A client was telling me how she managed to make it all the way through school without ever having to give a presentation. She spoke once in sixth grade and another time to give a Spanish report. Other than that, she was able to avoid public speaking throughout her entire school career (she graduated from college just a couple of years ago).
A school counselor even said to her, "Wow, you really have some issues with public speaking." Ya think?
My client has spent the last fifteen years creating a paralyzing fear of public speaking in her mind.
Yesterday she said to me, "I wish someone had just said along the way 'Suck it up'."
Public speaking and communication skills are skills you are going to need and use every day for the rest of your life. I would argue that you will use these skills more often than most of what you learned in school, with the exception of reading and writing. So how irresponsible is it that students can get through school without even basic public speaking requirements?
A lot of classes require oral reports, but rarely teach how to give them properly. Students write a report, then stand up in front of class and read directly from the paper. No instruction on how to actually create or deliver a presentation is given.
Some schools focus on communication skills during their "life skills" program, but a lot of students never learn these skills, much less the nitty gritty of conflict resolution or negotiation or the kinds of things we need to do on a regular basis in the real world.
Lucky for my client, she is motivated. She knows she needs to get over her fears. She's willing to do what it takes so the fear doesn't control her and stunt her career growth, as it has threatened to do. Her desire and need to learn public speaking is finally outweighing her fear.
How many other people out there are saying, "I hate public speaking," but not taking the steps to fix the problem?
How many other people out there are turning down high-paying, highly desired jobs that require public speaking (as two of my clients have done)?
How many other people are letting this anxiety take over their life instead of doing what it takes to demystify it once and for all?
Maybe no one ever told you to "suck it up." So you didn't have to. And you have spent the last 20 years building up public speaking into a big, horrifying monster. You can change that. You just have to want to. It's never too late to start over.