Eliminating The Fear of Public Speaking
has a hard time looking directly at the faces staring intently at
him. His hands start to perspire, his mouth feels as if it’s filled
with cotton, his heart pounds wildly against his chest, and his mind
is consumed with a single thought: “Oh God, I’m going to die!”
about to face a firing squad? No. Jeff is just getting ready to
give a speech. This is the terrifying experience that over 200
million people have when they have to speak in public.
When ranked, the fear of speaking in public is the number one fear,
surpassing even the fear of death.
Jerry Seinfeld once put it: “Most people at a funeral would rather
be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.”
Sufferers have tried everything from picturing the audience in their
underwear, to hypnosis, to various forms of psychotherapy. Most of
these approaches don’t permanently eliminate the fear and they may
take many months and cost many hundreds of dollars.
is it that causes two out of every three Americans to recoil in
terror when told they will have to address a group of people? And
even more importantly, what, if anything, can be done to get rid of
possible to be one of those select few who seem to be at ease in
front of a large crowd, who seem to be at their peak when giving a
presentation. Here are four steps to help you become one of those
people and get rid of your fear of speaking in front of crowds:
1. Identify the beliefs that cause the
Standing up to speak in front of a group of people is not inherently
scary. If it were, everyone would have a fear of public speaking,
which they don’t. What really causes the fear are a series of
beliefs that many people hold. You need to identify which of these
beliefs causes your fear of public speaking. Only then can you
really go to work on the next step. Some of these beliefs include:
Mistakes are bad and if I make a mistake, I’ll be rejected.
These two beliefs often make a person nervous that they will
make some type of mistake, which will then cause them to be
People aren’t interested in what I have to say. These beliefs
cause presenters to doubt their own credibility and assume that
they are not qualified to be speaking on a particular topic.
I’m not capable, I’m not competent, I’m not important and I’m
not good enough. People with these beliefs are terrified that
the audience will discover these things about them as a result
of a less than perfect presentation.
2. Find out when the beliefs were
Most people find out that the beliefs that cause their fear
of speaking in public stem from childhood experiences with their
parents. Here are a couple of examples to make this clear.
When you were a child and your parents got upset when you didn’t do
what they wanted you to do, you may have concluded that “Mistakes
are bad.” When you were a child and mom and dad didn’t spend much
time with you, you may have concluded “I’m not important.”
3. Find alternative interpretations for your beliefs.
To get rid these beliefs, you need to take a different look at what
actually happened. See it from other perspectives. Realize that
the events of your childhood could have several different meanings.
For example, if mom and dad were frequently critical and usually
didn’t acknowledge you for things you were proud of, you would
likely conclude: “I’m not good enough.” That is one possible
interpretation. But it is not the only one.
Alternate explanations could be: “My parents just wanted me to reach
my full potential, it isn’t that I’m not good enough.” “My parents
just had unreasonable expectations of me.” “Maybe I wasn’t good at
a few specific things, but that doesn’t mean that as a person I’m
not good enough.” In other words, what we think is “a fact” as a
child is merely one interpretation out of many possibilities.
4. Recognize that you never really “saw” your belief in the world
and what happened has no meaning until we gave it a meaning. Here’s
what I mean. When you were a child and your parents got upset when
you didn’t do what they wanted you to do, you may have concluded
that “Mistakes are bad.” It seemed like “Mistakes are bad” was a
fact that you saw in the world. But you didn’t really see this
belief, you only saw that your parents were upset at you when you
didn’t do what they wanted. Your belief—the meaning you gave to
their upset—exists only in your mind.
When you were a child and mom and dad didn’t spend much time with
you, you may have concluded “I’m not important.” But, of course,
you didn’t see this belief either. You only saw that mom and dad
weren’t around very much. The meaning of their behavior exists
only in your mind. Your parent’s behavior had no inherent
meaning until you give it a meaning.
When you realize that your belief—the meaning you assign to the
events—exists only in your mind, it will no longer be “the truth”
for you. And when all of the beliefs that cause the fear of public
speaking—or any other fear or negative emotion for that matter—are
gone, the negative emotions are gone too. Permanently.
people have resigned themselves to believing that they just weren’t
meant to be a speaker. Instead of shying away from opportunities to
contribute and lead discussions, learn how to overcome your fears.
Don’t let a fear of public speaking hold you back from achieving
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