My earliest memory of having an "issue" while public speaking was my freshman year in high school. I believe it was an English class, I got up to give a presentation and my voice was shaking so badly it sounded like I was crying. I got about halfway through what I was saying and suddenly I was so paranoid that I was speaking about the wrong topic or did the assignment wrong, I don't remember finishing or how long I was up there, but I do remember when I went to sit down, I had a few classmates tell me "We felt so bad for you! It sounded like you were crying" that was it, it did me in. The rest of high school was spent avoiding speaking in front of the class at all costs, even if it meant failing an assignment.
Fast forward MANY years, I started college in 2008. I looked over the requirements for an associates degree and saw speech on the roster. My worst fear. So what did I do? I took it head on! It was the first class I registered for. It was a summer class, so I knew that it would be smaller than a Fall class and the instructor was rated highly. I started the class and made friends right away. We had to give a speech our first class, it was an "impromptu" in other words TORTURE!! Then the class continued with a speech once a week for the whole semester. The first few were rough, I got the typical shaky voice and the weakness in the knees and the blurry vision, but I did it! I got to a point where I almost enjoyed it! I left the class thinking I could speak in front of others, it wasn't something I loved, but it wasn't something that caused me anxiety anymore. I felt good.
Fast forward to now, almost 5 years later, guess what, I don't like speaking in front of groups anymore. I lost my "mojo" and it's not something I am comfortable with anymore! I can speak up in a group setting as long as it's spontaneous and conversational, but not "speech" like in any way. Even then my heart races and my voice changes a little bit.
So, imagine my surprise last week when TWICE in one day I was put on the spot to speak in front of a group! Goodness, talk about out of the comfort zone! First time came, I was in my sociology class. We are doing a book discussion, the instructor asks 1-2 people to sit in front of the class and lead the discussion each week. Thursday came and the people who were assigned to do it, didn't show up, so it was up to the rest of us, for someone to step up. I reviewed the chapters and found that I could easily speak about one of them, because it touched me in a way that I could offer some good perspective. Before I knew it, I raised my hand and offered. In the two minutes that it took to get situated in front of the class, my nerves kicked in. There was no turning back, but I found myself sitting in the front of the class, talking and then wishing I was blended in and not looking at dozens of eyes staring at me. I summarized the chapter, with a shaky voice. I don't think I took any breaths, because by the time I was done summarizing I was also completely out of breath and had to cough to get my oxygen back! Once that passed, I was fine and actually did ok leading the discussion. I left class feeling like I had accomplished a personal mountain.
Then later in the day, I was at Acilia's class Valentine party. I had offered to run one of the games, but I never do the directing. There was no one there to speak for me, so I ended up having to explain to the class of 20 kids along with the teacher and adult helpers how to play this game. YUCK! On the spot, out of the comfort zone, vulnerable again! I explained it quickly and efficiently and then again felt a good sense of relief!
It's hard to step out, but isn't that what life is all about? Doing the things that make you squirm a little bit? If we do things we are always comfortable with, we don't give ourselves a chance to grow and really experience life and what it offers. It's those moments that I feel the most enlightened. I spoke out in front of many people last week, and hey, I survived!! I don't plan to make a habit of it, but I am an adult and I should be able to do these things with ease. So I am glad I didn't let fear stop me. Maybe next time it will be a little easier!