Our own light shines brightest when we reflect the accomplishments of those we have helped to succeed. – Roz Usheroff

When you look at people who are in the spotlight of accomplishment, do you automatically assume that they were born with inherent gifts?  Do you believe they possess unique abilities that mere mortals do not possess? Do you think that explains why they command and attract attention?

Are you currently surrendering to a belief that you could never aspire to similar heights of achievement in your own right?

If you do, then you are not alone.

But here is the thing . . . many of the people whom you see as strong and confident were not always like that. In fact, many were initially inclined to shun the spotlight and retreat to the supposed comfort of anonymity in the shadows of self-doubt.


Don’t be.

The Shadows Of My 4-Person Rule

Many years ago when I worked at Club Monaco, a Canadian retail fashion chain, I had a self-imposed rule that if there were more than four people in a meeting, I would remain silent.

My reasoning was that I had a greater chance of appearing stupid if I spoke in front of a larger audience. I was fearful of being exposed as someone who did not know what they were talking about. You can think of it as being the 4 Smart – 5 Stupid Rule.


As I look back, my thinking seems foolish, especially since I now address audiences of all sizes the world over. Naturally, over time, those fears eventually disappeared due in part to the fact that I allowed myself to accept the positive feedback from my diverse audiences.  The real turning point however, was my realization that I had known more about what I was saying, than for what I was giving myself credit.

Overcoming The “Spotlight Effect”

Ultimately, I shied away from the spotlight in terms of speaking up and standing out because I believed that everyone was watching me and would therefore notice my every flaw or imperfection. This highly sensitized level of self-consciousness actually has a name…“The Spotlight Effect”.


If you are not familiar with the term, it is the belief that you are noticed by others more than you really are. What is even more interesting is that rarely, if ever, will you have an accurate perspective on how people view you.

In this month’s eNewsletter, I will provide you with a new set of rules for stepping from the shadows of self-doubt and self-limiting beliefs to shine in your own right.

Rule #1 – Focus on your Strengths

If you want to change the fruit, you have to change the roots. If you want to change the visible, you have to change the invisible first. – T. Harv Eker

How many times have you been in a meeting where someone presents an idea in which you have said to yourself, “Hey! I thought of that!”

This has happened to everyone at one time or another, and not just once. So here is my question to you . . . why didn’t you speak up? Why did you hesitate to share your ideas or flashes of brilliance?

Until you get to the point of realizing and accepting the fact that you have a value all of your own, you will likely be in the shadows of your own 4-person rule.

woman with sketched strong and muscled arms

Tips for discovering and boosting your confidence:

  • Think back to your past successes – even the small ones. It could be acing a tough job interview, dealing with a difficult customer or completing a project under budget. How did you feel? The key point is that each success you have had should serve as a stepping-stone to building your confidence in the value of ‘you’.
  • Seek input from trusted individuals with whom you work and live about your strengths. Remember, with the spotlight effect we rarely, if ever, have an accurate view of how others perceive us. You will most assuredly be surprised by the answers you receive.
  • If you are not happy with something about yourself, don’t lament it – change it! If you feel that you need to be more visible, begin with tiny steps. Challenge yourself to speak up early in a meeting or ask to be first on the agenda of a virtual presentation.

Rule #2 – Knowledge IS Power

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. – Benjamin Franklin

Nothing fosters greater confidence than knowing your stuff!


Doing your homework and becoming a subject matter expert removes any element of surprise. It also means that your preparation time before attending a meeting or addressing an audience is as important as the event itself.

In other words, you can’t just show up and wing it. That would be like showing up at the starting line of a marathon race without actually training for it. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, or how athletic you look –  you are not going to win the race.

Tips for setting the stage for speaking out:

  • Know your audience! Find out who is going to be attending the meeting, and what they want to achieve. Why are they there? Why are you there?
  • Get a copy of the agenda and highlight the areas with which you can offer meaningful insight – then carpe diem . . . seize the opportunity to speak.
  • Prepare thought-provoking questions in advance. Address those in attendance who are the subject matter experts.  Your enthusiastic participation will be duly noted.
  • When presenting, don’t just talk at people. Engage them. Create a two-way dialogue which shifts the focus from you to others, and gives everyone the opportunity to shine in a collective spotlight. To make your audience part of the process, try the following:
  • “What are your questions?” vs. “Do you have any questions?”
  • “How does this resonate with you?”
  • “I’m curious to have your perspectives.”
  • “What are your thoughts before I move on?”
  • Stock the boardroom or audience with allies who will validate your perspectives. Book time to share your vision with them before the meeting to build your sponsorship.

Rule #3 – Sincere Passion Is Contagious   

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – DH Lawrence

A powerful message is dampened by a cautious or uncertain delivery.


Tips to help you to shine when it is time to speak:

  • Don’t say what you have to say to gain approval. Say what you have to say because you truly believe it.
  • When you speak, make eye contact with as many people as you can. Let them not only hear the conviction in your voice, but see the confidence in your eyes.
  • Have documentation at hand that supports your position rather than just an opinion.
  • When you are finished speaking, don’t end with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well, what do you think?” submission.
  • Never end your point of view with your voice rising as it will appear that you are asking for permission.

Rule #4 – Perfection Is An Illusion

Everyone makes mistakes. The wise are not people who never make mistakes, but those who forgive themselves and learn from their mistakes. – A Buddhist Monk

For me, a major breakthrough in terms of stepping out from the shadows and into the spotlight of my full potential came when I finally gave myself permission to be imperfect. What I have learned over the years is that audiences are more apt to champion me when I focus on them, as opposed to myself.


Tips to help you to own your power and become comfortable being visible:

  • If you make a mistake in front of your entire world, admit it, fix it, and learn from it. How you deal with adversity speaks volumes about your character.
  • Like a figure skater who falls during their routine, don’t sit at center ice and give up. Instead, get up and continue forward.
  • Focus on getting it right, as opposed to being right. When you are more interested in delivering value to others you are less likely to dwell on your missteps.

Everyone Has A Spotlight . . . 

I’ve come to believe that each person has a spotlight waiting for them. – Katherine Stone

In the end, stepping into your spotlight and getting noticed means that you are more likely to be considered for opportunities for career advancement.

So go out there and shine!



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