Do you feel nauseous when facing an audience? Do you shy away from the glare of the spotlight? I do! Try as I might I cannot stop the dreadful shudder down my spine when I have to speak to an audience of mostly adults. It’s strange that I have absolutely no inhibitions when the audience constitutes of my students. There I feel like the reigning happy queen and words flow like magic. My mentor says it is because I subconsciously feel I can intimidate them whereas I probably don’t believe I can do that with others, but I am not really sure about it.
People who do not suffer from speech anxiety probably have no idea what it feels like when red hot churning fear spirals from the pit of your tummy to your throat and strangles your attempt to speak. The feeling of nervousness and overpowering panic fills every inch of your body and the only thing you are painfully aware of are those eyes that you want so much to run and hide from.
The best part about this whole deal though is that no matter how badly I shiver or how stubbornly my limbs threaten to buckle under me, I mostly insist on standing my ground and facing people in a group whenever required. I did walk back from an entire school audience once after my voice just refused to squirm out in tune for a birthday song I was supposed to deliver. It was a disaster because as ridiculous as it might seem I kept trying to sing again holding the mike and moving back into the audience, but my voice just choked out on me. My principal made me sing again after a few days and in that instance it went rather well…..My chest did feel like it might explode any moment but I did survive to tell the tale.
I refuse to let an opportunity to speak out pass me by because some strange wiring in my head makes me phobic. What could be the worst case scenario, I would probably stumble over my words, repeat the same sentences over again or because of my numbed senses, forget why I am standing there in the first place. I think it’s really fine to have a few such incidents in life where things don’t really go the way we expect them to. We all have those embarrassing moments which we feel so terrible about at that precise moment, but years down the line we chuckle over them and even willingly share them over dinner table banter.
I think this anxiety of speaking in front of large groups mostly stems from being too self-conscious. There is also the underlying dread of others judging you or comparing you and some people probably feel ill equipped and underestimate their own potential to deliver something worthwhile. Whatever the reasons, we end up losing some really good opportunities in life. Even if it is not a major breakthrough event in your life where speaking up would escalate you to sure success, the tiny achievement of being able to win over your fear would definitely boost your self-esteem. I feel like a winner every time I add one of those invisible “Done That Badges” on my chest.
These fears are real and have obvious physiological effects. If we recognize and acknowledge it then it takes us a step closer to finding a solution to it. What I usually do is to prepare myself really well, pray ardently, do some breathing exercises and indulge in some pep talking in my head. And if it’s an impromptu speaking opportunity, well, maybe another funny feather in my cap. I would rather try, than fail to make an effort. Come to think of it, a little bit of anxiety is actually a good trigger, makes one work more diligently on the preparation part.
Do you suffer from speech anxiety? What helps you to overcome your fears? Do let me know, maybe you have a solution up your sleeve that might help others.