As far back as I can remember, I have had a fear of speaking in public. Which I know is a very common fear for pretty much everyone.
Throughout my childhood and adolescence…and heck, even my younger adult years I was afraid to speak. Whether it was in front of an audience, in a group of people, in a classroom, to strangers, women, whoever…it caused almost paralyzing anxiety.
I remember in high school, my first speech class, how terrifying it was for me. The first speech we gave we had to talk about ourselves and our favorite color. I had butterflies in my stomach, my heart was beating out of my chest, I could barely swallow…and this was just from the announcement of that assignment. And the speech would just be one to two minutes in front of my class, kids who I had known for years.
I have never liked the spotlight, just not who I am. I have always been self conscious of the way I look and my voice. When I am nervous, I tend to talk fast or not pronounce all the words clearly. Needless to say, I think I only passed the class because I was in the school play that year.
The same thing happened in college, in job interviews, at work when talking to new people and customers…the list goes on. Sometimes I had so much anxiety about it, that I was afraid I might have a nervous breakdown or heart attack. Some of you may laugh and say that I was overreacting, but I know there are others out there who are like how I was back then. It is a terrible feeling.
Starting to Change
Writing has always been a strength and an outlet for me. I could “speak” to the audience through written words…but that wouldn’t get me far if I was in a situation where speaking was still required.
Throughout my life, my parents taught me always to be polite, honest, and to smile when speaking to people. Even when I was afraid, I always did those three things which helped me get through those terrifying experiences.
As I started full-time jobs in the IT world, where I had to speak on the phone, I grew slowly more comfortable with speaking to new people. People on the phone would say that I spoke too fast, not loudly enough, or not clearly enough. That actually made me angry, so I forced myself to speak slower, louder, and clearer. Eventually, that started to become a habit and that became more of my natural speaking voice.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I still get excited or nervous and talk too fast…but not nearly as bad as it was several years ago.
Even with those new habits, I was still a natural introvert and never went out of my way to speak to people or in public.
How to Overcome the Fear of Speaking
I have to give my fiance Kelsey credit. She truly has changed my life for the better in every aspect. Through her personality, she has taught me how to live my life better.
When we met, I was very shy and introverted…not sure why she even wanted to date me then. But slowly she opened me up to new experiences and adventures and I started to come out of my shell. This had a profound impact on me as well as the others around me. Who would have guessed that I, Jeff the introvert, could make a difference with my personality.
I began to just “be myself” around others. I didn’t focus on worrying about what they thought of me, I focused on being myself and making others laugh and feel more comfortable. If I was embarrassed, I didn’t let it bother me…I just played along with it.
Sometimes that was hard, I still didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of my bosses, friends, and peers. But I accepted that that was who I am, my personality is my own. When you accept yourself for who you are, you don’t have to change. People notice that and accept you. That caused others not to feel as uncomfortable and embarrassed as easily, and that helped them to come out of their shells as well.
That was noticed at work, especially. In four different jobs, I have been told that I am a positive influence for the rest of my team and I have changed the culture to be like a family. I try my best to lead by example. Be trustworthy, honest, hard working, make people laugh, and go with the flow…that’s me in a nutshell.
You can change too…you just have to WANT it. By experiencing new and different things, it can help you to break free of that shell you are stuck in. No, you won’t instantly be an amazing public speaker, but it will set you on the right path to overcoming the fear.
It is your decision to make.
The Palm to Face Podcast
This brings me to the introduction of the Palm to Face Podcast. Speaking to people through a podcast is a new experience for me. It inspired me to write this post about overcoming the fear of speaking. So I decided that I would overcome my fears and hesitations and start a podcast.
Right now it is a “blogcast”. Basically, a podcast of my blogs. It isn’t word for word what the blog is, I add more commentary and other info too. But it is an easy way to listen to the blogs if you don’t have the opportunity to read them.
Of course, it won’t always be a blogcast. I plan on expanding in the coming weeks. Adding guests, stories, and separate entries that are more at home on a podcast than a blog. Stay turned! The podcast is currently on Anchor.fm and Spotify, so check it out and subscribe!
If you have something to teach or have a great story and would like to be a guest or know of someone who would be a good guest: email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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