“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?
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