The shakes, the racing heart, the sweat, the confusion. They happen every single time.
This is nothing new, and it happens all the time. The moment puberty hit, speaking in front of and to a large group of people has been really uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I thrive in large groups of people. I’m often the life of the party and would rather be surrounded by people than be alone. But, having to deliver news, information, or any kind of speech to more than three people? I’d really rather not.
I am sure many of you feel the same way. It takes a certain personality to be comfortable speaking eloquently to a large audience. One of my favorite public speakers is Martin Luther King, Jr. How he managed to calmly talk to thousands of people blows my mind. Never faltering, always level, he managed to get his message across with love and strength. I wish I had that ability.
But, I don’t.
I get nervous and clam up. My heart feels like it’s going to explode out of my chest. My palms get sweaty, and I shake very noticeably. I’m never confident that what I am about to say is real, true, correct, or even kind. I’m too concerned with making everyone happy, and I’m equally as concerned that I won’t sound intelligent enough. Sounding intelligent is a very big issue I constantly struggle with.
Casually put me in a room with a bunch of people, though, and I can wax poetic in small conversations about things I am passionate about. The desire to sound intelligent melts away. If I’m wrong or confusing, I’ll gladly take that to heart and seek out the correct information. A casual conversation has never been an issue, and probably never will be.
So, at 33, I’ve decided that if I ever am put in a situation that requires me to speak to a large group of people, I better get paid. That way, I will have the financial resources to research what I’m speaking about. And, I’ll have the financial resources to get help for the fear of public speaking. I promise, therapy is wonderful. Therapy is a great tool to guide people in positive directions. However, good therapy isn’t always cheap. For public speaking, I know that I would need an actual, physical human opposite me, giving me the right tools to melt the fear away.
Fear of public speaking is very real and very legitimate. Delivering information to large numbers of people requires a somewhat deep understanding of what is being discussed. It also requires the belief that what is being said is real, true, and correct. [Not all speeches have merit or are true. Look at Adolf Hitler. One of the things he is known for is his public speaking skills. Was a lot of what he said good or right? Of course not. But, he believed it, and that allowed him to be firm in what he said.] I’m decently educated. I attempted a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and a minor in English Literature. I’m two classes away from a Paralegal Associate of Arts degree, and plan on eventually going back to university and getting a BA. But, I’m not educated perfectly. There are a lot of things in this world that I have to learn about. There is only a small handful of things I can comfortably talk about, and I know that there is a lot more to learn about these things. With that knowledge about myself, I am naturally scared that I will be judged by people listening. I automatically think to myself, “who here knows more than I do and will want to immediately judge and correct me?” I don’t mind being corrected. I welcome being corrected. But, the judgement? That’s scary.
Long story short: if I am going to be watched and stared at, someone better pay me.