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How I Kept It Real At a Fancy Harvard Dinner Party

Rachel Estapa

contageousRecently, I was invited to a private dinner at Harvard with a very distinguished diplomat. It was an extended invitation from my previous life, from when I was very involved with an up and coming nonprofit full of high-achievers. And I used to be one too…..

The dinner guests were very successful in their fields, mainly politics, military and private sectors.

Yet here I was, not in politics, not in policy.

Here I was, a woman who writes about what it’s like to be overweight and be madly in love with myself and life. 

As the table went around with introductions full of the lauds so many were heart beat was fast.

I was nervous because I felt like I didn’t fit in, not with the group, but with my own insecurity of How will I introduce myself? 

Should I say I work at Harvard? That I used to work for Senator Kennedy? That I was a former co-director of the sponsoring program? Should I list off all the impressive things I’ve done? Do I mention being featured many times in Huffington Post??

But then I remembered a line from a personal development program I'm currently taking with Tara Mohr called "Playing Big" were she talks about the difference between achievement & authentic.

In short, achievement-mind urges us to do, say, be things we think others will be really impressed by. Authentic-mind puts more stock into what's important to expressing our deeper self, independent of the praise or criticism we'll receive.

A fancy dinner party with a room full of high-achievers is a perfect test to either walk my talk about being authentic, or try to fit in with the crowd.

So now it was my turn and I took a big breath and said my name and the following:

I write and speak and think about body acceptance because I want to help women who have felt marginalized in society to feel like they belong. I believe happy people create happy societies and this is my way of doing that. 

And it felt really great to be real, be honest because the next 45 minutes of conversation with those seated next to me began with "Wow, your work sounds so refreshing!" and we talked about philosophy, about self-actualization and true meaning in life. Not just our credentials.

I could have listed off acclaim to “fit in” but I didn’t  - that would have been achievement. I went the authentic route, shared myself and people responded in kind.

And all the while I felt like myself without compromise or judgement.

That’s worth it. Always worth it.