It’s often said, that fear of public speaking is the number one fear…but I disagree.
Have you ever felt deep pangs of insecurity that threatened to over-take your self-confidence in a big way? I will share with you that in the past, I have been scared to the point of actual paralysis. Once, when a “peeping Tom” was looking in my window, I was so startled that I couldn’t speak…or move.
Another time, I was working as a Realtor®, when a very scary man followed me into a condo complex and tried to get at me. In the second experience, I held my own. Even though the man was clearly intent on intimidation, I made direct, albeit brief, eye contact, smiled a quick smile, and then walked assertively past his reach as rapidly as I could, kicking closed the access door that someone had (thankfully) blocked open, and securing myself in the unit until the guy left. I phoned my client and told her to steer clear of the trap, as I watched the man frantically attempting to break into the complex. He was like a wild animal, pacing back and forth and around the complex, trying desparately to find a weak place to break inside, and assumedly to get his hands on me. Although I definitely wasn’t feeling confident, there was no way I was going to allow this guy to victimize me or my client. And that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel the fear; I most certainly did.
How did I know this stranger was bent on causing trouble? In a word, intuition. I felt him coming towards me from half-way down the block. His was a dark energy contrasting vividly against the midday light, in a relatively tranquil area. In fact, he stood out, simply by being on foot. There was little pedestrian traffic along that stretch of roadway, as it is a sidewalk-free industrial section of San Diego with not much to walk to. I have no idea of where he was walking to, but it was clear that he was on a mission. I am guessing that when he laid eyes on me, a piece of that mission became to steal my car…at the least….
I was very young when the window peeper appeared, maybe eighteen or ninteen years old. I called the police to report the early morning peeper, and they assured me that he had likely been frightened away, and that I had nothing to worry about. Still, I stayed gone all day, until I could calm myself and reclaim my territory.
And it was decades later when the man followed me into the condo complex.
As a result of having learned some assertiveness techniques, I was better equipped to handle the latter situation, although it was probably more dangerous than the first experience. In both cases, I was scared. Really scared. And when I survived, I decided to create an automated reaction in case something ever scared me again. Because the fact is, when we are scared, out brains don’t function. In the “fight or flight” mode, we are left to autopilot to take action. And paralysis was not the auto-response I was willing to allow.
The truth is, these are only two quick examples out of the many times I have needed to bolster my self-confidence. There have been countless others, like when I spoke publically about women’s issues as the sole presenter to a university audience, or when I participated as a representative of the Department of Human Services with other experts on various panels, hoping to educate politicians and the public, or when I lobbied the Legislature for support of women’s issues, or when being interviewed for television or radio programs, or when I was stalked for years by an insane ex, or when I needed to fight City Hall because (oops) I built my house 5 feet too close to the property line….
I learned that I didn’t like the feeling of being vulnerable. And that feeling of vulnerability, taught me by contrast of how not to be, that I needed to step into a more confident way of being that stopped others from thinking they could harm me in any way or at any time. It’s more than learning to feel confident. It’s actually to become confident. It’s to automate an assertive (NOT AGGRESSIVE) response.
Let those differences soak in for a moment. There is a difference in learning to feel more confident at ToastMasters, than there is in stepping into your aligned confidence and living from that source of who you are. It’s equally important to learn when to be silent…. And there is a vast difference between assertive and aggressive. The man at the condo from the example above was aggressive. He walked aggressively, and he sneered at me with a stark black anger that penetrated the air and stole the oxygen from the atmosphere. I was assertive as I got out of my car and walked in front of him with my head tall and shoulders back. I was not intent on intimidation. He clearly was.
Women will always have more to fear than do men. And it is up to us to empower ourselves with wisdom for anything that comes up: from a fear of our personal shadows to fear of those who would cause us harm.
