When it comes to speaking in public, or in general offering anything of myself, I'm a big, cowering fraidy cat.
I suspect some of you might be as well. Here's a quick test to find out:
Which of the answers to the following question best fits you?
"When I think about offering up my own ideas, plans and creative energy up to someone else, I..."
a) Think beatifically of the great privilege it is to share myself with the world and how I have never felt more in line with the universe
b) Melt into a quivering mass of something resembling cold congealed gravy and start thinking that I can't possibly say anything worthwhile and after taking in what I have to offer, people will start to feel the desire to throw boiled eggs at my front door and key my car.
Show of hands: How many selected answer "a?" Okay, you're done then. Move along. But all you who picked "b" - like me - keep reading.
Why do we feel this way? If we're even thinking about booking a speaking gig, then obviously we have something to say. We have a business to promote, a message to get out to the world, a cause to support. We care passionately about it, or we wouldn't try to share it.
But yet despite the integrity of that message, at least for me, when that self-loathing comes in, it hits like a baseball bat.
*whomp* You're annoying people.
*whomp* They've heard it from someone else, and better.
*whomp* They think you're a loser.
Sound familiar? I'd guess, though you probably won't admit it, that most of you have been there before. But if you're like me, you've struggled to get out of it.
I've tried so many things to fight it.
Ignoring it. (As a therapist, I should have known better than to go with denial. As I always tell my clients, if it worked, I'd be all for it. But it doesn't.)
Positive self-talk. "You can do this. You have your heart in the right place. It doesn't matter what happens, just do your best!" While I do advocate being uplifting, there are some times when your B.S. meter goes off on yourself.
Perfectionism. Because "this time I won't do anything wrong," is always an effective solution.
Unflagging self-confidence. There was a movement, I believe it was in the 80s, where therapists advocated that people who suffered from low self-esteem write positive affirmations and say these affirmations to themselves in the mirror over and over. This was about as successful as you'd guess. While positive affirmations are good, you can't make yourself believe something you just don't believe. It only works if at least there's a kernel of belief that you can hold onto. When you're starting from scratch, that simply isn't there.
So after trying all that, I said:
Screw Self-Confidence: I'm going to try something different.
Here's what I tried. Instead of going all Suzy Sunshine, I said, "What if everything goes wrong?"
What if I:
• Fall off the stage
• Accidentally say an inappropriate thing because my tongue is tripping over itself
• Insult someone I didn't mean to
• Forget my speech
• Sound like an idiot
• Look fat under the lights
What if? I pondered all my fears, and I realized one thing that has saved me ever since.
If any of those things happened. I will make it through it.
I can survive.
• JLaw fell on the way to the stage at the Oscars, and she's awesome.
• I could have another "that's what she said" reference to amuse my friends with later.
• I can always sincerely apologize and explain my mistake.
• If I love the topic, I can always find something to say about it, even if it's a little off-script.
• I will still sound idiotic, but I will learn humility. Again.
• People will know I'm a real person just like they are.
So screw self-confidence! I don't need to fake myself out. Because I can make it through anything.
And so can you.
How did you overcome your public speaking fears? What do you think of my idea about it? Would it work for you? Please comment and let me know!
Stephanie Adams is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Business Coach and general smart-aleck.
If you are a private practice counselor looking to explode your profit, professional satisfaction, and attract eager new clients, sign up for the FREE Virtual Conference, Mind Your Own Business, at http://mbainprivatepractice.com/myob