While I had to say “Not really” I completely understood where she was coming from. Because once upon a time I would have said the same thing. I was terrified of opening my mouth in front of other people; and it got in the way of an awful lot of things I really wanted to do.
For instance when my children were small I loved telling them stories that I made up myself. I used their names and wove fairytales for them in which they played the major roles. Gradually their friends joined in and wanted stories about themselves too; and soon I was telling stories to about fifteen children. One of their mothers, being early to pick up her daughter, sat and listened to the last few minutes of my story. When she left she asked me if I would do the same thing at the local library. She worked there and they had a session every Saturday morning, and she was sure I would be a hit.
I was flattered and said I would love to and so it was arranged – I was to start in a month. Unfortunately within that month the old fear began to make itself felt. “I will make a fool of myself in front of everyone who knows me” or ”No one will want to listen to your stupid stories you idiot” and every time I thought about sitting there and telling stories to these children my heart began to race, I felt nauseous and I began to shake. It was no use, as the fear built I realised that I could never do it; and so I cancelled. I never told stories to my own children after that, choosing instead to read other peoples’ instead. And something that had given me and my children great joy died because of my fear.
Over the years I tried a number of ways to overcome this fear, and I even attended courses and workshops – but while they all told me what I should be doing or how it should be done it never actually overcame the problem. It was then I realised that public speaking is like learning to swim. When I wanted to learn to swim I could have gone to the library and got out all the books on swimming to learn how it was done, and I would have known theoretically how to swim. But in point of fact I would still not have been able to swim.
Then I could have hired a coach who could show me how it should be done, and I could see what it looked like when done properly. So now I would know the theory and I would have seen an excellent demonstration – but unfortunately I would still not be able to swim. In fact I would not be able to swim until I took that first step into the water and tried it for myself.
So I searched out a course that made me face what I feared and insisted that I get up and speak. I was sick the first time, but with dogged perseverance I managed to overcome the fear and eventually made the nerves work for me. Even now after over twenty years of public speaking, while I am waiting to be introduced I can feel my heart race, I get butterflies in the stomach and I have to overcome an almost overwhelming urge for one last dash to the bathroom!
But in my search for ways to overcome my fear I found a great way to change my perceptions of the physical effects of nerves. Adrenalin, I read, created the same bodily response in reaction to fear as it does in reaction to great excitement. The difference is in our attitude to it. So when my butterflies start fluttering I keep telling myself that I am really excited to be here, and to share my knowledge with these people. And yes, it works. I still have the emotion, but it is that emotion that fires up my presentation. Without those physical reactions to the adrenalin I fear I would be bland and boring. So I welcome the increased heart rate, it means that I am charged and ready to go.
When I began teaching others to face their fear, I chose the things that worked for me, and by explaining my analogy of swimming, I introduce them gently to the paddling pool, before venturing out into deeper waters. At no time are they left without a Life Guard, and we provide them with symbolic water wings throughout the day. We make sure that the numbers are quite small to allow personal interaction. And if we can actually convince you that it can all be great fun, then so much the better. And it has been spectacularly successful.
So if there are things that you would like to do, but your fear is getting in the way; or if you want to change jobs but your dream job means ….. well you know! Why don’t you come and talk to me at Trischel. If there is one thing that I am truly familiar with it’s all the miseries of a fear of public speaking. So why let it affect the things you want to do, don’t let your dreams die as I did, just because of it.
Our next Brisbane course is on the 25th September but get in early as they are very popular.
But I’m afraid you will have to get into the water.
Michele @ Trischel.