A Memo To My Perfectionist Self…Sit Down and Shut Up!
Overcoming the FEAR of Public Speaking. Part 1
Face It! There’s no getting around having to speak in public at some point in out lives. Whether for your job, school, networking or any other event you are expected to take the stage and talk…some of us would rather die than be forced to speak.
I am what would be classified as the PERFECT Perfectionist! That’s not a good thing…believe me. The fear of speaking in public began very early in my life. Every time a teacher chose me to read aloud in class I panicked that I would get tongue tied and be laughed at by my classmates. That led me to always sitting in the back of the classroom and trying to blend in so that the teacher never called on me. Those who know me today would never believe that I was a shy, timid child at one time.
My biggest FEAR in life is being embarrassed in front of a bunch of people. As a young teenager I dreamed of becoming a fashion model, among other things. Who would believe that shy, timid child would put herself in a position of being front and center.
Here’s the rub though. Although I retreated from putting myself out there…I faced every challenge put before me head on. That teenage determination was not going to let a little fear of public opinion stand in my way. I was convinced that by being thoroughly prepared I could handle anything.
I put into action my plan for attending finishing classes, etiquette classes…classes on how to walk correctly (yes, walk). My first introduction into the world of modeling was a small local pageant in which there was a talent portion.
Now it’s probably good to mention here that one of my other dreams as a teenager was becoming a singer like Barbra Streisand. So I thought how nice would it be to combine two of my dreams into one! Wrong!
I practiced and practiced and had the song “People” by Barbra down pat. Come the day of the pageant I managed to make it though all of the portions without a hitch until the talent portion. I stood there frozen. I couldn’t remember the first words of the song. My mind was an absolute blank. So much for being prepared – I didn’t take stage fright into account in all of my preparation. That was my first and most memorable introduction to being on stage in front of hundreds of people.
I was totally humiliated. As a result, throughout my high school years I retreated to two of my other dreams, art and writing. Staying out of the limelight I joined the school newspaper and yearbook staff.
My personal opinion is that perfectionism is what drives the fear of Public Speaking in most people. It’s not the fear of speaking…it’s the fear of not being perfect. Think about it. We have been speaking since we were toddlers…the act of communicating is innate. Speaking is not what holds us back. What holds us back is the idea of having to speak in front of others and doing it wrong. What will they think of me? Will they understand? Will they agree or buy into what I’m selling?
I went to college late in my career and studied Marketing and Management Information Systems (database design for those who don’t know) at the University of Central Florida. UCF had a policy that involved incorporating the real life skills required in the business world to prepare their students for life outside of academia. One of these policies involved having to work within teams on projects in every class and presenting (in a formal environment) findings, convincing both students and teachers of our position.
Being the determined Perfect Perfectionist that I was (which included Acing all of my classes), I knew I needed to be prepared and enrolled myself in Toastmasters. This actually was a good thing. Toastmasters helped me get over my fear by constantly forcing me to practice and deliver. In time, public speaking began to become more natural…although never easy. Ask any professional speaker and they will tell you the same thing. It doesn’t matter how many times you speak, the nerves are ALWAYS there before every event. Those nerves are what keep you relatable and transparent. Toastmaster Intl. is an excellent resource for taking the initial steps to taking the stage confidently.
Tune in to Part 2 of “A Memo to My Perfectionist Self: Sit Down and Shut Up!” next week to find out the lessons learned over the many years that I have bitten the bullet and put myself out there in front of my pears. It’s all part of individual growth.
Danna is a Business Growth Strategist and CEO of MarketAtomy, LLC. Her passion is working with small early stage entrepreneurs to ensure that they start out on the right foot and stay on the path to financial freedom. Known as the Business Birthing Specialist, Danna understands the intricacies involved in starting and running a successful business. As an intricate component ingrained into her client’s business structure, she works diligently to keep her clients accountable and on track to fulfilling their success goals.
A graduate of the University of Central Florida’s College of Business. She brings more than 35 years of strategic planning experience in business, marketing and business development both nationally and internationally.
Danna is not only a professional business growth strategist but has worked as an International Strategist within the country of Brazil, is a public speaker and #1 Best Selling Author on Amazon. She currently has 3 published books, one entitled “MarketAtomy: What To Expect When Expecting A Business” available through Amazon.