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Public speaking is a common fear that we all have to face at some point if we want to move forward. Although I thought I would die, I was able to conquer fear of public speaking and get on stage through a simple change in thinking.
Heart pounding and hands shaking, I walk into the room feeling like I’m going to my death. What if I pass out? What if I barf in front of all of these people? What if I have to run out of the room? Will I humiliate myself? What will they think? Can I escape?
There’s no escape.
I am about to give a presentation to fifty community members on treating trauma. I’m about to make a fool of myself in front of all of these people! I can’t get out of it. I’m the headline speaker.
It doesn’t matter that I’m shy and scared. It doesn’t matter that the thought of standing in front of a room of people and talking feels like a death sentence. I worry everyone is going to find out I have no idea what I’m talking about. They’re going to know I’m stupid. They’re all going to think they wasted their time coming here for this training.
Ah, the joys of public speaking.
I remember this like it was yesterday. I was a newly minted psychologist and my employer thought it would be a great idea to host an event and have me teach a bunch of people. Needless to say I was terrified!
I don’t remember the presentation. I don’t remember what I said or whether people seemed to get anything out of it.
What I remember is that I got up there and I did it. I didn’t die. I didn’t barf. I got through the presentation and made it out with my professional life still intact. I wasn’t shunned by the community of therapists. No one laughed at me or told me I was stupid.
I did it.
I got up there, took a breath and talked myself into doing my best. I reminded myself of the accomplishments I made to get to where I was. I told myself I’ve done things others haven’t. For instance, I passed through all of the hoops to become a psychologist.
I could give the damn speech.
That’s nothing compared to other things I’ve had to do. I had gone through much worse than that and come out the other side.
Talking to myself and reminding myself of things I’ve done that I was proud of helped get me into a space where I could be effective. I was probably still shaking, but I was able to get my message across. I was able to teach the lesson.
Letting myself feel and experience what it was like to be someone who accomplished something hard brought feelings of power into my body. I clearly remember telling myself “I just became a licensed psychologist. Not everyone can do that” and feeling a sense of calm and accomplishment that helped me move forward.
You’ve Got This!
What have you done in your past that makes you feel proud? It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Pick one that’s important to you. How do you feel in your body when you remember this time? Do you remember what you felt like then when you made it?
Reminding yourself of accomplishments you’ve had is key to helping you face the next hard thing.
How To Use This
One way to use this is to remember to bring up these memories while you are about to approach a scary situation. The problem with that is sometimes our emotions get pretty strong and make it hard to think clearly.
I recommend preparing ahead of time, at a time when you are not experiencing any stress.
On just a regular Tuesday afternoon for example.
You’ve faced lots of hard things. There have been a lot of times in your life where you’ve felt proud, loved, accomplished, etc. Take out your journal and write these things down.
In fact, let’s talk about making a journal page you can go back to when you need it. Think of it like your toolbox of superpowers or your toolbox of “I’m awesome!”
Create A Journal Page
Schedule time to devote to making a list all of the times you can remember feeling proud or accomplished in your past. This could be a time you had a major accomplishment. It could be the time you put together a bookshelf or maybe it is a time your received a positive compliment. There are a lot of different things you could list in your journal. The important thing is that you remember feeling positive, proud, or accomplished.
You could keep this in a list form or create something else out of it. Create a collage out of magazine pictures reminding you of the time. Write journal entries that tell the story of the time you felt accomplished. Whatever makes sense to you, create your page around that.
Then next time you go into something scary, pause and reflect on this journal page. Go back and look at it before going into the hard thing. Allow yourself to remember what it felt like to accomplish the things you’ve accomplished. Feel those things now, before you go into it. Let yourself know you’ve done hard things and can do this too!
This part is important. Allow yourself to remember the feelings you had an to bring these back up in your body. Sit with those feelings for a while, allowing them to remind you that you can do hard things.
Then go do the thing. You may find you create another thing to add to your journal page.
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