My Terror of Public Speaking
When I was a teenager, I used to be so shy that I’d mark what I said out of 10. Mostly, I felt that what I said only deserved a 1 or 2, so I kept quiet.
Of course, I spoke to my friends one to one but talking in a group or in class made me want to crawl into a hole.
Skip forward over 20 years & I can see how I’ve been working hard to dig myself out of that hole. Through years of improvised comedy & theatre performances, I gradually learnt 3 things about being in front of people:
1) Despite how it feels I won’t actually die on stage (no matter what happens).
2) If I panic whilst I’m there, I can pause, breathe & find my way again.
3) It’s OK to own how I’m feeling, laugh off a mistake—the audience are happy for you to be human, like them.
Oh and 4) There’s a part of me that actually really enjoys it.
So not so long ago, I find myself standing on the stage in a pub with a microphone talking about the healing power of creativity & then 2 weeks after that, in a packed classroom with attendees waiting expectantly.
I’m a sensitive person, so no matter how much better this gets, there’s a part of me that’s just overwhelmed by the situation (my nervous system feels a little taxed) but I inwardly remind myself….1) This won’t kill me….I begin speaking, introducing myself & my story… time seems to expand & contract, I can feel that I’m not quite present, it’s like I’m slightly outside of my body….
So, point 2 comes into play. I breathe, pause & bring myself back. I start to enjoy myself a little more—I feel braver. I look at the audience’s faces more.
There’s no projector here for the quotes I’ve brought along. I have to fumble around (or it feels like that) for the pieces of card I’ve got instead. I remember point 3 & acknowledge that to the audience. Nobody minds. I see a woman nod & smile encouragingly at me as I continue.
Then suddenly, I’m down to my last bullet point, my concluding thoughts. Just before the applause, I realise, point 4 is true, I enjoyed that. There’s something about being vulnerable & sharing your thoughts, your story, your teachings that makes me feel alive & connected with my fellow humans.
It was a lovely night for that at the pub, artists sharing their emotional trials & creative outpourings (organised by a lovely friend for a great charity).
Later I watched the video back (which I had to force myself to do, who likes seeing themselves on video?) & to my surprise, you can’t see my inner journey.
You see a relatively confident woman (& that’s got stronger since—I delivered 3 workshops last week).
You can watch it here too, if you like.
It’s that old chestnut—it looks so much easier from the outside or you believe that someone else is doing something that you couldn’t—especially when it comes to public speaking.
Public speaking is often listed as our number 1 fear.
And some of my other fears had held me back from doing much of it for my coaching work for a few years—some were the obvious fears but some took a little bit of work & were more subtle.
Who am I to think I’ve got something to say? “Don’t be a show off”…there was also a feeling of danger & resistance (maybe we have this in our DNA or past lives as women)…
So, where do you need to be bolder despite your fears?
This week, I’ve loved supporting my coaching clients to be braver in so many ways—to confront difficult bosses, deal with ignored relationship issues, leave a job to go travelling, acknowledge some true needs & so much more. And as a result I’ve seen their confidence & self trust build.
Our comfort zones grow gradually in the ways that we personally need. This is rarely without fear but rather embracing the next little chunk of it that you’re ready for.
It doesn’t need to take 20 years either!
So, I salute your fear, your courage & doing your ‘thing’ one small (or large) step at a time.