the results to God, trusting if this is something he wants me to do (and I believe it is) that he will take care of it.
If you’ve been waiting to use your God-given gifts I hope my story is encouraging and motivates you to stop waiting. I hope you’ll take even the smallest, simplest step in the direction of developing and sharing your talents today. It may be scary but I promise it will be rewarding!