It can be ‘so’ frustrating. You could know your subject inside-out and backwards, have year upon year of battle-tested work experience, possess myriad qualifications (and then some), have insights others really should hear, have risen through the ranks in your chosen professions or career…
…And still find yourself questioning your ability to speak well to audiences that matter to you – in boardrooms, at meetings or at events.
How could that be? Especially if you know you’re every bit as well (for which read: “likely better”) placed to deliver ideas that should be shared as others AND you’ll feel upstaged or slighted if someone else speaks up and you don’t…
…But something might still hold you back. A form of fear.
How self-doubt can undermine your leadership potential
For a shockingly high number of senior executives that something is a variation of a phenomenon called: ‘ the imposter syndrome’
And what’s that?
It’s a form of self-doubt that’s been around forever and was finally given a name by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978…
…who found many high achievers find ways to undermine their professional accomplishments and accolades by deciding they’re not really deserving enough of these things. And instead of backing themselves and giving themselves a pat on the back for what they have done, they manage to pick faults with themselves – thinking things like:
You’re not really that good. Who do you think you are? Don’t be giving yourself airs and graces. If people knew the real you, they’d realise you’re a bit of a phony or a fraud.
And why on earth do they do this? Two words: Self-protection.
They fear that if others think ‘he/she is getting ahead of their real abilities’, they’ll be judged harshly and be set up for a fall – Where people might think:
I knew you were short of the mark. You’re getting too big for your britches. It’s time you were brought down a peg or three.
What this really amounts to is a worry you could appear foolish in the eyes of people that matter to you. And that worry can be enough for you that you: a) sell yourself short, and/or b) become less visible than you know you should be…Because you don’t want to risk being in a ‘line of fire’.
If this sounds familiar, that’s not surprising. Most everyone has self-doubts. That’s inherently human. BUT, they don’t need to constrain the real you and the gifts you can share.
2 Thoughts to help you overcome public speaking self-doubts
#1 Catch yourself doing things well
Choose to always first give yourself credit for what you do well in the talks you give before focusing on places where you could have been better.
Here’s a truth about speaking that I’ve addressed in many previous blog posts. Speaking is never about perfection. So don’t make that your aim.
In fact, chasing after perfection or not making mistakes when giving a talk is a mug’s game as audiences don’t expect, want or even value perfection. They’d far prefer you to be approximately right, human and interesting.
So celebrate every success – small or large – you have in the latter department of what audiences really want.
And if you can then find ways to incrementally build on these in every subsequent talk, you’ll be astonished by how rapidly this can be translated into better and better audience experiences over time.
# 2 Grass on the other side of the hill is rarely greener
Avoid the sin of comparing yourself with other speakers – where you imagine you need to emulate them to be considered in the same league.
Reality check: If you sound like others, why should an audience heed you and not these other folks?
Truth is, the only reason any audience should be listening to you is you have something to say and have opinions that are worth hearing – and these are best delivered from the real you.
So forget trying to imitate other speakers or thinking you need to impress people through performance.
It’s easier, more engaging and way more authentic to just be ‘you’ minus any trappings, smoke or mirrors…
…And once you can adopt this more liberating mindset, you’ll find it easier to focus far more on what you think (which is the bit the audience’ll value) than how you appear!