As I have been facing My 40 Fears this year, I’ve realized that some things I am afraid of now, weren’t fears before. My most frustrating fears are things that didn’t used to bother me at all.
I actually loved them.
Public speaking ranks as one of the top ten most common fears for adults. When I first shared my 40 fears with a couple of friends that have known me a long time, they didn’t believe public speaking should be on the list.
These are people who have known me since me I wore banana clips in my hair. I haven’t worn banana clips for over 2 decades.
With the exception of the one I sported for 24 hours on my hometown visit two weeks ago, because it was totally calling to me from the drawer in my mom’s bathroom. It begged to be worn, so I had to… for old time’s sake.
I was the girl who made Monday morning announcements on the PA system for the high school.
I choreographed a lip sync to Billy Joel’s Only the Good Die Young, so I could have air time on the video monitor in the middle school commons.
I loved attention.
The bigger the audience, the more incredible the rush felt.
Act out a skit in front of my 1400 person high school?
Dramatically recite Hamlet’s to be or not to be soliloquy?
I’ll do it for fun, even though I don’t need the extra credit.
Create and teach a module on legendary customer service, with a microphone on a stage for 200 of my fellow Starbucks managers, and regional management?
How long can I talk?
I took every opportunity to be on a stage, or in front of an audience for most of my life. The music teacher created a part for me to be the lead character’s cat in the school play when I was 6 to be on the stage most of the play.
That’s why I have confidence that this fear will disappear.
Part of the problem, is that I don’t know why I have it in the first place.
There hasn’t been a single traumatic incident that I can pinpoint.
I would be able to process that more easily.
There would be a logical reason for my fear.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we don’t have paid ministers or clergy. Members of our congregation are assigned to give 15 to 20 minute talks on specific gospel topics.
A year ago, when I gave a talk at church on love, my hands shook so badly that my papers rattled. I had to write my entire talk to read rather than speak extemporaneously like I had for most of my life.
My anxiety required not one but two of my prescription Xanax pills, and my knees almost buckled beneath me.
My mouth felt like paste, and I noticed every microphone pop and filler word that escaped my lips.
Hmm. Ummm. Ahhh.
Words that I had painstakingly written jumbled together on the page in front of me. I blinked back tears of frustration as I wobbled my way through the talk.
The audience was full of my regular church going friends. There were less than 200 people including my husband and sons. I was prepared with my content. I was familiar with my audience.
It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but it was, and it has been getting worse over the past few years.
I’m tired of being afraid.
I refuse to let my fears rob me of the joy I experienced doing what I loved.
I met Peggy at Rootstech two months ago. After a brief introduction, warm greeting and handshake she looked directly into my eyes.
“Some people I meet ask me, Peggy, can I become a public speaker like you? I tell them, there is room for you here. We need you.”
I choked out a thank you, and managed to blink away the tears before they ruined my mascara.
Peggy gave me the gift of her time, and outlined in detail what I could do to prepare myself to teach and lecture on the genealogy public speaking circuit. She committed to mentor me, and answer questions I had.
After arriving home, I set my public speaking plan in motion.
I created 2 classes, and I volunteered to present at a genealogy conference.
I was nervous, and sent a tweet out about it.
I’m facing fear 20 #publicspeaking on Saturday. Presenting a #genealogy workshop. Any other tips for me? #my40fears https://t.co/SJq2uNp7Ko
— Genealogy Jen (@GenealogyJen) March 16, 2016
And I received encouragement through responses.
@GenealogyJen Be yourself! You’re going to rock it!
— Lioness Magazine (@LionessMagazine) March 16, 2016
After a couple of hours driving, I arrived early for my presentation. I was able to calmly trouble shoot technical glitches, and prepare my classroom.
I delivered my first presentation before the lunch break.
I didn’t have to give a presentation like a National Archives Librarian. That’s not who I am.
I didn’t have to lecture with meticulously sited footnotes to pedigree charts. That’s not who I am.
I don’t have to be someone else, because I’m Genealogy Jen.
You need me, even if you don’t realize that you do yet. You need me like my 8 year old triplets who think they have life figured out -until one boy doesn’t want to share the video game controller. And meltdowns ensue, and things get ugly really fast before I intervene… which pretty much means you need me immediately and often.
I told stories and shared best practices. I attempted to inspire and encourage. I cracked a couple of jokes, because it made me laugh -even if no one else did.
I was myself.
I was the self that loved entertaining a crowd and teaching. I was the self that spoke extemporaneously, and adapted without panic when I realized my presentation wasn’t long enough half way through my second class.
I was the self that loved public speaking.
Next weekend, I have my second genealogy public speaking gig.
My next public speaking goal is to spend my 40th birthday week public speaking at Rootstech next February as a workshop facilitator, or in some other capacity.
