My first instinct when I was invited to the 2022 Cannes Film Festival as a guest of global jeweller Chopard was to be afraid. And not even lightly. I thought, ‘I can’t go. I’m not famous enough. Not wealthy enough. Not pretty enough.
Put simply, my thoughts were that ‘I’m just NOT ENOUGH’.
Yes, it was a strange position of vulnerability for a coach, therapist and ethical practitioner. Which is why it’s taken me a year to share.
Many of my friends who I mentioned my struggles to at the time could not understand why I was so fearful. The common response I got was to just go for it and to have fun. They told me to stop thinking about it so much and just ‘let my hair down’. But that’s the thing about fear, it is a complex emotion and can be influenced by a variety of factors, including past experiences, biology, thoughts and beliefs, and cultural norms. I was curious to understand this complex emotion that was holding me back, so I worked through it with my supervisor (that’s what therapists do!). Through this process, I was reminded that I am human and perfectly imperfect. We all experience challenging emotions from time to time and it’s what we do with them that matters.
I felt shame at that the fact that I was struggling with those same imposter syndrome feelings that I support people all over the world to overcome. My message is all about the need to live authentically, to be your real self, and here I was worried I didn’t have what it took to walk 100 metres into a movie screening. I had momentarily forgotten that the antidote to shame is self-compassion and that my inner child needed reassurance.
The invitation triggered (normal) voices of judgement and scarcity (not enough-ness). I had kept myself small many times over in my life and Cannes meant being visible on a huge stage. I feared what people would think of me. I worried I’d mess up. I worried that I would be judged for doing something that on the surface seems so pretentious and ‘fluffy’ which goes against who I am.
Amid all of that, fortunately, I kept my ability to think rationally. Of course, I couldn’t turn down an invitation to Cannes because I knew I’d regret forever that fear won. The idea of French hospitality, world-class entertainment and the international film society was inviting but in the end what saw me RSVP ‘I accept with pleasure’ was my unwavering commitment to walk my talk – to choose courage over comfort.
To be bold and brave and authentic. To step out of my comfort zone. To risk being REAL and rejected rather than fake and accepted. To make a REAL impact.
I also wanted to honour the person who saw and believed in me enough to make the invitation happen. I always want to be the woman who shouts out other women’s names in a room full of opportunities, so when someone did it for me, bad manners would be the least of what a refusal would have been.
So, practicalities. I needed a couple of WOW gowns for five days of back-to-back events. One Sunday I headed out, no façade, no makeup, to designer Vivienna Lorikeet in Melbourne’s Armadale, I again faced down my ‘you are not enough’ voice. I told Vivienna I would be walking the red carpet at the Film Festival and wanted to look great but couldn’t justify buying haute couture gowns for just this occasion. If someone was prepared to dress me, they’d get beautiful photos and endless word-of-mouth recommendations.
Vivienna was amazing: “Come this way, I’ll make it happen!” She made two show-stopping gowns that were exquisite and enabled me to show up as my authentic self. I wore the dresses, rather than the dresses wearing me. Huge gratitude for her and the magic that she created in those gowns for me.
In Cannes, everything was over the top. Amazing hotel, jewellery, hair and makeup artists on call, security, drivers. A girlfriend joined me from New York but by then I’d used my tools to work out I didn’t care what naysayers in the cheap seats thought of what I was doing. Together we leaned into it all. All I cared about was what my kids thought—and what I thought.
My main memory is of getting out of the car, cameras everywhere, stomach butterflies bashing into each other, and seeing Matteo Bocelli two metres away. He’s a gorgeous Amazon, about seven foot tall with a voice to rival his father, Andrea Bocelli. I’m a huge fan of Andrea Bocelli and have travelled to hear him in concert all over the world. To see his son was a sign I had more work to do than just rock up to a movie.
I walked over and introduced myself and asked, as if it was perfectly normal, ‘what brings you here?’ Matteo said his song was closing the premiere and so I told him he’d earned the right to be there. He asked if I’d done a red carpet before and it turns out it was the first time for both of us. We were both uncomfortable and a bit uncertain and also very excited at the opportunity. It was a lovely exchange, to know a man who had grown up comfortable with fame was feeling what I was. Grazie, Matteo.
Feeling more confident, I said I’d walk first and show him how. With another Chopard guest, I literally danced down the red carpet. When I got to the end the Chopard CEO for North America said, ‘We’ve never had so much red carpet air time. What did you do?’
It was ironic—I’d felt fear and scarcity and ended up bringing authenticity. I was in the moment, knowing I might never get this chance again so I wanted to make it count. That’s how I went through every event that followed. Just being me. It felt incredible.
At the end of the day, people are just people. Whether you are Julia Roberts, Matteo Bocelli, Connor McGregor or somebody like me from Bondi Beach. We all have a story and we all have ‘stuff’. We are all somebody’s somebody. Our stories matter because we matter. When we show up as our authentic wholehearted selves, we belong – whether it’s on the red carpet, the boardroom or at home with our people.
After the whirlwind that it was, the CEO told me I’d make a great Chopard ambassador: “You embody what we’re all about, in terms of being real and unique. It didn’t matter who you talked to, you didn’t change. You were you.”
What I got from that experience was so much more than brushing shoulders with stars and money-can’t-buy generosity. I connected at a heart level with people by bringing my real game, not a façade.
Forget money or fame. I was enough.