"The most effective way to do it, is to do it."
If public speaking is one of the things about Business or Leadership or just getting on Social that freaks you out a little bit, and you want to overcome that fear, so that you can show up and get on with the important business of BEING who you were born to be, and being of service, LIVING your life purpose, how CAN you start to build your courage, to put yourself out there more, in little steps?
We're going to go into the HOW of it a WHOLE lot more in my book. Part of it is, as we've talked about a few times now, is managing your state and literally shifting your vibe in the other direction. But if it were really as simple as that, then why are 90% of people still terrified of and avoiding? And 70% of the world still walking around in a state of "survive?"
Sometimes, there's a little more complexity to it than that. And there can be aspects of the fear response that we have to re-program. Changing your thinking and reframing certain aspects of the past is a part. Another part of it is debunking certain myths and collective stereotypes we’re holding that, especially as Women, can have about us walking the world, not just the length of the stage, or the laptop screen, in a constant state of nervous arousal. Part of it is learning how to permanently break out of the fight flight freeze loop of “survive” that apparently now over 70% of the world are constantly walking around the world in, especially after the joys of 2020. Plus getting on top of any health issues that might be contributing and or reducing cumulative contributors to stress. There is a lot of work that we can do on this intellectually, physically and hypothetically. Before getting in an actual room.
But then there will inevitably come a point where we have to do the exposure bit and, as the quote says above, just get in there and give it a go. There are two levels again, on which this might be the case. The level at which you just get in some version of a literal room or the LinkedIn Live or Zoom Meeting Room and give it a go.
And then, depending on what your particular background and personal experience has been, there may also be the part where we have to get brave enough to go inwards and learn how to sit with and move through the levels of our fight flight freeze responses. Which, in great news for us all, aren’t meant to be permanent. In nature, for the animal and the mammal kingdom, this response, in each instance of being triggered, can be re-set very quickly, once you understand how to. Like, in less than 30 seconds. And there is a glorious abundance of relief and calm and contentment waiting on the other side of it when we re-set and raise our energy and energy back out of it.
If at any point in the past where something traumatic happened, we didn’t have the tools to process it in the moment though, and just tried to stuff the energy and the memory down as quickly as possible, our nervous system (and neural programming) can actually get ‘stuck’ in the levels of the fight flight freeze response we just went through. And this can be part of what is underlying our experience of the anxiety that later comes up when we next go to speak, or do something similar.
Until we learn how to safely turn our attention inwards, be present with the not so pleasant feelings associated with the levels of the fight flight freeze response (like anger/aggression, fear, mental dissociation (e.g. finding it hard to stay awake and present) or feeling physically exhausted) in little doses, reboot the system, and then allow the natural process of our energy and awareness rising back up and out of the layers of it, to a normal, relaxed, happy, well state.
The process of learning to be with this awkward experience for little periods, and manage it effectively, thus then helps us build our belief in that we CAN handle such stressful situations. AND builds our resilience to dealing with them over time. If this all sounds a little confusing or overwhelming, know it doesn't have to be done alone either. It's not the kind of thing I want to run you through in an article. But practicing it in manageable doses, with a trauma-informed Speaking Coach or Mentor, Counsellor/Psychologist/Psychotherapist, or even better, Somatic Therapist can be really helpful here, if you think you might be having issues with this.
Contrary to what you might think reading or watching a lot of personal development material, you don’t have to confront the fear of public speaking by going straight to the peak of Everest of your greatest fear. Say, for example, trying to get in front of a room of 5000 people. Or speak at some conference.
For a start, John Farnham style, it's all about taking the Pressure [RIGHT] down. You can start in much smaller little bits of exposure and build up too.
In fact, that's a big part of what I did with many of my female clients over the last decade, who had bigger public speaking aspirations, but were struggling with managing their anxiety about starting to put more videos and live events out there. Was help create a practice journey, schedule of activities that helped them build their Speaking Courage muscles gently, rather than just expecting themselves to jump off a high dive cliff into the Corporate or Conference deep end. How? By starting with smaller tasks, like in the list below. (As you're reading this, you might like to think about where you personally are already at or would like to start from.)
Do you see where we're going here? It’s a spectrum. You don’t have to be perfect right way. And you don’t have to try and climb Everest in a day.
It takes practice and building your speaking courage resilience muscles through exposure, over time to build your confidence and courage. Like a kid learning to walk, it also takes the willingness to fall on your nappy-clad bum more than a few times, and then get back up and do it again. In the form of braving it out, or laughing it out, through each of your “um’s” or stutters, or needing to check your notes moments. Finding the lightness and the humanity in those moments, in the moment. Plus perhaps practicing it on friendly folk, before taking it to the work space, where you NEED to bring your A game and have the pressure of achieving whatever outcomes.
Remember too, there will be tonnes of time to technically improve them later. First up, your goal is to take the professional pressure element right out of it, all attachment to needing certain outcomes out of it, and just aim to get some practice at being of service, as a Speaker.
But for your early days, you want to pick the level you feel ready for and just do it baby. You don’t though have to do it alone. You can tell a friend, or Therapist, a Coach or Mentor what you plan to do and set up some support or accountability to getting it done too. Whatever helps you get in there and get it just that next step done.
If you have any questions about any of this, or how to process and navigate the scary bits, my virtual door is also always open to you. Or a least several times a week.
Until next time.....
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.