Picture the audience in their underwear. Pretend you are standing in front of a mirror. Pick a spot just above everyone’s head and focus your attention there. Everyone has their own advice for those that are afraid of speaking in public, as many of us are. While some people seem to be born standing and speaking in front of groups, a large percentage of people experience a crippling fear at the prospect. This fear can halt some careers, or prevent future successes. But while most of us believe it is the thought of being in front of so many people that causes us stress, in fact there may be something else triggering these emotions; a memory of a past experience.
We can probably all pin point a time from our childhood when we embarrassed ourselves in front of our peers; putting yourself out there when you are young can be terrifying and young kids are far from forgiving if you make a mistake. A bad experience when young can scar us for life. Eventually we get over the initial embarrassment and as we get older we store the memory away, along with the “feeling state” associated with the event. It is this state that comes back to us as we once again face the prospect of speaking in front of a group. We may not remember the specific event that caused us to feel like we do, but we definitely remember the fear.
Since these fears can resurface when asked to deliver a speech, a toast, or even a prayer at a family dinner, it is best to learn to control them. So, how do we control our fear if it is based on a forgotten experience? The simple answer is; practice. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be. But it is also important to recognize and understand the “feeling state” which causes us to feel the fear. Once we can understand, and then release the feelings that cause us stress, we can begin to alleviate the fear. Releasing the fear is a skill that must be learned, and of course practiced, but once mastered your comfort and confidence will increase naturally over time.