July 5, 2013

Screw Self-Confidence: Guest post by Stephanie Adams

Big thanks to Stephanie Adams, Licensed Professional Counselor, for offering this spot-on post about the "what ifs" of speaking, while I'm gallivanting around New York. I hope you're all enjoying your long 4th of July weekend in the US. Back at work on Monday!

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.

After all:

• 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

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Lisa Stewart said...

Thank you for this! Seriously. This Suzy Sunshine crap (and I read it daily on FB & Pinterest -gah!) sounds off the alarms as though the Hoover Dam is about to burst BS. Your character building points above are well grounded and do able. Great tips for kids of any age!

I know that your salient points above aren't necessarily reflective of childhood memories, but I think reading them have brought a flood of personal silly memories that I have embraced and armed my adult self. Here are a few of my favorite self-taught childhood character building tactics that help me as an adult today -minus most (not all) juvenile reactions:

1) As a kid, I got tired of being told to 'ignore the bitchy twins' because no matter how much I tried to ignore them in class (I sat right next to them) I was an easy target. So, I learned to create great projects to get noticed by the class exemplifying my creativity. It was so much fun to sneer my lip at them as I returned to my desk with public acknowledgement and applause.

2) I'm always tripping over my own 2 feet. As a goofy student, I embraced my dorkiness and encouraged people to laugh with me. This is a tactic I use today along with scripts to give those who aren't visually stimulated by my spontaneous slapstick moves with "Ack! First day on the new feet!"

3) I read a ton of marketing material and I'm constantly experimenting with it; I assume everyone else has, too. Some people may already know a certain fact, but when I apply my experience (good, bad or otherwise), they find my insight delightful and intriguing. I have to say, I'm always surprised by this but it helps to know my target audience.

4) Whenever I get down on myself about my adult weight gain, I have immediately learned to shut my own mouth and compare myself to (the one time I only compare myself to anyone) a successful woman who doesn't happen to
form to the ideal Hollywood stereotype. "If she has put on the pounds recently and is still sought after for her insight and opinions, I can be that, too!"

I've learned that when I summon an ill-conceived idea that I'm not good enough, I will imagine myself in a certain situation that makes me feel insecure and design a response to it. So, to your point about losing one's place in a speech, I've decided that I'll admit I've lost my place and explain that I got so excited to talk, I found myself with several more great ideas that I'd like to share (but continue where I left off so that I don't run over my time).

Again, thanks for sharing your insight -this makes me feel better about showing my anxieties around the PollyAnna's in my World.


Stephanie A. Adams said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for your comment! It made me smile. I am so with you on the Suzy Sunshine - and as a therapist I see a LOT of people similarly tired of it. I tend to think true optimism is more about seeing the situation as it is and choosing to find the good - or at least move through it! Not by faking that everything's sunshine and roses.

Your thoughts prompted my own:

1) I wonder what would be different if instead of telling our kids to ignore badly behaved children, we instead taught them to set boundaries?

2) I feel like I heard somewhere that clumsiness is a sign that your mind is occupied with higher-level processes. Then again, that may just be what I WANT to be true. :)

3) There's nothing new under the sun...except your sparkling personality. That's new!

4) Sookie Stackhouse (in the books) is a size 8. I enjoy that. :) Also, in my experience, I'm always harder on myself about my weight or any other form of self-criticism than anyone else can be.

I think that's a great response to anxiety - solve your way through it. I am definitely going to keep up with you, Lisa S.! I think you'll be someone to watch.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

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