I also want to give a TED talk to share more about what I’ve learned about myself facing my 40 fears.
Dreams become goals when we name them.
Genealogy Jen’s Challenge of the Week– What do you do to overcome the things that scare you most?
Spider Tip -Sometimes you have to get rid of the spider in your bathtub by yourself, because you live alone, and it’s ridiculous to sacrifice your personal hygiene for the sake of a spider’s comfort, or bother a neighbor. Suck it up, buttercup. You’ve got this. PS Turning on the water only makes it worse, because the big ones don’t go down the drain. Trust me on this one.
Those are wonderful goals! You have inspired me. I’ve been wondering if I could present at roots tech too. I would love to hear you speak! What subjects have you been taking about at the conferences?
Thank you for this amazing post Jen!
Thanks for reading it and sharing it via Twitter Jana. I really appreciate it!
I’m so glad your first classes went well! I LOVE teaching genealogy classes. It’s one of my very favorite things to do. Good luck on your goal to teach at RootsTech, that’s awesome!
It sounds like you’re coming along with the public speaking gig! Good on ya, Jen. I’m proud of you. I’ve taught public speaking for twenty some years.
Here’s what I teach:
1. you’re not going to die;
3. practice out loud, not in your head. The head has too much chatter going on, but if you practice out loud, you can hear your voice from the outside and it helps keep you on track.
4. Put an X in places to remind you to breathe.
5.. Time yourself as you practice out loud.
6. If you use notes, avoid long sentences. Writing and speaking are two different skill sets. Make one or two word notes. Plus any statistics you’re using.
And have fun! 🙂
Love these tips Janet. Thank you so much! I can’t wait to implement them next week when I give another workshop. I would love to hear you speak someday. I am sure with your acting background, and years of teaching experience it would be a real treat.
I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2016/04/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-april-15.html
Have a great weekend!
Thank you Jana. I appreciate it!
I love everything about this! Inspirational.
I’ve never been afraid of public speaking, but I do always get stage fright right before, feel like I’ll lose my center, but I swallow back bile and go on. One thing though, I don’t like to talk on tv. Like that must be too big for me or somethin. Twice I’ve been approached for commentary, and I just can’t do it.
Good for you addressing the issue and really getting some help!
Right? The being video taped in general freaks me out. I don’t have Snapchat, a YouTube channel or periscope. I’ve never hung out on Google, and don’t like to Skype. I’ve been thinking about your comment all day. I think it’s related to public speaking. Maybe I have anxiety about ending up on a blooper reel or something being edited out of context. I think practice performance through those methods could be helpful. I could watch and learn. Is the TV fear also because a camera doesn’t emote like a person?
You know, I don’t know. At first I thought it’s because the audience isn’t real, they aren’t physically there. But then I realized, I HAVE A BLOG, and no one’s physically present there, either. It’s odd, these things in our heads.
Thanks for sharing. Good on you for facing your fears head on and sharing the outcome. Good on ya!
This is so inspiring!! I have always hated public speaking. I challenged myself in college though by taking a public speaking class. For my last speech, I pushed myself to not only do the speech but also perform a song I wrote while playing the guitar. It was the bravest thing I think I have ever made myself do, but I know I am more confident person now because of it. This post really brought me back. Thank you for sharing and looking forward to following you accomplish all of your goals 🙂
Thanks Reeanna Lynn! I can’t imagine adding singing to it as well. That would be totally terrifying. (Singing is on my list too.) I appreciate the encouragement. Some of my fears are going to take awhile for me to transition out of… some of them I keep coming back to work on when I think that I’ve resolved them. That’s a sign of growth and change though. Right?
This is a great post. I think the “rush” of public speaking is exactly what can make it terrifying – the same nervous energy that quivers in one’s legs once one get up there channels into the energy that makes a great public speaker seem real, raw, open. I personally love speaking in front of crowds, but I’m definitely nervous in the moments before I get up there!
I totally agree. I taught a class for our women’s group meeting at church last Sunday. I was miked and everything. My hands only shook a little bit and then I realized and remembered that I loved people, and used to love public speaking. The more that I do it the easier it is getting again. Thanks Nicholas. PS sorry I missed your comment in my blog transition.
I have only met you in person maybe three times, but you have changed my life. You have helped my daughter overcome her fear of whitewater rafting which in turn has helped her to overcome other things. In watching my daughter be brave and then in reading our post, I am overcome with the overwhelming desire to be better. When I first started reading your blog, my chest tightened as I thought about writing down my own fears and actually facing what my fears might actually be and how many there actually are. I think I will stick to 40 🙂 Thank you Jen for listening to your heart, to God and for being in the right place at the right time even though you may not have realized it. I love you with all my heart.