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Speaker Blog: Nightmare on Overwhelm Street

Oct 25, 2022
Ghost podium and bats

No, it’s not a ghost or a zombie or even a scary clown - it’s a microphone, and it’s your turn to give a talk in front of a crowd. Cue horror scream.

But seriously, for many folks, public speaking ranks as one of the top fears, some even ranking it above death itself. I don’t mean to be macabre - though Halloween is right around the corner. But the thought of being scrutinized, deemed unworthy, and shamed in front of a jury of your peers is terrifying. I say jury because that is how our brains flip it- suddenly, we are on trial - receiving a sentence of self-assured winner or pathetic loser. And if we decide it’s the latter, the scene we picture or some variation thereof, is us frozen in shame as the crowd yells a resounding “Boooo!” And it’s not just the discomfort of this moment - it’s the proverbial wound it inflicts on our self-esteem - one we believe will not heal. And with this loss of internal status blooms the fresh fear of being rejected and ultimately abandoned by others. (Credit to Brene here.) And let me be clear, the scenario I have just described hasn't even happened - this is merely a narrative we have constructed. 

My gosh, what a grim story this is... a psychological thriller, to be sure. Cue commercial music: Take my masterclass, and you will conquer your fear in 60 minutes. I wish. Nope, it doesn’t work like that. There isn’t a magic fix. Nor is public speaking the Nightmare on Overwhelm Street we’ve imagined it to be. Flip on the house lights and it turns out we are the shadowy figures lurking in the darkness. But make no mistake. It will involve a death of sorts. The timely end of worn-out ways of being that have kept us safe and kept us pacified and kept us quiet. 

If speaking is your dream- and you yearn to share your vision, tell your story, elevate your voice - it's time to stop skulking about the periphery and ghosting your own aspirations. And get ready, because you are going to skin your knees, forget the words, feel the heat in your face, fall down, recover, breathe, get back up and do it all over again. And it is in doing the slow and deliberate work of showing up, we realize that we can navigate these learning curves. And wouldn’t you know it, they don’t lead us over a cliff - annihilating our identities, but transport us to juicy depths and unforeseen heights. And what we thought separated us from others, is really the stuff of our beautiful and messy aliveness … and, more often than not, makes for the most impactful talks. Take one small step; the scariest thing that can happen is not to try. I am rooting for you!