In January 2020, as I was heading to my car after the close of Evolve, one of my Ellivate and entrepreneurial sisters asked, “Dena, is everything alright; are you okay?”

“I’m great. Why would you ask?” I replied with genuine curiosity.

“Well, you just didn’t say as much this weekend.”

I thought about her observation regarding my silence, which apparently (as well as self-admittedly) is not my norm. And after mulling it over and reaching clarity, I shot this text to Sarah Elliott, Ellivate Founder.

“I feel like part of my evolution has been to shut up, listen, digest, and learn. Before, I allowed my fear and need to prove my worth to speak up and fill spaces. But now, I want to be intentional with my words, trust the women who are leading me, and allow humility to course through my veins.”

The truth is that when I retired from public accounting in 2018, I had no clue what it meant to be an entrepreneur. All I had was a dream and deep-seated fears of failure. But Ellivate was a safe place for me to begin my journey.

In my time at Ellivate Immersion 2018 as well as Evolve 2019, I raised my hand, asked my questions, shared my ideas, but what I didn’t share was that my stomach was in knots as my mind cataloged all the ways I didn’t measure up to the “real” business owners in the room. My head and heart flip-flopped between hope and terror. I made myself sick and left each event exhausted. Looking back, I was learning a valuable lesson. I could not and need not attempt to prove my worth. That was and forever will be a losing game, one that would do my body, mind, and soul no good.

I kept showing up, though, showing up for myself, for Ellivate Office Hours, and Evolve 2020. And as time had unfolded, so had the grace I granted myself. So when my friend took notice of my lack of words at Evolve 2020, when she wondered why I had fallen silent, I considered it a win. Over time and with lived-experience, I had shifted my thinking towards a new vision.

Remain intentional and humble in the pursuit of my growth towards impact. Instead of stifling my fear with words to impress others, I measure my words to allow for more learning as I own my growth. I have nothing to prove to anyone when it comes to the value of my entrepreneurial journey.

My coach and fellow Ellivate sister, Megan Alarid, shares that, “An entrepreneur is someone willing to take the risk to solve the problem.” Far too many women allow fear to overtake them instead of leading their lives from a place of love. That’s the problem I see (and experienced personally) and the one I’m willing to continue to take a risk to solve.

Thanks to Ellivate, I have evolved from striving to prove my worth to owning my growth with grace. I have learned to love and respect my journey, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Dena Jansen, Dena Speaks

All photo credits to Leandra Blei Photography