I used to not be able to do any kind of public speaking. Literally, even just introducing yourself to a group of people in a circle was horrifying enough. I like being invisible and don’t see the benefits of people noticing me. I don’t like the spot light and I enjoy any kind of light. The people that want to see me they will. Everyone else, I felt, would judge me. They could sit there and criticize everything that I was saying, or wearing or anything about me really.
That thought hasn’t gone away. I just stopped caring. And the way I did that was going the painful route – speaking more and more in public. The only way to get over it, is really to do it. There are some fears that this cannot apply to (like peeing your pants in public or your clothes ripping exposing your privates) – but most, the only way to get over them is to be confronted with them.
And boy does that suck. The first time someone told me that I told them that that wasn’t true. I mean, if you can avoid things you are scared of in your life why shouldn’t you?Unfortunately I came to realize that speaking publicly is something I would be confronted with again and again in my life even if I tried to avoid it. So I tackled it.
The way I started was small. In group discussions, I forced myself to say one thing. Just one thing. That was nerve-racking. I would think of something in advance, wait for the perfect moment and sweat profoundly till I said something. Once I said it, I would lean back exhausted yet proud. I did it, I spoke in public. Then I started with saying two things. Till I progressed to speaking up in meetings on the phone. Then running meetings on the phone. Till I could run them in person. I found little steps to progress until this week – I presented at a conference to hundreds of strangers. And it didn’t kill me. I was nervous, I prepared, my heart was beating almost out of my chest and I seemed to be the only anxious person in the room.
But I did it. And I could never imagine in a lifetime that I could do it. My advice to you – take small steps. It might take you 10 years like it did me, but trust me I have never been prouder of myself. A whole world has opened up to me and I know I can handle it. Try it, start small. Start tomorrow