As a kid I never had a problem speaking out in public. In fact I was often praised for my clarity of speech and cast in main roles in school productions. I had little or no awareness of myself or ego at that age and never stopped to consider what others might think of me. I was blissfully unaware! How wonderful!
I can actually pinpoint the moment that that all changed. I was highly self conscious when asked to recite a poem in Irish class in secondary school (Irish class alone is enough to strike fear into anyone, I think!). My voice began to tremble and I could barely focus on the words. I thought I’d never get to the end of the poem. It felt like all eyes were on me, waiting for me to burst into tears because my voice was trembling so much, completely exposing my anxiety.
I thought this was just a blip. It had never happened before and so I believed it would never happen again. It was just the particular circumstances on the day that made me have a wobbly moment. So a few years on I found myself volunteering to speak up in college in order to secure a fundraising opportunity for a charity I support. It would mean a great deal of money towards a good cause so I ignored my previous experience that had happened years ago and up I went to speak in front of the crowd gathered in the auditorium.
You guessed it! I choked! I spoke to a room of perhaps 150 people, maybe more, but within a few sentences there was that dreaded quiver in my voice, determined not to let my words out. In moments like that it feels like you could hear a pin drop. All I could focus on was the feeble noise that was trying to escape my mouth. I convinced myself that the whole audience was looking at me with pity, feeling as awkward as I was and hoping the whole thing would finish soon.
Disappointed, I resigned myself to the fact that I now had developed a fear of public speaking and would do my best to avoid it at all costs in the future. That incident was approximately ten years ago.
Now, with a new approach to life and an appreciation for facing fears and getting out of my comfort zone, I was determined not to let this have power over me. After arming myself with some of my NLP skills, in particular the Circle of Excellence and some timeline techniques, I sought out opportunities to get in front of an audience again and speak! And not just speak, I wanted to get up there with confidence and connect with my audience about a subject I’m passionate about. I wanted to inspire people and own that stage.
It wasn’t long until I came across an event, as if it was meant to be (no such thing as coincidences) and I went along to check it out. I felt so inspired listening to the other speakers there, some new to public speaking, others who did it for a living. Before I knew it I volunteered to speak at the next event in six weeks time.
It was really time to put these NLP skills to the test. I built up emotional states that I wanted to portray the evening that I spoke. I practiced accessing these states frequently in the days leading up to the event. I visualised the end result and used timeline techniques in preparation. Six weeks has never passed so quickly! I was at the event and the first speaker up. I stepped into my circle of excellence and all the emotional states I wanted to convey emanated from me. I was relaxed, feeling confident and making a connection with my audience and there wasn’t one quiver or fault in my voice. The feedback was amazing and so encouraging. People were amazed that that was my first speaking engagement in ten years and couldn’t understand that I had a fear of it! I credit two things for the results that evening. The first was using my NLP and mind coaching skills to rewire how I was thinking and what I was feeling. The second thing was taking action!
The truth is you can do all the courses you like, read all the books and study all the techniques but there comes a time when the only thing left to do is act! This is an important lesson that I’ve learnt over the last couple of years. I spent a lot of time doing all the theory part of self development and I was wondering why my life wasn’t changing. When I finally took action, everything began falling into place. There is nobody else that can do the work for you. It is you, and only you, that has the power to make the difference. Taking action is often the scariest part but believe me, it is the most rewarding!
I no longer identify myself as a person who has a fear of public speaking. I am now Sarah, overcomer of fears, public speaker and motivator. Conquering that fear has inspired me to think what else might be possible. What have I been avoiding that could actually be adding value to my life and perhaps even others?
Fear is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. We often create scenarios in our mind that are far worse than the actual reality. I know I did this for many, many years and it did nothing to serve me in the long run. It prevented me from taking action and I convinced myself that I was happy in my comfort zone, holding tightly onto my beliefs about my fears, never daring to dream big or act on my real ambitions.
Coaching myself through this process using my skills, tools and techniques has been invaluable and has opened many doors since. If you would like to know more about overcoming your fears, whatever they may be, get in touch so that you too can discover a world of opportunities and freedom!