“I get butterflies in my stomach if I am asked to speak.” My friend Karima told me one day.
“How come. You appear to be so confident on the stage” she asked, “You give talks to big crowds and train so many people. How could you have a fear of public speaking?”
I shared with her an embarrassing story from my past that magnified my fear of speaking on stage.
Do I still get butterflies? Definitely.
Then how do I overcome the fear, get the confidence to get on the stage, and do the very thing I was mortified to do?
I shared with her one of the most powerful techniques that helps me feel that fear and do it anyway.
Do you also struggle with the fear of public speaking? You are not alone.
Did you know that about 75% of the population struggles with a fear of public speaking to a certain degree? That means some 238 million people feel nervous about talking to others.
You can also overcome your fear, feel the confidence to share your message, and make a difference in people’s lives (including your own life). Would you like to learn how I overcame my fear and speak professionally in front of big crowds? If so, read on.
Let me start with my embarrassing story. When I was 19 yrs old, I attended a community public speaking program. As part of that training, we were required to give a certain number of 15 min speeches in different community gatherings.
We used to get assignments. It was customary if one student couldn’t do his or her assignment; someone else would cover for them and give the speech.
One time, a colleague called me and asked to cover for her the following week as she was sick. I said ok, no problem.
I didn’t realize until a day before that I had double booked myself. I had my own assignment the same day ( although at different times and in a different location). I tried to call others, but no one was available at the last minute.
The organizer encouraged me that I should be able to do that. There were several hours between the events, and I could quickly get to both the events. I had two different speeches ready, so I decided to keep both assignments.
I did ok with my first event.
The second one was a more significant event. It was also more critical as my teacher had invited some guests. He wanted to show how good the students of this program were performing.
When they announced my name, I got up on the podium. There were more than a thousand people in front of me (or so I felt). I started with the customary opening statement.
And then my mind went totally blank. I just could not think of what I was supposed to say. ( There were no PowerPoint or cheat sheets to help me at that time).
I stared at the audience who were quietly waiting for my words of wisdom. But no. Nothing came out.
I kept staring for a few seconds. Finally, I could not take further embarrassment. So I said the traditional last sentence of the speech and sat down. My 15 min speech ended in 15 seconds.
Some people may have been happy that they did not have to bear me for another 14 + minutes, but my teacher was not.
Can you imagine how a 19 yr old must have felt at that time? I felt mortified.
After that, I didn’t get on the stage for quite some time. I still get butterflies every time I go on stage, even for a small announcement. One technique helps me. Let me share a recent example.
So a few months back, I was invited for a keynote speech at a conference, the Northern Occupational Safety and Health Association annual conference in North Dakota.
I was to speak at a totally new place, in front of totally new people. I only knew one organizer via phone contact out of the 240 people present.
I felt fear. What if something embarrassing happens? What if I freeze again? What if people don’t like what I have to say?
That fear of the 19 yr old was popping up as soon as I accepted the assignment. I started using a mantra- a sentence that I was telling myself over and over again to calm my nerves.
That mantra helped me prepare for the talk.
It helped me when I was feeling frantic about almost missing my connecting flight.
Due to nervousness, my throat was dry. I was coughing in the middle of the speech.
That inner mantra helped me to drink the water and continue my speech.
Where did that mantra come from?
You see, I had a patient named Jerry. (changing the name for privacy). Jerry was struggling with stress after an injury. His stress lead to depression. When he could not get treatment for depression, he became suicidal and finally killed himself.
Have you known anybody who committed suicide?
If so, you would know that it doesn’t only end one life; It affects many other lives around that person. Studies show that of people who take their own life, 60% have depression or other mental illnesses. 80% of depressions are precipitated by stress. With my message to transforming stress to joy, so many people could be saved from suffering and possibly suicide. So my mantra was,
“Imagine How many Jerrys will be saved.”
This is the mantra that helped me remember my purpose and helped me overcome my fear.
This focus on purpose not only helps me with public speaking but also helps me overcome my doubts in many of my endeavors.
I was afraid to release my book or audiobook or online course. I worried, “What if people don’t like it or find that I am not good enough? Or give me negative comments.”
This focus on purpose helped me in all those endeavors. It continues to help me overcome my fear of showing up for things like writing this blog/email.
When your purpose is bigger than your fear you can overcome it and do what is important for you.
So what can you do?
When you feel fear, think about your “Why” (your purpose). How can your action help someone? (That someone could be you too).
Think about the end benefit.
Imagine the smile on the face of that one person who would benefit from your getting over your fear and doing what you want to do.
Express that benefit in a sentence, a mantra that would remind you of that benefit.
That image and that mantra may help you overcome your fear and achieve your best potential.
Try it. What do you have to lose?
If you don’t overcome your fear, you risk wasting your potential. If you do, many people (including you) may benefit from your gifts. Take steps to overcome your fears.
Let me know if it works for you, you have a question or have another technique that helps you overcome your fears. If you would like, I can share your message forward and help more people.
Wishing you the best of health and happiness.
PS: A Reminder if you are a healthcare professional:
“FREE 3 hr CME program:
Five Lines of Defense Against Depression; Tools for clients and clinicians.
At Smokey Point Behavioral hospital
On Friday, Jan 24, 2020.
I will be presenting an interactive, fun, and practical workshop. In addition to earning three free CME’s, you will be able to learn a new framework for depression prevention and treatment and ask questions. Click here to register.