Does a Fear of Speaking Hold You Back?

Be fearlessIt’s irritating. Fear wins far too often.

“I’ve got the perfect strategy for dealing with the panic attacks I get when anyone asks me to make a speech”, she said, laughing. “I run away. Avoidance is my answer every time.”

These were words from a fellow delegate, who I’ll call Mary in the interests of discretion, at a recent event about content marketing.

Mary wasn’t being funny and she certainly isn’t unique. In fact, she just follows a path taken by so many of the 75% of adults who admit that speaking in front of others is a major source of anxiety.

When asked about the consequences of her fears, Mary had this to say:

“It’s probably the one thing that holds me back, more than anything else in my business. I get so many great opportunities to promote what we do at events all over the country…and I let everyone of them slip through my fingers. It makes me mad, but I just don’t know I can do it – so I don’t take the risk and try.”

While I’m not going to reprise the entire conversations, here’s the curious thing about Mary’s attitude to speaking…

…She has never given a single speech in her life.

A Fear of The Unknown Can be Debilitating

And yet she was showing a classic reaction to a fear of the unknown. If we perceive potential harm could be on the cards – in this case, the possibility of losing face amongst peers – our self-preserving ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in to save the day.

Of course, in this case, Mary’s inclination to run away is acting as a huge barrier to greater business success.

Can you identify with where she is coming from?

Has a fear of public speaking ever resulted in you:

• Being reluctant to put yourself forward and take new responsibilities?

• Refraining from saying what you know should be said?

• Limiting the expectations you set for others or yourself?

• Playing so safe that great opportunities go by the wayside?

If you said yes to any of these, you’re not alone. The vast majority of people tend to follow suit.

But here’s the thing, as Mark Twain put it so well over a century ago:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Left unchecked and untested – a failure to confront and overcome a fear of the unknown is too often a recipe for unfulfilled potential.

Don’t Let Fear Get in Your Way.

Life’s too short for ‘if only I’d…s’ and ‘what ifs’.

Wouldn’t you rather tell a different story?

Let’s work together and inspire others through your speaking. To find out more click here!


About Eamonn O'Brien

Public speaking master, Eamonn O'Brien is the founder of The Reluctant Speakers Club.

  • rtj1211

    I can’t speak for everyone, but in my own life I noticed the following about fear.

    If I were deputed to play in school concerts against my will, fear was a substitute for anger. It took me about six years of real, real fear of humiliation (after all, I didn’t have a goal other than doing the parents’ bidding) before I got over it. That actually happened by either luck or design when I completely ballsed up the first solo of Beethoven’s Romance in F, then had to listen to a rather virtuouso accompanist showing the world how good he was, before along came the hardest passage of the piece bar none. Somehow or other, I nailed it and I never really felt terror in public again.

    I had similar fear issues on ski slopes and mountains and in both cases, after 6 years of struggling with fear, it suddenly went away. I have no idea, but presumably all the bits of the jigsaw appeared together: ‘you have the technique, you know you do, you’ve been here before, why be fearful?’

    As public speaking is one helluva lot less dangerous than mountains, I found as I got to positions in work where I had to speak in public that I was fearless.

    So one possible solution is go do something far worse than public speaking and see if your fear of speaking disappears??

    The other issue is validation. If you have fears of validation, then maybe you need to ask how important validation from that bunch is. If it’s really important, then the fear may say you’re not yet ready, you not well enough prepared. It might say that you sense they won’t validate you anyway. If so, why hurt yourself trying?!

    Some are born speakers, some grow into it and some struggle for years before suddenly becoming brilliant.

    Just my pound of flesh……