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March 18, 2008

True Stories of Crying at Work

ashleigh hansberger

Ashleigh Hansberger

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Ashleigh Hansberger, 26, branding-firm principal, Myrtle Beach, SC

The moment: I had made it to the final round of a national contest for female business owners. This was a big deal. On the rehearsal day, in front of the sponsors and organizers, about eight of the 15 other competitors gave their pitches before I did. All of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming sense of intimidation. By the time I got to the podium, I had zero confidence. I flubbed every line of my speech, and it kept getting worse and worse. I just lost it. I was crying hysterically, almost to the point of hyperventilation, right there at the podium.

The aftermath: One of the business coaches from the competition who had witnessed the whole debacle ran into me in the elevator on my way back to my room. She said it was okay to cry and told me, "You really can do this. We selected you for a reason." My business partner and I stayed up all night rewriting the speech.

The next day, in front of live press and prestigious judges, I got up and delivered the pitch. I had nothing to lose; everyone had seen me break down already. I got a huge ovation, and I was one of eight winners.

The takeaway: Breaking down like that and making myself come back again was such a confidence builder. Being in business, you're in uncomfortable situations a lot of the time. Knowing you can overcome that is priceless.

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