I was asked to be a guest speaker at 3 networking events last month, and they all fell in the same week! When it rains, it pours! Without hesitation, I said yes, despite the old familiar feeling of anxiety creeping in! I’ve been facilitating support and Meetup groups for over a decade, speaking in front of people I don’t know, joined multiple Toastmasters clubs and of course, facilitating the Getting Over Stage Fright workshop. I’d gotten comfortable with all of these events that I host.
Thanks to a shout out from my coach on social media, I was connected to an event manager about being a guest speaker. That first call was rough and I resorted to my “safety behaviors” – can I make it more interactive? Do I have to do a PowerPoint?
Basically, things that would make me feel “safer” and in control. There were 2 options, one for a large conference with an expected 300 people turnout – yikes, let’s start smaller. The other one had an expected 20 – 25 people in attendance. Then 2 more requests from unrelated networking events followed not long after that.
Having the title of “Guest Speaker” set a higher expectation in my mind, especially because all 3 of the event leaders hadn’t seen me speak before and only met me very briefly at events. The fact that they were fully promoting me and my talk all over social media was completely surreal to me, and I felt much more pressure than usual.
It’s the deep fear that you’re not good enough, not credible enough, and/or not experienced enough, aka Imposter Syndrome.
It holds people back because they’re constantly questioning themselves with things like:
- “What if other people have built me up to be a bigger expert than I really am?”
- “What if I get exposed or somebody in the audience questions my thoughts and I don’t know how to answer their question?”
- “Do I deserve these opportunities?”
There is so much fear and anxiety that builds up from this, that you either miss opportunities or your stress levels are so high that you have sleepless nights and it takes your energy away when you do get up to speak.
Fortunately, I recalled entrepreneurial term of “New Level, New Devil” relatively soon and it brought me back to more realistic thinking. I was grateful to recognize this concept and have some podcasts to listen to. These speaking events were to be monumental steps for me! It didn’t mean it had to create more pressure for me, rather more excitement!
Focusing on Sharing Your Message
The process of sharing your message and being a life-changer:
- Wanting to “be seen” requires a fundamental shift.
- A shift where you make the decision that what you say matters.
- A decision to share your message in a bigger way.
- When you do this, you take responsibility for your life.
- You allow yourself to step into that spotlight and start sharing your knowledge.
- Acknowledging you’re not doing it for yourself, but to be of service to others.
In my case, I needed to share my experience of my years of relentless anxiety, living a self-limiting life – what I’ve learned from it, transformed it into, how I’m able to turn it into inspiration and action steps for others for others to overcome their own fears.
My big takeaways
The highlight of my speaking adventures that week was when a woman approached me at the end of my talk and thanked me profoundly.
A few weeks later, I went to large, packed, full-day networking event, and that woman was up front on the microphone, hosting and MCing an enormous audience. I ran into her on a break, and she thanked me again, saying “You can now see what I was nervous about, you helped me so much”. I’ll never forget that moment. Coincidentally enough, for the first time, I could actually see myself up on that stage one day giving a talk – with excitement, not full-blown anxiety!
How do you know when you’re ready?
When it comes time for stepping up and being seen, the fear that may come up for you is “I don’t know if I’m ready or qualified enough yet.”
There will never be a good time to do anything. There’s always adversity, fear, uncomfortable sensations, problems, distractions and so on. We tend to believe that we first have to overcome of all of these obstacles before we can actually take action and do what we want in life. Understanding that things won’t change until action is taken is important.
Ask yourself this question: “What if I won’t ever be ready to speak in front of a large group?”
The answer is that you’ll never be ready. What successful people have learned more than anything else, is to take action in the face of fear and uncomfortable feelings. It’s important that you start going out into the world and make new experiences regardless of your fear.
The Comparison Trap – we all get stuck in it from time to time
This is when people compare their beginnings to other people’s middles.
They perceive other people doing bigger and better talks – they’re more polished, they’re more confident than you, and they’re more accomplished, etc. You know how this list goes.
What we fail to think about is where these “better” speakers started. It may be the 100th time they’ve given that amazing presentation – you didn’t see the 1st one or 10th one and so on.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and all you have to do is take it one step at a time.
You’re already good enough.
All you need to do is focus on “day one”, not “one day”.
Instead of waiting around, thinking “one day, I’ll do XYZ”, think “this is day one, and I’m just getting started” and make the decision to take action and start being seen.
Over time, as you continue to detangle the chains of fear that are holding you back, instead of having regrets, you’re going to have a massive amount of experiences you can look back on with pride.
The end result will be saying to yourself “You know what? I went through some major anxiety challenges. And I’m so much better because of it.”