Fear of public speaking is a well-recognized fear. Why? I have no idea. I’ve never had a fear of speaking to large or small groups.
I spoke not long ago about fear. I told my audience that the Spartans trained thirty days a year as if they were in combat. During the last seven days, they practiced 24 hours a day without food and water. They would march up and down hills – around or over anything they encountered. They trained harder than any of their enemies.
The book, Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield, described the battle of Thermopylae in minute detail. Several of the Spartans were talking one night before the first battle. The conversation was about fear. The veterans had faced combat many times before, but some new men were not as experienced. They feared to die and feared to fail their comrades.
Spartans trained hard under the most severe of conditions. They expected that there was nothing the enemy could do to them that they had not already had experienced. They knew what to expect. They knew how to react. As you face your fears, you become more forgiving of those fears – dark, snakes, public speaking, etc. It was the intense practice that gave the Spartans the courage to face their fears.
As the Spartans were discussing their fears, the conclusion of the more senior and experienced fighters was that fear is overcome by continually assaulting it. You face it, and you face it again until it no longer is fear. As you continue to face it and fight it, you become immune to it – it cannot affect you. Continue fighting what terrorizes you. You will eventually come to the point that you love doing what you are doing – facing your earlier fear and conquering it.
How many public speakers today were deathly afraid of public speaking and now relish the thought of getting out in front of a group of people and speaking or putting on their sales presentation? I believe that fear gives us a chance to carve a notch in our emotional belts – a notch to signify that you faced an impossible task and overcame it. You accumulate victories and begin to accrue a history of success – conquering those things that held you back in the past.
The Prime Directive of your subconscious mind is to prevent failure, embarrassment, pain, humiliation, shame or disgrace. Your subconscious mind will do everything in its power to keep these things from happening to you. If you have a history of failure or embarrassment or humiliation, your subconscious mind will recognize those previous situations and will give you a defense against future occurrences.
Let’s say you were humiliated and embarrassed in grade school when your teacher called upon you. Your subconscious mind remembers that event and will not allow it to happen again. What happens? When presented an opportunity to be in a situation to publicly speak, you will decline or just say nothing. It is the lesser of two responses. Your subconscious mind protected you from another embarrassing moment.
Common sense and logic will not work to change your subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind, your repository of all your fears, can be overcome, but not easily. Your subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between real and imagined, so you can use that flaw to work for you. It takes a lot of imagination and visualization along with other self-esteem improvement techniques to make permanent changes to your subconscious mind.
Fear can be a gift if we approach it the right way and develop a plan to conquer it – a plan to face it and fight it incrementally and continually. Fear gives us a target, a goal to achieve that is personal. It allows us to begin building a new history in our mind’s eye. Overcoming that fear is the reward for that gift.
You’re spot on. In Psychology, you probably know, it’s called…Lord what’s the word…Exposure therapy. It’s not fun…but eventually it works. You just have to keep faith. Love this Red. Thank you.
This was a good read. I thought I had overcome my fear of public speaking having addressed conferences and workshops for many years. But last Friday I had to make a presentation in Italian which is not my native language. It was a bit nerve wrecking! But as the subject was my art, the adrenalin, nerves and enthusiasm carried me though. But I was exhausted afterwards!