Fighting The Syndrome
First, I had to work on convincing myself that I deserved to be on the TED stage. This process started as soon as I received the call. It continued to the moment I was in the dressing room, looking at the monitor, waiting for my turn to speak. I have battled ‘Imposter Syndrome’ at various points in my life. “Are you sure you’re supposed to be here?” and “Can you really do this?” are two examples of questions that were no strangers to my mind. I needed to realize my worth every time those questions entered into my thoughts, because the days leading up to the Talk would be intense. So, my approach was simple: be gentle and own the insecurity, fear, and happiness that came along with the moment.
Preparation for my Talk entailed hours of writing with the support of my Coach and TED Business Curator, Corey Hajim, practicing and re-writing consistently. I completed at least 50 drafts of the Talk in thirty days, and when I arrived in Palm Springs, where the conference was taking place, I practiced my speech over 100 times within a week. You might be wondering how in the world that was possible, especially on top of leading Fathers’ UpLift in the day-to-day. I am still trying to figure that out. However, I do know that I have a spouse and team who played a large part in making that a possibility, who I could trust to make sure any gaps were filled while I focused on this landmark event. Nonetheless, there were several long nights and plenty of sweat and tears. In addition to the preparation, I had to deal with the emotions that surfaced from the fact that I was in the room with a dynamic lineup of amazing women and men doing great work throughout the world. Here’s why.
The Why (Emotions)
I consider my role at Fathers’ UpLift a divine calling. Our efforts were birthed from my experience of being without my father. Every time I re-wrote the speech, spoke it out loud, played it on my headphones, and rehearsed it in front of the mirror in my room, I visually could see what I overcame to be here. I also saw the fathers I’ve met along the way and how their experiences shaped me into the person I am today. I consider these experiences a gift to my existence on Earth. Truthfully, I would be lying to you all if I said that I did not feel loads of appreciation through an excessive amount of gratitude.
The preparation, Imposter Syndrome, and my past memories were not the only things present during this process; my grandmother and mother were with me. I felt their overwhelming presence. I remember vividly the flashbacks of my grandmother, Mattie Mae Marshall, who worked as a housekeeper in West Palm Beach, Florida. As I practiced, I thought about the houses she cleaned while making countless sacrifices for my mother and her siblings. I also thought about my mother, who was once a teenage mom carrying my oldest brother. She also overcame domestic violence, raised me as a single mother, and spoke life into my dreams. I could not stop thinking about both of their shoulders. They propelled me to this moment.
Amid a labor-intensive process and deep reflection, I took the time to embrace the moment and lift their names and the names of those who made sacrifices for me to get to the TED stage.
On June 16, 2022, at 11 am, my TED Talk will go live at the following link: https://go.ted.com/charlescdanielsjr.
I will also be hosting a Live Q&A on Facebook at the same time as the launch. You can RSVP for that Facebook Event HERE.
You will see the conviction and appreciation I had for my grandmother and mother’s shoulders as you’re watching. You’ll also see how thankful I am for the opportunity to serve and reconnect fathers to their children alongside my wife and co-founder, Samantha Fils-Daniels. I recall her saying to me with conviction in her eyes one day, “You will not quit what you were called to do, and I will make sure you don’t.” In the early days, she worked a full-time job so that I could continue working at Fathers’ UpLift without a full salary.
I stepped onto the TED stage on December 2, 2021, with a load, but it wasn’t a burden. It was an honor and labor of love. I hope you watch it.
With gratitude and appreciation,
Dr. Charles Daniels, Jr.