I was chatting with a friend of mine who was expressing some self-doubt about an upcoming event. She had to speak in public and this was terrifying to her. I have heard this particular sentiment many times in my life, because I have been a speaker for a number of years. Becoming a speaker, though, hasn’t always been easy.
There is an old photo of me in grade six, during a school visit from an out of town guest, where I was apparently asked to thank the person for coming, on behalf of the class. In the photo, I look petrified. My shoulders were hunched forward, my face was beet red and my body language screamed that I was nervous and extremely uncomfortable.
Even though I participated in one oral in front of the school after that, this was the extent of my public speaking, as a young girl. I hated reading in front of the class and despite if I had anything valuable to say, or not, it was not an activity that I enjoyed doing. I did some community theatre performances in high school, which helped my anxiety of speaking, but I was far from confident.
It wasn’t until first year of university, during a communications class, where I won a speech writing contest and was asked to represent the class at a Toastmasters event. I was prepared, had the five minute talk memorized and felt reasonably confident that I could pull it off. Although I am sure I have mentioned this incident before, I was so reasonably confident that I didn’t bring my speech up to the front, against the advice of my professor.
Instead, part way through, I drew a blank and could not continue. Without waiting a few moments to gather my thoughts, as recommended, I retreated off stage, headed out of the auditorium and burst into tears. I blew it. I was so angry with myself and vowed that speaking just wasn’t my thing. The good thing was that I didn’t know a single person at that event, was in a city far from home and I never had to face any of the people in that audience ever again.
Five years later, though, I had to do another speech writing assignment, where we were competing to become class speaker at our graduation. I won in front of the class and then in front of all the students. I ended up delivering the graduation address, on behalf of the over two hundred and thirty graduating police officers and their families in the audience, along with the Minister of the Solicitor General of Ontario. All of these times, though, I brought my speech to the podium.
Going forward, I was no longer afraid of speaking. I had evidence that I could do it successfully and it didn’t end in embarrassing tears. The evolution of my true confidence, though, took many years in total. It was well worth my effort, in the end. I even wrote and delivered a speech directly to the Governor General of Canada, at a conference in 2008.
When chatting with this friend of mine, who was experiencing anxiety about speaking in public, I assured her that she could do it. When we just have a conversation discussing what we are passionate about and not worry what people will think, we can do anything we set our mind to.
The problem was that she had set her mind to the potential of her messing up, assuming that she would lose her words, be unable to focus or derail her train of thought. It is what she believed about the situation, which was creating the anxiety. Her fears were not based on evidence, because she has been talking for years, just fine.
It must be her inner six-year old coming to the surface. She simply gets herself all worked up over the worst case scenario that she ends up doubting her ability to get through the task.
Our beliefs about any situation will determine whether we have anxiety or whether we are calm. If we believe we are good enough, despite our performance, then we will overcome the situation with ease. If we believe that our worth is determined by our performance, then we will dread the task at hand and be devastated if it doesn’t work out as planned.
Since my self-value was low, from grade school to university, it impacted me more than it should have. As my self-value grow, I realized that it would not be the end of the world if I made a mistake. I am human and none of us are perfect. We do the best we can with the information and skills we have. As we grow and learn from life experience, so does our inner confidence.
This theory can be applied to anything in life – if we know that we are good enough and worthy enough, we will not allow anyone to treat us badly, put us down or disrespect us. If we are unsure of ourselves, we lower the bar of what we expect of others. If they hurt us or disappoint us, we tolerate it. If they put us down, we expect it. We also tend to be our own worst critic.
This has been the demise of many individuals with so much potential, with so much to offer and with so much going for them. They don’t believe in their own value and therefore, they are treated accordingly. Once we take a stand and determine that we are good enough, despite our performance, despite our mistakes in the past, or despite our shortcomings, we can truly accomplish anything.
For the friend of mine who is facing her fears about public speaking, she will still be successful and more than good enough, no matter how the event goes. If she can just accept her own gifts, talents, skills, wisdom and knowledge of the amazing things she has already accomplished and overcome in her life, she will do just fine and probably knock it out of the park.
Are we afraid to do things, for no good reason, based on our low self-value? Perhaps it is time to snap out of it and break through our own limiting beliefs. On the other side, we may just find that we are more powerful and courageous than we think and we can create a new reality for ourselves.
What limiting beliefs about ourselves or a specific situation are holding us back from a better reality? There is evidence all around that things are possible, once we simply decide to think about our circumstances in a new way. Let’s breathe in confidence, breathe out doubt and then take action.
‘Make sure you don’t start seeing yourself through the eyes of those who don’t value you. Know your worth, even if they don’t.’ ~ Thema Davis