Would you like to overcome anxiety?
The only antidote to fear is consistent, repetitive, courageous action.
The majority of people avoid public speaking. They fear it more than death.
- Are you one of the people who are afraid of public speaking?
- Would you like to overcome it?
- Do your hands shake?
- Can you feel your throat tighten?
- Does your voice feel weak?
- Can you feel your voice quiver?
- Does your heart pound so hard you can hear it?
Yes to all? Me too.
I don’t get the chance to speak in public often, but when I do, I always get symptoms of fear. That’s why I accept every opportunity I have to speak in public.
Let me give you a quick anecdote.
At a recent holiday party, an employee who reports to me was about to win an award. I asked my boss, “Who’s going to do the speech?”
He said, “I can, unless you want to.”
I thought about it a minute. The pain averse part of me wanted to say, “Okay, you do it.” But that would have been the chicken shit thing to do, right? You don’t grow if you avoid discomfort. So I said, “I’ll do it.”
Shortly after accepting responsibility I felt my heart accelerate and my palms start sweating. What a strange subconscious reaction. I wasn’t consciously afraid of anything.
Why should I be afraid? I was President of Toastmasters in High School, I’ve taken multiple college level public speaking courses, I’ve spoken to public school administrators about the social and intellectual damage institutionalizing our children has caused, and I’ve spoken to political conventions on several occasions.
Rock Stars Accept Their Fear
The biggest obstacle to overcoming fear is failure to accept it. Speech coaches have told me I may never overcome the fear of speaking. Some people don’t. But that doesn’t mean they can’t perform. Rock Star David Lee Roth of Van Halen said he was never able to rid himself of stage fright, he overcame it by re-framing it as a natural “high” he looked forward to. If a rock star who has performed nightly for decades still feels stage fright, I suppose it is reasonable for me to feel stage fright.
So in that moment I accepted my fear, stood up, said a short improv piece, everyone applauded, and I sat down.
I didn’t pass out. I didn’t say anything embarrassing. I didn’t draw a blank. I didn’t ramble on. It went fine.
When I sat down, I grabbed my fork and and I noticed my hand shaking.
I looked at the executive next me and said, “Look at that. I’m shaking. It always happens when I speak in front of a group.”
She said, “Don’t worry about it, if you didn’t shake, you’d lose your edge. Keep your edge. It is only a little adrenaline.”
She re-framed what I viewed as a weakness into a strength.
This principle not only applies to public speaking, but nearly all anxiety.
Don’t let your fear win. When you give in to fear, and avoid it or suppress it, the result is always more intense fear. The best way to create a phobia is to start avoiding little things that make you
For example, maybe you’re shy in social situations so you avoid them. But if you want to become more socially adept, you have to face your fear directly, don’t expect it to go away, accept it, feel it fully, and act anyway.
Look Your Fear in the Eye
If you consistently avoid social situations, when you do find yourself in a social situation your anxiety will be more intense than ever, and you may find yourself on a long slide toward agoraphobia.
However, if you repetitively engage in as many social situations as possible and face your feelings with courage, you will find ways to re-frame your feelings into a positive experience.