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Experience Fear

Your nerves can work positively for you. When you are nervous, your adrenaline flows and you get excited about what you are doing. This response can be a good thing. It comes across to your audience as enthusiasm. You are anxious because you care about what you are saying and because you care about your audience.

Giving yourself permission to experience fear is the first step to success. It is very natural for you to wonder about your speaking style and wonder if the audience will listen to what you have to say. Will you look stupid? Will you sound stupid? You might fail, lose where you are on the page, ramble, forget, have poor posture, or have lipstick on your teeth. You fear the unknown because it is not defined, but visualizing what you fear and letting it go in a positive way will let you progress. You can use fear to your advantage.

Dr. Susan Jeffers writes about the five “truths” of fear in her book Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway:

  1. The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow.

    If you are waiting for fear to go away before you take any chances, you’ve got the wrong idea. As long as you are stretching your capabilities, fear is inevitable. By trying to avoid fear, you put limitations on your continual growth. 2

  2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.

    When you confront the particular situation you are afraid of, you will be able to overcome that fear. If you are anxious about public speaking, you must find opportunities to speak. Participate in small groups, teach a class, or volunteer to demonstrate in “how-to” situations. 3

  3. The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it.

    According to Dr. Jeffers, the “doing it” comes before the feeling better about yourself: “When you make something happen, not only does the fear of the situation go away, but also you get a big bonus: you do a lot toward building your self-confidence.” 4 With each positive experience will come validation and recognition. Each success will increase your self-esteem and help you become the individual you need to be to grow.

  4. Not only are you going to experience fear whenever you’re in unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.

    If you are nervous about speaking in public, you are not alone. In a survey that asked three thousand Americans what they were most afraid of, “speaking before a group” came in first, ahead of heights, insects, financial problems, deep water, sickness, and even death. 5 An episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld dealt with the widespread phenomenon of stage fright. It began with Seinfeld delivering these lines in his stand-up comedy act:

    According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? This means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy. 6
  5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness. 7
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