Anxiety and Public Speaking

Anxiety and Public Speaking


I was awakened this morning with a pit in my stomach going over the dream I had that night.

I was at a local bookstore getting ready to give a speech when I suddenly forgot what I was going to say, staring blindly at the audience with notes clenched in my hand. I mustered up the strength to look down and the paper was blank. I heard laughing coming from the audience so I slowly turned around and walked off the stage.

Public speaking is listed as the number one fear in the US, according to Toastmasters, just ahead of death. So by statistics, we would choose dying instead of making fools of ourselves.

Avoidance has been a remedy for me regarding public speaking and according to psychologist Liya Panayotova, “avoidance leads to more avoidance.” It is true, as I avoided situations that placed me in public speaking venues. For example, college classes that required me to speak in front of the class, or in my professional career, choosing to steer away from positions that would require me to make presentations in front of potential clients.

Spiraling downwards, avoiding any situations that would involve a central fear of being scrutinized or evaluated by others, avoiding the unpleasant emotions and anxiety attached to public speaking had come at a high price for me in my career. Most importantly, it impeded my growth and happiness.

Over the years, as I have embraced my own healing journey, I found Brene Brown’s work on “showing up and letting ourselves be seen” as a guided wisdom to apply to my own life. Not embracing my story and running away no longer worked for me. The price had become too high and I needed to change.

Perfectionism and self-worth have been a great battle for me. Buying into perfectionism only produced the feelings of shame and the doubt led to settling for less as I felt, “not good enough.” My worth was associated with what others told me, their opinions of me. Brene says that when you are excessively focused on what others will think of you and how they judge you, it is likely that you will attempt to be perfect. This form of thinking only isolated me from what was truly the gem:, love, happiness, and connection.

Author Melissa Woods Blog Anxiety And Public Speaking

Here are some tips that helped me to address anxiety around public speaking:

  1. Seek out a professional to help uncover the skeletons that hold you back. I used hypnotherapy and NLP to direct that negative thoughts and fears associated with getting up in front of an audience. It helped in acknowledging what was happening in my mind and body and how to correct the negative self-talk that was associated with the fears.
  2. Expose yourself to public speaking. Yes, it is true. The more you place yourself in situations that evoke negative emotions and thoughts, you can make friends with it and the fear will lessen. This one was very hard for me as my initial response from stepping out of my comfort zone was to run. Practice, practice, practice….
  3. Create a mantra! It can be as simple as, “I am worthy of my dreams. I fulfill my dreams now.” I learned this in NLP as it had power over the negative self-talk. Once you commit to overcoming your deep-rooted fear, you will begin to remember what it’s like to be brave.

While writing this article I came across this quote that I would like to share. It is from Joseph Campbell:

“The cave you most fear to enter contains the greatest treasure.”

Let’s take this journey together and walk with the desire to find that treasure….


Photo credit: Unsplash by David Laws