You DO Belong at the Table – So Show Up Fully

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” ― Brené Brown


Okay folks. I’ve just uncovered one of the top reasons leaders (people!) don’t have the meaningful success, relationships, income, and impact they want. And it’s crazy frustrating.

Here’s what it’s NOT:

It’s not because you may not have the same level of education as others have, or aren’t as skilled or experienced as others in your field are, or don’t have the job title you feel you “should” have by now, or are older/younger/something other than you see as being valued by your industry. 

Don’t get me wrong – of course education, skills and experience are important. And ageism and glass ceilings DO exist.  However, after talking with and coaching hundreds of leaders at crossroad moments, these “factual” barriers are not what holds people back.

What does?

For many, it’s what happens as a result of thinking they are somehow different, separate or “less than” those who are “successful.”  It’s the voices in your head, your Imposter Syndrome, your limiting beliefs and your assumptions about what is and is not possible for you that take up a lot of space, and literally prevent opportunities from being seen let alone seized.

Don’t think this applies to you?  Great! 

And… are you really sure?  I’ve watched respected leaders be confident and able to excel and advance in many areas, and simultaneously have blind spots in certain situations or with certain people/positions; somehow believing they don’t belong. It’s Imposter Syndrome, it’s not understanding one’s true value (the impact we have on others when we’re showing up fully), sometimes its cultural, and it’s sneaky.

I’ve had some recent experiences where I was again reminded how a lack of belonging can make leaders inadvertently self-sabotage their progress and success – their impact:

Every time I hold the first convening of my group coaching and leadership cohorts- either in the group or afterwards privately – my clients will express some version of “thank you for accepting me – even though I KNOW that I’m not as _(fill in the blank)_ compared to all the other leaders.” Or, “Everyone else has similar backgrounds. I’m the only one who is facing _(fill in the blank)_ .”  Or, “I’m not like that, I don’t/can’t/won’t do that.” 

This happens 100% of the time.  

Once, every single group participant let me know privately after the first meeting that they felt like an outlier.  Think about that – every extraordinary leader was looking around the room thinking they weren’t as “good” as all the other participants!  It was a great teaching moment, because it was so obvious that they couldn’t all be right.

Sometimes the separation is done with self-depreciating humor, beautiful complements to others, or subtle, quiet, even kind, self-editing, and sometimes it is revealed in dramatic fight or flight resistance. 

I was recently facilitating a meeting of diverse leaders; all contributing to the conversation with depth, breadth and artistry. Because the group had been working together for some months, there was reflection that it was now easier to feel comfortable bringing more of themselves to the table.

Instead of wasting time choosing words carefully to not inadvertently offend, or spending brain power holding back trying to put their non-conforming ideas into what they thought others in the group might view as more “acceptable-sounding” frameworks, creative ideas flowed, tears flowed, connections occurred and a new outcome appeared that would not have been possible with people holding back out of fear of judgement and being seen.

Luckily in coaching we can reveal and breakthrough these limiting beliefs, but its easy to imagine how feeling separate can shut us down, create a sense of victimhood or hopelessness, and stop us from contributing, participating, impacting, growing, expanding, even loving. 

And, it takes up A LOT of time and space to think this negative way about ourselves!

So! What can we do to make a shift into connectedness and belonging? Here’s some Guiding Questions that may help:


  • What situations do you feel Imposter Syndrome kicking in? Why do you feel less than, compared to others?
  • When do you find yourself self-editing?  Why? 
  • What do you believe about yourself and/or others that is informing your thoughts, feelings and actions?  How do you (really) know this is true?
  • How are these limiting beliefs and decisions holding you back?   
  • What situations are you avoiding? Or not pursuing? Why?
  • What would it look like if your limiting beliefs and assumptions were not true or relevant?  How would it feel?  What would it make possible?


  • “Just DO it!”  Starting today, assume that you DO belong, “even if” you’re not as _(fill in the blank)_ as others. Lean in and say “yes!”
  • Commit to being fully present, listening, observing, BE-ing you – with curiosity in seeing what occurs.   
  • Respect that whoever invited you, sees a reason for that decision.
  • Know that likely there are others in the room who may be battling their own feelings of lack.


  • You get to decide how to BE, and to value what that will make possible. Of course, be prepared, but don’t hide behind data or powerpoints, don’t set about to prove your worth, expertise, belonging.  Set an intention for BEing that helps you show up fully, and thus creates the possibility for helping others.  [for more on intention-setting in meetings, check out this BLOG]


  • What were the tangible and non-tangible ways your presence elevated, supported, guided, helped? How do you know?
  • What was the hardest part for you? Why?


Showing up fully, knowing we belong, is a practice. As you experience your true value, and start seeing your impact on others, clarity and confidence increases. You’ll have more time to think about important things! You’ll be doing things that will help you create the success you envision, rather than inadvertently avoiding the very things and people that will help make it possible.    

To your success,


Kathryn R Martin 
“Next Chapter” Coach
Creator of The Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy
Leadership Transition Strategist & Professional Interim CEO 

****NEWS – 1. The February 2020 Leadership Cohort is being formed NOW.  2. If you or someone you know is ready to take a leap into a Next Chapter, JOIN me LIVE on  <<Thursday, January 30th at 6:00pm PST>>  for a FREE Online Training: Monetize Your Superpower!

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