A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak on a career-related panel in front of 300 students. The invitation was incredibly exciting, and I was honored to share my story with others who would benefit from my experience. A few years ago, however, this type of speaking engagement would have completely terrified me.
As a high schooler, I was so afraid of public speaking that I used to shake before presenting in my English class. I was an All-American cheerleader and loved talking to people one-on-one, but whenever I had to give a presentation in class, my heart raced and my teeth chattered. When I first enrolled in college, the fear had subsided somewhat, but I still found myself mumbling “I’m sorry” in the middle of speech flubs.
However, over the years, I have learned how to manage this fear. During my senior year of college, I taught conference workshops on blogging and social media, and a few lunchtime seminars focused on resume writing and interview skills. Most recently, I spoke on the aforementioned panel regarding the importance of communication skills in the workforce. I may still not be the perfect speaker — I am guilty of a few ums here and there! — and I may still get butterflies in my stomach before I present, but I overcome my fear through action.
In other words, we can overcome our fears by doing the thing we are afraid of. I’m not suggesting you do something completely reckless and life-threatening (I am afraid of the bear that I saw near my neighborhood last month, and I am not going to approach him with food to try and get over that fear), but I do believe that the best way to move past our fears and insecurities is to face them head on and take action.
Public speaking still makes me nervous, but I overcome those nerves by saying “yes” to those public speaking engagements and using them as opportunities for growth. Most, if not all, members of the audience are not there to criticize or condemn what I am saying. They are there to learn. Therefore, I recognize that by speaking to that audience, even if I stumble over a word, I am providing helpful advice and information. I have value.
As my friend Max likes to say, do one thing every day that scares you. By doing this, you are quieting those voices of inadequacy and lessening your fear every time. You are saying yes to opportunities and learning from them. You are growing. You are allowing yourself to be more of the person that you want to be.
Want to overcome your fears? Give yourself a chance to face them.