In recent months, a common topic that kept creeping up in conversations with my clients and colleagues: fear.
There are many personal development books, courses and videos out there that address the subject of dealing with fear. I’ve used many of them – they just didn’t for me.
In recent years, I’ve discovered a more gentle and elegant approach of dealing with fear, which I’m going to share here. It has worked for me.
In this post, I’ll write specifically on the fear of public speaking. After all, this is a common fear for most people – something we can all identify with.
My Fear of Public Speaking
The fear of public speaking is something that’s in me for the longest of time, since I was a little boy. I can’t tell when exactly was the first time I experienced it, but I remember one event vividly.
It was a friend’s birthday party and I was with many other kids around my age. It was a happy time of eating and making small talks at first. Then they started playing songs to sing, and get the kids, one by one, to come up to the stage to sing. I panicked and quietly hoped that I would not be called out to sing. I wished I was invisible!
Throughout the years of growing up, I didn’t enjoy the attention of many people on me – that made me uneasy. I only speak or perform in front of crowds when I really had to.
As a voracious reader and learner, I devoured many books, articles and courses to find a cure for my fear – none were effective enough for me (they may have worked for the authors).
It was tiresome fighting this fear, and I gave up struggling. I surrendered. And then a realization hit me: fighting the fear has never made the situation any better than surrendering.
In fact, surrendering made me feel better – I felt lighter, and easier in serving my audience. There was less on my mind. There was less stuff getting in the way.
I was curious.
I began to look in a different direction.
What If Fear Is Not Your Enemy?
I learned many years ago that our brain has in-built self-defense mechanism or self-preservation.
When we perceive we’re in a position of vulnerability or danger, our natural response is to seek safety. Adrenaline is automatically released in our system, with the effect of increased strength, heart rate and heightened senses.
It was much later when I connected that to my fear of public speaking. Being nervous standing before a crowd activates the self-preservation mode in me. That’s what it is!
And I began to ask a different set of questions. These are simple questions:
What if fear is not my enemy?
What is fear trying to do for me (not against me)?
What if fear is trying to protect/help/defend me from getting hurt/disappointed/rejected/failure etc.?
What if fear is really my friend?
I tested my new questions and assumptions in situations when I’d normally feel afraid. And guess what? I still feel the fear and IT WAS PERFECTLY OK. I was alright no matter how nervous I feel before standing before a crowd, and the fear would leave me every time.
What does the experience look like? This is how I described it to my colleagues using a metaphor of Fear being a person:
Every time before I speak, Fear would come into the room and be near me. He would sit right by my side.
Gone were the days when I dreaded that feeling of being afraid – I would struggle with him, or practice various techniques to overpower him. I would pray for him to go away, which he never did.
These days, I’d recognize and welcome Fear like an old friend. I now understand his good intentions – to protect me from failure and getting hurt. I’d smile and thank him, assuring him that I’ll be alright.
When I get up to speak to my audience, Fear would remain seated where he is. But my focus would now be on serving my audience and nothing else. Soon, when I look back at the seat where he was sitting, Fear is gone. He leaves the room knowing that I would be okay. He has served his purpose of protecting me.
Do I still feel Fear before I speak? Yes, every time. But there is nothing to be afraid about it. No struggle. No techniques to use. There is nothing to do, really. Every time I begin to serve the audience, my old friend Fear would leave the room knowing that I will be alright.
I don’t have to fight my friend. And I’m grateful for this insight.
Your Negative Voices Are Not There To Harm You
There is an older post I wrote about a coaching session with a senior police trainer who was constantly battling the negative voices in his head.
Deep into the coaching conversation he shared more openly to me. He perceived that the negative voices were there to harm or “kill” him.
I challenged his belief with this question, “What are your negative voices trying to do for you?”
The question implied that his negative voices were not there to harm him, but to protect and defend him.
That was the beginning of a new breakthrough for him as he began to see his inner adversaries as allies working in disguise for him, not against him. His limiting beliefs were shifted into empowering beliefs.
Fear Is Your Friend
Over the years, I’ve had many dreams of being chased by monsters, wild animals or human enemies. In some of those dreams, I stopped running, turned around and faced them head on, only to find the monsters weren’t actually that scary, the wild animals transformed into something cute and tame, or made friends with the human enemies.
What would it mean for you if you view fear as your friend?
What shift would take place? What would change?
What is now possible?
I invite you to share your insights and whatever new realizations you’ve gained. I would love to hear from you.
Your Help Needed: A Free Email Course
I’m working on a new email course on eliminating self-limiting beliefs, which I will release for free.
Here’s how you can help me (which would benefit you and many others). If you’re struggling with beliefs that are limiting you, write to me. You know you can do more, be more, but you’re somehow stuck. Share with me what and how the self-limiting beliefs are holding you back.
My purpose is to tailor the email course to be relevant in serving you and many other readers.