Throughout our lives there will be times when we need to speak up, to own our voice, and to assertively state our needs, desires, or position. At those times, we can be more effective if we have mastered how to get our confidence on whenever we need a boost. And the other side of that strength is in learning when to own our voice, and discerning when to remain silent, as doing so may save our life. In my example of the man who tried to follow me into the condo, had I tried to talk to him, I am intuitively certain that I would not have survived the altercation. I’ve seen this example through my years of counseling women who were abused, and of working with their abusers. Escalations take place rapidly when conversations turn to arguments and lead into abuse. Sometimes the best thing to do is to squelch the urge to banter, and to quietly plan the escape when no one’s looking…ahh but I digress….
Let’s face it, there are times that are much scarier than public speaking. And confidence may not get women through every scary thing that can happen. But to be acutely self-aware is the biggest step to automating a radiating sense of confidence, that just may save us along that spectrum of things to fear.
Start by thinking of something that really scares you.
- It could be public speaking.
- Maybe it’s blind dates that cause you to shudder.
- Maybe your greatest lack of confidence comes with facing your finances.
- Maybe it’s that ex who turned into a stalker.
- Maybe it’s fear of looking at your deepest self.
In my decades of working with women, you’d be amazed at how many run from the room screaming when asked to look at their reflection in the mirror…. For many women, that fear trumps public speaking, and even fear of ex partners who transform into potentially deadly stalkers. Confidence and self-esteem are an inside job, and that requires…well, going inside to that place of authentic power. It’s where the true voice hides out…. And the most powerful self-awareness tool I know of, is the mirror….
Regardless of the fear you choose to think of, take that thought and put a feeling with it. What’s the feeling that is associated with the fearful thought? (Okay, I admit to giving you the answer in the question: Yes, of course the feeling is fear.)
Now look at that fear as if it is an entity in front of you, and describe it:
- How big is it?
- What color is it?
- What’s it made of?
- Does it have a gender?
- How powerful is it?
- What can it do to you?
Notice your physical body as you ‘see’ your fear in front of you.
- Notice your posture.
- Notice your breath.
- Notice that crease in your forehead.
- Notice you palms; are they sweating or dry?
- Notice your hands; are your fists clenched or open?
- Notice your shoulders.
- Notice your heart beats.
- Notice any stress in your body.
- Notice where you feel this fear, physically.
So now that you have a clear picture of the thought, the emotion, and the physical effect this all has on you, begin to really focus on what you get from this fear. Yep, you get something for holding onto this fear or you would have released it long ago….
- Do you get to feel helpless?
- Do you get to feel special?
- Do you get an excuse to live small?
- Do you get to scare yourself?
- Do you get to play the role of ‘victim’?
Get clear about the benefits of holding onto this fear….
- Does it keep you safe?
- Does it offer you a place to hide?
- Has it just been with you for so long, it’s a familiar face?
We humans tend to confuse familiar with comfort. Sometimes things that are familiar are not at all comfortable. There comes a time when even the most comfy pair of slippers have outworn their usefulness and become uncomfortable….
- Is it time to let it go?
- Is it time to own your confidence?
When you are ready, express your appreciations to your fear. Thank it for hanging with you for so long, and for all its attempts at keeping you secure in the familiar…. Tell it that you’ve “got this.” Because, you do….
Love it. Thank it. And then ritualistically, release it. Symbolically give it to the trash recepticle, to the fireplace, or to the released helium balloon. Just let it go.
Then don’t pick it up again.
So now that the fear is released, notice your body. Take note of how much lighter and freer you feel physically.
That’s because you have been storing a lot of energy that is now free to circulate, to be used for more productive purposes such as affirming your worth, and claiming your deserving to live the limitless life you were born to experience.
So enjoy it. ♥
Affirm your right to feel, and to be confident. Instill a sense of self-worth and confidence in your toolbox.
Practice this technique whenever you feel or think of anything fearful. In fact, don’t wait for the fear to creep up. Instead, go into your sacred chamber and connect with you. Open each little compartment where you store old stuff. And look at each memory in the way that you were instructed to do above. The more you release, the more confidence can circulate through your life.
Thank you, often.
If your self-confidence could use a boost, or your self-esteem an over-haul, schedule a complimentary strategy session. But only if you’re willing to do what it takes to step into your whole beautiful empowered self.
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