When it comes to anxiety, we can be masters at creating our own monster. Here's how to stop magnifying fears and enjoy your life.
When it comes to helping our fears thrive, nobody is more practiced than those of us with speech anxiety. Is that you?
There's no doubt that fear of public speaking is real, sometimes debilitating, and always disheartening. Why should we worry and even avoid situations where we can share our knowledge and passions with others?
Equally troubling (or even worse), is the fact that extreme stage fright is an inappropriate response. When we experience the extreme psychological and physical changes that accompany the freeze-fight-or-flight response, it's for a good reason. Or, it was originally for a good reason: to help us escape danger to fight another day. But there's little actual danger in giving a presentation. Still, because of the exposure and very real fear involved, we equate the public speaking appearance with desperate situations that our ancestors faced.
And we respond with the do-whatever-you-can-to-survive reaction which they actually needed.
Do you experience stage fright? Want to love public speaking instead? Discover how in my free cheat sheet, "10 Fast and Effective Ways to Overcome Stage Fright."
Of course, experiencing an overblown or even inappropriate response isn't limited to public speaking. Think of how you can explode when something small and insignificant happens, because of the stress you're feeling toward another situation whose serious nature is very real.
How to Bring Your Anxiety and Fears Down to Size
Whatever the reason or appropriateness of our stress response, it's common for us to magnify our fear far beyond reasonable grounds. In effect, we create a monster.
In a talk I give on overcoming the fear of public speaking, I use a slide which visualizes this perfectly. It's an electron microscope image of an insect—and it looks like something straight out of one of the Giant Bug movies of the 1950s.
"This," I say as I click on the slide, "is your fear of public speaking. It's big and monstrous, and it looks like it's going to eat you up!" (Indeed, the photograph does look that way.) "But you know what this is? . . . It's a backyard cricket, about a quarter of an inch long. It couldn't hurt you if it tried." And the next slide is a photo that shows the insect in its true dimensions.
I finish my opening with: "Today, we're going to look at how you can bring your public speaking fear down to size in the same way." And then I talk about practical, hands-on ways you can overcome your fear of public speaking. These are the same approaches and techniques that I discuss in my book on the subject, Fearless Speaking.
It's Time to Enjoy Your Life Again
The stage fright, panic attacks, and avoidance behavior that accompany fear of speaking make many people's lives miserable. Even worse is the idea that professional opportunities and promotions are being missed.
These speakers can feel as though they're encased in a hard shell, that they just want to break out of to be themselves again.
In 1948, the success guru Dale Carnegie wrote a book titled How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Just the title is, I've always though, a revelation. Even before you might read it, though, you can start by bringing that monster in your back yard down to size.
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If speaking anxiety is making you miserable, there's a way out. Discover the book that can help quiet your fears and change your life. Get your copy of Fearless Speaking today!