Confronting Those Silly Little Fears
I have never been a person who’s had any desire to be in the spotlight. Very content to work behind the scenes, deal with people one-on-one, and let others take the credit. But this year, I started wondering how many opportunities I’ve failed to take advantage of because the thought of standing in front of a crowd made me breathe funny. So earlier in the summer, I put “look into Toastmasters” on my to-do list, figuring it was time to tackle that anxiety. I went to a meeting awhile later so I could see what it was like, contemplating how fast it could help me. I had always heard that the best way to overcome a fear of public speaking was to just jump in and do it. And do it a lot. Well, as I was thinking about the difficulty of making the time commitment to attend Toastmasters meetings two or three times every month, a friend reached out and asked me to tell a story at a monthly storytelling event where a host identifies a theme and invites a number of people to talk about their experiences around that theme. I responded in a typical fashion: Um, I would love to except that I hate standing up in front of people, blah blah blah. But immediately after hitting the send button, I realized that here’s an opportunity to work on what I have just recently started thinking of overcoming and I wrote back with: “I’ll say yes now, and shit my pants later.”
So I did it. And I’m still alive. Not only did i have to write about a personal experience, but I had to say it out loud in front of a crowd. And I gotta say that even though I was thrilled that I got through it, I was much more thrilled the moment I said YES. Right at that second, I knew I was already half way through the fear. Not that I didn’t experience any of the nervousness or uncontrollable shaking while I was “performing,” but I suspect that it was far less than I had ever made it out to be in my mind. So I’m reminded that we need to be checking in every once in awhile so that we don’t just assume things that have been rolling around in our heads since childhood. Who knows, maybe what we thought we were fearful of all this time, isn’t really true. I’ve since said YES to another speaking opportunity and am even more convinced that when it comes to fears, we need to plow right into them and understand that just doing that will sometimes alleviate some of the pressure. The action part might just be less stress than we thought it was going to be.