Do you love public speaking?
Do you aspire to stand in the spotlight and let your light shine brightly or does it send you into a cold sweat running for the lavatory in a state of panic? For some of us, a speech in front of a room full of our peers is an opportunity to connect, inspire and teach.
I ask you for to rewind back to your 10 year old self, living in a world that felt much smaller and safer than the one we share space in now.
This post is a story of you and of me.
Of fear and courage.
Of truth and dignity.
This week I was invited to my 10 year old daughters classroom after an unfortunate turn of events earlier in the week. In today’s world we are our children with the gift of public speaking from the age of 4. My introverted, big-hearted daughter took on this challenge by embracing her love of the animal kingdom and impressed me with her dedication to her 4 minute speech written all by herself to educate her class on bears.
Hand-crafted on cue cards.
Rewind to Monday, April 24.
Somewhere on her way to school, Sofia took a big gulp of performance anxiety with a self-doubt chaser. Rather than proudly sharing her speech with her class, as she stood before them she broke down into tears, unable to get past the first word.
Can you relate?
Has the adult version of you ever choked up or froze in the face of judgement? Likely you didn’t break down into tears, but there may or may not have been a margarita and some emotional eating and some retail therapy behind-the-scenes.
Success looks different for all of us.
When invited to present at a conference or lead a workshop my heart sings, “Ooh…YES! What an honour and blessing to speak to a room full of smart, talented interesting people and foster innovation, creativity and growth…YES!!!!!”
Most people who meet me as an adult are more than a little surprised to learn about my paralyzing shyness as a child. The 42 year old version of me talks to people everywhere I go…especially now that I market non-toxic shampoo that re-grows hair (crazy I know!).
Yet, the 10 year old version of Lisa broke into tears and ran away on the playground when a well intentioned child said the unimaginable and horrific word, “Hi!” to me. A panic attack, not public speaking, would have been the only option for me.
What is this huge truth about public speaking?
I could see that the fear based thinking in her mind had grown into a fire breathing dragon, so I busted out some classic wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert.
We talked about how public speaking is scary even for adults. That fear will be her constant companion. That if she were ever in the woods and ran into some of those bears she was speaking about, fear was her best friend. But for today it was best to tell fear to sit quietly in the back seat or else get locked in the trunk of her car.
This made her laugh.
Laughing is good.
Laughter is a release.
I wish I could say that I am just that good of a coach that she marched into her classroom and gave the speech of the century greeted by a standing ovation and flower petals cascading all around her.
Yeah, that did not happen.
The fear came rushing back and swiped her metaphorical car keys out of her hands and raced around the track so fast that she was left blurry and dazed and defeated.
As I stared into her big beautiful brown eyes, so full of trust and fear and love and tears, I too was overcome with emotion.
What should I say?
How could I help her when the 10 year old me could never have fought off this dragon?
This wasn’t my first rodeo with fear.
Or my last.
Not even close.
I chose love, humour and encouragement….and I may have thrown in a naughty word for impact; you know it works!! And I may or may not have asked her if I could stomp on her foot …you know to take her mind out of her mind with a little pain. I will mention that we did the super hero pose as seen on TedTalks, a highly respected technique.
We took the foot off the gas pedal.
In terms of personal branding, she stayed true to her core values: compassion, intimate and connective.
Sofia delivered her speech, but instead of standing in front of the entire class, she spoke in a more intimate setting to her teacher and five friends where it felt safe. Thank you Madame Bower for your grace and compassion and your time.
A public speaking win for Sofia didn’t look like it did for anyone else in her class.
A win is unique to the individual.
Her win was a compromise.
In the evening we celebrated her win because celebrating is important. She even told me it felt good to lock her fear in the trunk of the car.
That is a win for me.
A beautiful big one.
She is already talking about her speech for next year.
What is your definition of success?
How are your fears holding you back?
Can you lock them in your trunk?
Your time is precious, thank you for reading.
Work, live and play in FULL bloom,
your Coach, Lisa van Reeuwyk