Public Speaking & Conquering Fear

. 4 min read
In high school, and even university, the thought of public speaking was enough to make me a) sick or b) choose not to take a course. I remember sitting in English class in grade 12 and my teacher telling us that we had an option this year: to do a speech, or not to do a speech. At the time, I couldn't see why anyone would *opt* to get up in front of a crowd and talk. I thought, quite honestly, that there was no worse (first world) torture. So, I sat in my seat and allowed the two brave soldiers of the grade get up some months later and do their thing, thinking all the while that I'd never do so again.

I didn't know then that going through a difficult period post-university would lead me down a journey that would bring me right back to public speaking, this time voluntarily. But that's what happened.

Following that year where I lost myself, I spent two or so years wading through a thick pool created of my own protective layers in order to finally find myself again. It was intense. I did yoga every day. Moved to three different countries. Read every Gabrielle Bernstein book I could get my hands on. Took every sign that came to me. Met spiritual leaders. Repeated mantras like "I am creative" and therafter "I am a writer." And out of that all came, thank god, a new perspective on life.

It sounds a bit cheesy when I put it like this. Like a story concocted by every "guru" in the self-help business, but it's true, and cheese-laden or not, that stuff works.

See, in the end I came to the firm belief that I hold today with regards to fears. There may be a thread of anxiety sewn into things like creating art and sharing it with the world, being yourself and speaking your truth, public speaking and the like—


those are not half as scary as watching life drift by, letting fear consume you to the point where you don't even try to do anything at all.

When we believe this deep in our bones, that's when we begin to loosen up, to unshackle ourselves from our fears, and ultimately get on with the things we not only want to do but were actually brought here to do.

None of this is to say it's easy—to see your fears and do your thing anyway—but this is to say that it is always worth it.

This morning, before my speech, I heard ALL the gremlin voices popping up in my mind. And I realized this was a great learning opportunity. How good was I at everything I was about to talk about? Could I deal with my inner-gremlins in the face of fear? Would my tactics I was about to suggest really work?

(Spoiler: they did.)

As I drove to the venue, I tuned in to my thoughts, rather than tried to drown them out. Then, when I'd arrived, I made a list of the gremlin voices' key points on my phone's Notepad app. Here was what my gremlin was saying, maybe you'll recognize its arguments:

  • people are going to think you're stupid
  • people are going to think you're a silly young girl, not a serious voice
  • people are going to hate you

Then I made another list of things I told myself, to counter this voice:

  • age doesn't determine wisdom
  • you know what you're talking about
  • your subjects are important and need to be discussed
    • it's part of your journey with your previous pain to go out and share what you learned from it
  • some people are going to hate you no matter what you do

It may seem odd, but it felt good to write this out on my phone. It felt like I was telling my gremlin that I heard him, thanks, but that I wouldn't listen to him. And in a way, that shut him up.

(By the by, this WORKS with all ventures you're scared about pursuing -- be that writing a novel, starting a business, what have you. Always address the fear. Don't bottle it. When you do, you can then tell it, "Thanks, I see you, but I don't need you to control my life.")

...and then I stepped into the venue, and anxiety washed away. Sounds backward right? You'd think getting there would've set my anxiety a-ticking, but I met people within 30 seconds of coming through the door and they just put an instant smile on my face. This is, mind you, purely a testament to One Woman and Sharla Brown, its founder. The community that Sharla has built is so remarkably warm, so uplifiting, and so bad ass. (And you guys KNOW I'm huge on community - it was point two of my talk today on one of the key components to building yourself a "life of your dreams.")

Anyway, to wind this down I need to express my sincere gratitude to these ladies to have had the chance to partake in this day. If you guys ever want to attend one of the Fearless Women's Summits, do so by checking out when they're coming to your city, or at least state/province next. They tour North America. So if you're from Canada or the US, you're likely to find one near you.

PS. What are you working on this year? Is it a fear? A project? Both? Let me know!