Building Emotional Muscle

I'm sharing this humbling episode to demonstrate the fact that even when we think we have all our ducks in a row, life continually pitches us challenges.
06/17/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

I've been talking about a woman's self-worth for weeks, and have been gearing up for the release of my book for months. I re-read my own words constantly, and am determined to follow my own advice - to practice what I so robustly encourage others to do. An important part of my message is that despite the difficulties life pitches us, and perhaps in spite of the mixed messages we get from societal 'reflections,' self-worth actually emanates from within. Ultimately, it is up to each one of us to decide to dig into ourselves to expose and express our worth. Ah Ha. True that. But I never said it was easy.

I recently had the opportunity to tape a piece on the Larry King show. Though his shows are predominately live, he does tape some segments - like mine, that are not time-sensitive. At any rate, Larry is a masterful interviewer, an iconic news personality, and hey - just plain famous. I was thrilled, fully prepared, and ready to rock the interview. But I choked. His first query startled me and like a stunned deer caught in the headlights, I lost my way, and fell off my track. My body reacted immediately, and fear and self-doubt took over. I started deep breathing, and tried to pull myself back to the place inside me that had instant access to the knowledge I had worked so hard to attain - to the message I want so desperately to share -- to the succinct sentences I have used before that run smoothly and effortlessly into one another to make my case for women. But it took me half the interview to get my mojo back. Thank God I had some fabulous panelists alongside me who carried the ball -- Lisa Ling, Lisa Nichols, Della Reese, and Deepak Chopra. A stellar group.

I'm not writing this piece to throw myself a pity party. I've been really lucky as a relatively unknown individual, to have been interviewed on several notable, highly acclaimed shows. For the most part, I held my own, and fulfilled my end of the interviewer-guest bargain with intention and personal empowerment. I'm sharing this humbling episode - you'll see what I mean when it airs - to demonstrate the fact that even when we think we have all our ducks in a row - even after we've established a positive sense of self-esteem, and have discovered, or recovered our sense of self-worth, life continually pitches us challenges. This is what life is all about, isn't it? These hurdles and stumbling blocks can come from out of nowhere, and catch us off-guard.

In my case, the obstacle was relatively innocuous; it had to do with my ability to speak in public - to share my opinion, my values, and my voice, without fear. Okay - it was a pebble in my path - a molehill. Not so very important as difficulties go.

But still, it was something I needed to face - a lesson that I, presumably, needed to learn at the time. And it made me think of the whole gamut of life-experiences that require us to build our emotional muscles. What of the challenges that threaten our lives, our children, our security, and our livelihood? I call them Mount Everest challenges, those that can seem insurmountable, like cancer, poverty, and abuse? How do we muster up the courage to bounce back from those?

In the end, though the mountains we all climb vary in intensity and difficulty, the method for the ascent is the same; we take them step-by-step. We breathe, we seek help, we practice, we go inside to bolster up our personal sense of purpose, and ultimately we face it or we don't. Hopefully, we get wiser from each experience, and figure out that when one avenue is blocked or seemingly impassable, we find new pathways to get us to our goal, and we build stronger emotional muscles along the way.

I have learned from this episode. Thanks, Larry. The next time I feel like a deer stunned by the headlights in an interview, I'll whip out my mental sunglasses to diffuse the glare. And then again, perhaps I'll simply memorize an opening response that'll work no matter what question I'm asked.