Where does the fear of public speaking stem?
One of the workshops I run is called Phenomenal Woman. The subtitle is – helping you to step up and into the spotlight. I am mindful that while some people want to step into the spotlight and have decided that they are ready to do so, others are holding back and have a fear of public speaking. The very thought of stepping up, let alone stepping into a spotlight, is enough to give them the cold sweats. So, why is this?
Here are a few of the most common reasons I hear:
Fear of failure
So, how do you stop yourself from failing? Well, the short answer is you don’t. The real world we live in is full of failure. If we don’t experience failure, then we are probably doing nothing. You’ll be familiar with the phrase, there is no such thing as failure, only lessons learned. This is true in my experience, although that doesn’t always make the experience a pleasant one at the time. It is also true, in my experience, that the only way we get better at speaking in public and experiencing fewer failures is to do more of it and learn from any failures. Failure is the root of growth.
Imposter ‘syndrome’ is thought of as a common feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of success. People with imposter syndrome may feel like they are not qualified or deserving of their accomplishments and may worry that they will be exposed as a fraud.
If you look under the surface of this definition, most people will admit that when they are ‘exposed’ in a meeting or presentation or in a report, for example, they worry. And they have a fear of public speaking. That is a very human reaction. It is understandable and simply reminds us that we are stepping out of our comfort zone. The way we grow and learn and extend our influence. It is quite natural to have some uncertain feelings, to ask, to question. It doesn’t mean we have to be fixed, though. Recognising that we have stepped out of our comfort zone into our stretch zone (the place where we grow despite uncertainty) can be significant and is often a pivotal moment. Uncomfortable, maybe, but getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a powerful way of learning and growing.
Fear of rejection leading to a fear of public speaking
Lack of confidence
In addition to these general reasons, there may be other specific reasons why someone might be hesitant to step up into the spotlight. For example, if they have had a negative experience in the past, such as being publicly humiliated or criticised. Tackling and challenging that experience is important and, for some of my clients, is an important piece of internal work for them.
Overcoming a fear of public speaking
- Challenge your negative thoughts. When you have a negative thought about stepping up into the spotlight, challenge it. Ask yourself if there is any evidence to support your thought. If there is no evidence or weak evidence, then let go of the thought.
- Focus on your strengths. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. When you are hesitant to step into the spotlight, focus on your strengths. Remind yourself of what you are good at and what you have to offer.
- Visualize success. Take some time to visualize yourself successfully stepping up into the spotlight. Imagine yourself feeling confident and comfortable. This will help to program your mind for success.
- Start small. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of stepping into the spotlight, start small. Volunteer to give a presentation at work or in your community. Once you have successfully given a few small presentations, you can start to take on bigger challenges.
- Find a mentor. A mentor can be a valuable resource for anyone who is trying to step up into the spotlight. A mentor can provide you with support, guidance, and encouragement.
If you find yourself fearful of stepping up and into the spotlight, ask yourself, if not me, who? If not now, when? This is your opportunity to have an impact, to make a difference.