Here's to Dads! – Start of the Trail
If you know me now, you would never believe me when I say I had a fear of talking in front of people. I make a living talking; I teach at a college and am a photographer. Many would agree that I talk too much. Yet, until I was 20, I could not speak in front of people.
I’m not talking about the kind of scared where you are shaking with note cards in your hands. My fear was so bad that I had to get permission from my teacher to record video of my speeches and have her play them in class. I wasn’t even there when she played it. Even the video camera with my “second mother” behind it was terrifying.
I knew someone was going to hear my voice (and pick up on its shakiness). Someone was going to judge the words I said. What if I misquoted something? What if someone knows more about the information I am giving? What if I am too monotone and everyone tunes me out? The fear was real, and I was nauseous.
You may be reading this and feeling the same way. I hear you.
Remember those assessments in high school that tell you what you should be when you grow up? I remember sitting in this long narrow room with glass windows facing the library. I took the assessment with excitement. I knew it would tell me what I wanted to hear. Then it told me I should be a college instructor. HA! Needless to say I changed my answers (three times) so that the computer spit out “architect”…that’s what I had my heart set on. Side note: After all that, I only lasted a year in architecture.
Talking in front of people for a living? Nope. Never going to happen. So glad it said I should be an architect (wink).
Fast forward to my second year of college. I was in a communications class that required prepared speeches. This wasn’t high school, and I had no choice but to talk. I remember the first speech I had to give. Note cards in hand I waited until I was the only one left. There wasn’t enough deodorant in the world to save me as I waited my turn. Why was I worried? I knew this topic so well. It was a long walk from the back right corner of the room to the front. I looked at my notecards and started talking. Shaking of course, but I kept talking. The fear started to melt away.
I did it. I spoke. In front of people. And they listened. No one gave me dirty looks. And you know what? I didn’t need the speech written word for word on my note cards. That moment changed everything for me.
Everything you read tells you to prepare, practice, and don’t be threatened. That didn’t work for me. Here’s what did work:
- I went first. Got it over with. I couldn’t work myself into a state of panic that way.
- I stopped worrying about myself and thought of it as helping others. I was giving information.
- I connected with individuals. The group isn’t so scary then.
- I don’t over-prepare. Too much planning makes me fearful of messing up.
- I learned to be confident about what I was talking about.
When I realized that I had a purpose and was helping someone, much of that fear went away. Do I still get nervous? Yes! Especially when I’m talking in front of peers. They are so much smarter than I am which is intimidating, ha ha. But the time between the first and last sentence…that is now my comfort zone.
Turns out that high school assessment was right. I am supposed to be a college instructor. It is funny how things have a way of working out. My 17-year-old self never would have guessed.
I share this because my fear almost prevented me from becoming who I am meant to be. I can’t imagine doing anything else. Fears are rough, even debilitating. Sometimes a different perspective is what it takes. I still have plenty of fears to work out. I guess I will keep looking for another perspective.
“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”