Death, childbirth, and public speaking scare us because we simply don’t know. We don’t know because we have not done them before. Ask any woman if their second delivery was not easier than their first. Ask public speakers if their second appearance was not smoother than their first. Harder to do with death, I will give you that.
I personally was scared shitless of public speaking. Like – can’t say my name in a group of 3 or more – kind of scared shitless. Then 10 years ago, I was invited to do a TedX Talk. As in scare-me-the-fuck-shitless TedX talk.
Fear is a funny thing. I can be scared of a spider but comes a coyote, that scares me more, but comes a bear, that scares me even more, but then comes a hungry lion, and all of a sudden the bear, the coyote, and the spider don’t scare me so much.
More than public speaking, what scares me most is to live with potential in my back pocket, untapped.
So here I am invited to speak at the first TedX Women in San Fran.
In this scenario, public speaking is the bear. Living life with my potential unexpressed – now that’s a hungry lion.
So, I say yes. From that yes, I vomited most meals and had diarrhea straight up to the morning of the talk. Sleepless nights, anxiety attacks, and picking up the phone to back out altogether.
But the hungry lion would roar, and I would reshuffle my inner priorities, and re-rehearse my speech yet again.
The morning of, next in the queue, as they’re hooking up my mic, in a blur, I dial my dear friend Gay Hendricks and say: “I can’t do this” and he says: “Yes you can. Breathe slower. Three breaths deeper and your systems will slow down. You can’t have anxiety in a slower system. This isn’t about you. You are there to be of service. Go be of service.” OK. Breathe deeper. Hang up the phone. Yes. This is not about me. My 200 pounds weight loss story can help someone. OK. Breathe. Let these people guide me to the stage door. Breathe a little more.
He’s right. I’m calming down.
What’s the worst that could happen anyway, really? I tank? Forget what I want to say. OK. That’s ok. And then I just let go and that’s blissful.
And I’m talking. And there it is. I know what I’m saying. It’s my story. I hear people laughing. I see heads nodding. OK. Keep talking. I see people clapping. Standing-up even.
They liked it. I liked it. So, I kept talking. I speak publicly for a living today. I still hear the lion, but now he roars in my chest because humanity likes when we overcome our scared shitless-ness.
Sometimes I have to remember Gay’s voice in my ear saying – you can do this – but for the most part, I have a blast speaking in public now. What changed? I know what to expect. My nervous system has information about how it goes. I know how it feels. I’m not scared anymore.
The unknown is what scares us. Then we do it, and it’s not as scary, then not scary at all, and before we know, we’re having fun.
Humans are no stranger to this equation…we don’t know ourselves well. So, we are scared of our own selves.
Explore – like if you were going to the moon. Get to know you. Make that the next frontier. Within. You are the moon.