Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Road to Public Speaking

Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking and it's something I've suffered with for years. I'm fine in situations where I'm in front of a crowd with a bunch of other people, but when it's just me I have a hard time handling it. The worst time I can remember was in high school. The drama class was doing a Greek play (Antigone, I believe) and I was one of the characters...I don't remember which. I was so nervous, anxious, scared, so many things, that I made myself sick. Can you believe that? So sick that I couldn't do it and someone had to take my place the day of the play. I have never forgotten that. I've always believed that I could do anything, but for some reason I couldn't do that. I definitely had the encouragement of my parents, grandmother, aunts, sisters, and teachers, but I just didn't have confidence in myself when I spoke.

One of my teachers, now a friend, was always encouraging. She believed in me and always gave me a chance (even after missing the play because of my fear taking over). I still can't call her by her first name, so she remains to be called Strick. I always try to remember her tips or encouragement and things got a little better, but never to where I wanted them. I could do plays, chorus, and other things, but I had to be with others and not by myself. 

In college I took lower grades for reports that called for presenting in front of class. I did great on my papers, but the presentation I just refused to do. Why did it matter? I still got As in those classes, so who cares if they weren't 100s. I was fine in  my art classes where it was more discussion with everyone around table, but not when I felt like the spotlight was all on me. Things didn't change much over the years.

When I went to graduate school there was a lot more discussion and interaction in class. I found it worked better for me and I was becoming more comfortable expressing my opinions and talking in front of others. Still not to the point where I could easily get in front of others, but close. I started reading about discussion/interactive based teaching and trying to get involved in things, not just standing behind the scenes.

When I became a librarian I knew that, because I eventually wanted to go into academic libraries, I needed to become more confident and work hard to defeat my fear of speaking. It was very hard to do, but I forced myself. I fought through the nervousness, fear, nausea, and self doubt to try to achieve my goals. I finally got into academic libraries last year and was allowed to participate more in associations and have more flexibility and freedom in creating training classes and modules. I also have wonderful encouragement and support from peers, coworkers, and bosses.

The combination of facing my fears, inspiration gained from school and peers, and support from family, teachers, and coworkers has had a tremendous impact on my life. Now, people come to me for advice on speaking and I'm asked to speak at various events. It's been a tough road and it's taken until I reached 30, but I'm finally able to speak in front of people, alone, without feeling like I'm going to pass out. I still feel nauseous, but I work through it and I make it work for me.

What things in your life have you been afraid of? What have you worked through to reach a goal? I'm curious to see what factors have helped others attain something that was important to them. Until next time....

No comments: