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.


Genealogy Jen rocks a banana clip circa 1990

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?

No problem.

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.

What changed?

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.

An explanation.

An antidote.

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.

And I received encouragement through responses.

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.

Be yourself.

I didn’t have to give a presentation like a National Archives Librarian. That’s not who I am.

Be yourself.

I didn’t have to lecture with meticulously sited footnotes to pedigree charts. That’s not who I am.

Be yourself.

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 sporting a banana clip circa 2016

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.

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