Show and tell always meant show; I never wanted to face my classmates in a circle and reel a story – placing all eyes upon my rosy cheeks. My public speaking fear has manifested from childhood. I’ve met countless people as a makeup artist, interviewed at fancy establishments and trafficked stopped strangers at my first job on a cosmetics counter. Yet I’m scared; petrified. I feel 11-years-old again, newly approaching high school.
Why do people struggle?
Push Doctor reports glossophobia (public speaking) as one of the UK’s “most common phobias”. Any occasion I’m required to speak amongst strangers; anxiety punctures my heart’s function to beat calmly. According to Psychology Today, there are several theories explaining why some suffer. These include negative views of one’s ability, fear of evaluation and not feeling adequately skilled.
I believe conditioning as another contributing factor. At school, confident children played the main characters in year group plays and assemblies. They asked to read their work to the class and actively participated in discussions. Quiet kids and those shy, rarely took initiation. Teachers sometimes forced them to speak – flushed and uncomfortably, kids whimpered out words. I hated nothing more than having a teacher ask me to read.
The awkward feeling gripping my stammer led to my public speaking fear. In high school I avoided it like the plague, and college presentations led to finger pointing at slides while disappointingly reading from scribbled cards. Everyone admired the students who managed to effortlessly speak from memory. They made harmless, jokey comments, established class opinion surveys and shared snippets of story. My teachers looked at me as though I’d made no effort; a dissenting pupil.
Facing my public speaking fear
I thought working as a writer equalled freedom from public speaking. Lazily I wanted to shield myself with a laptop screen and flurry opinion on digital paper. I know I communicate better with words. It’s hard to express myself eloquently using my voice because I need time to think. I like hibernating beneath my thoughts and carefully selecting vocabulary. This comfortable luxury hasn’t been granted. Every job has required connecting with others away from my keyboards.
Sharing my voice greatly empowers me. I have confidence to express myself online, to upload photos awaiting natural judgement. And if I close my eyes and dream away fear and anxiety, I know I’d enjoy speaking amongst crowds of people. I think facing my fear means cancelling out years of negative thoughts and assumptions. Not linking myself to teenage me. Why do we notice positive differences between our younger selves yet contest to recognising our overall development?
It’s easy to say I’m better at maths or have stronger will-power. Much harder to admit we’re no longer completely bad at something. Particular judgements etch on our brains and mark permanent ink drops. Though in recent times I’ve successfully managed to give presentations and read aloud without trembling and forming sweat. Last week I attended Neeta Oza second book launch – My Back-To-Basics Business Manual and performed poetry.
Tips to handle public speaking fear
I’m forcibly making myself commit to events and situations where I’m left with no choice but to stand in front of groups and craft speeches. I want to become normalised to public speaking; experienced to churn words from my lungs as well as my fingers. This I hope forms poise and contentment in my ability to communicate verbally.
Exhale Lifestyle suggests taking a class, watching Ted Talks and joining speaking clubs as tips to improve. The site stresses that speaking in public takes practice as oppose to a skill confident people possess. I feel education in schools would significantly benefit students. Instead of picking on people in class, teach techniques which help with anxiety and demonstrate tricks to feel stronger prepared.
Do you have a public speaking fear? How do you manage?