Moving From Fear into Action and Engagement: An Account of Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking

Lately people have come into my awareness who fear public speaking. I can remember back when I had that same fear but was cured of it when the “meeting binder” was literally tossed into the group by my trainer. He said: “Just talk, you know what you’re doing!”

So I did. 

I knew the material but didn’t realize it until I was literally “forced” into focus!

The mechanics of what happened cured me of my fear of public speaking. When I had the “binder” in front of me, it acted like a crutch. A false sense of safety was created, keeping me small and in my fear:

  • It prevented me from being totally focused on the messages I needed to get across.
  • I was focused on “me” and my fear of not wanting to leave anything out (internal) as opposed to my commitment to the audience getting the messages they needed to get (external).
  • I was focused on the internal taunting of fear (you’re going to miss something, you can’t do this, etc.) as opposed to the communication itself.

The key factor in all this was the shift in focus.

When my attention shifted from my internal small-talk to the external commitment of training and getting the message out – my fear had to take a back seat, and therefore could no longer influence me.

Transformation of Fear

werner

I watched a wonderfully transformative interview from 2016 with Werner Erhard–founder of Erhard Seminars Training (est)–and Penn professor Jonathan Moreno. They discussed a great many things, a few of which stood out enough for me to want to share about in a post.

Fear was one of the topics. Here’s what Werner said about fear:

Fear is pretty close to universal. You can’t get more basic when you’re talking about survival than fear. It’s what is required in a “tooth and claw” environment to be able to function. Walk down a street in the wrong neighborhood and you might feel some fear.

I’m not gonna get rid of fear because it’s a part of my nervous system – it’s biological. The question is: How am I going to be in the face of fear? Most people are never going to ask that question because most people are not going to get in touch with what they fear because to get in touch with what one fears is frightening.

Werner believes it’s important to look at the possibility of equipping ourselves to be able to function effectively and to be useful even when frightened. He suggests that we start to locate the source of the fear by asking ourselves:

“What is it, that this which is frightening for me, remind me of? Can I complete that?”

He mentions that our fear had a useful and legitimate place in our lives when we were children and to have understanding and compassion for that child and their response.

. . . but do I need to have that response to a like situation now that I’m an adult? While it might trigger something for me I don’t know that I need to respond in the way that I responded then.

The example I gave earlier illustrates Werner’s next statement.

Ultimately I really think its possible to get to the place where you’re so related to what’s [jargon] out here that whats going on in the aspects of myself that I don’t have any choice about, reduces the impact of what’s going with those aspects of myself that I don’t have anything to do with.

My internal fear conversation would be what he refers to as: the aspects of myself that I don’t have any choice about. And when he mentions “out here” he is referring to something external, such as my commitment to get the message out to the group.

Here’s another example:

I was training to be a ropes-course manager (RCM) for an outdoor ropes course, responsible for the running of and safety of the course which included people’s lives. If I failed in any part of my responsibilities, the consequences were dire – there was a potential for someone to get seriously hurt or die.

It was the most responsible position I had ever held.

The member of staff who was in charge of the rappel event had called me on the radio. In one ear I could hear his voice and at the same time, in the other ear . . .

 . . . the voice of my fear was screaming at me

“You have no idea what you are doing! Who do you think you are! You need to stop right now and quit this job! Tell them you can’t do it!!

And out of my mouth while listening to all this commotion was – “Rappel, Rappel – this is the RCM. Come in, over.”

It was a very valuable experience. I knew I had conquered fear in that instant. I heard it and observed it, but it wasn’t strong enough to compete with my commitment to be a great RCM who was committed to well-being and safety.

In Werner’s words: I got to the place where I was so related to what’s out here [my commitment to safety] that I was able to reduce the impact of what’s going on with those aspects of myself that I didn’t have anything to do with [fear yelling].

It was a transformation! Werner says:

A transformational experience, to go through a moment after which you’re left free to be and free to act, and when you can leave behind the way you wound up being – when you’re free to choose beyond the way you wound up being – that is so powerful an experience that you’re likely to become overly enthusiastic about it.

Here is the full video!

I love Werner’s work and am proud to say I worked in a program of his for three years. It was amazing and transformed my life. I have other posts where I share more about transformational technology and how it has impacted my life! See below:

  1. Werner speaks on compassion: Finding Your Humanity in Times of Stressful and Uncertain World Politics
  2. Werner speaks on being authentic: Authenticity: Being True to Yourself is the Greatest Gift
  3. On transformation and presentation: A Long-Awaited Change is Coming: Don’t be Surprised if Your Life Starts Shifting in a Powerful Way!
  4. Accountability and personal experience as a 6 Day Advanced Course staff member: How Paying Attention to Your Words Can Increase Your Life Force and Vitality
  5. Moving forward from the future: Creating a Future of Possibility

 

7 thoughts on “Moving From Fear into Action and Engagement: An Account of Overcoming the Fear of Public Speaking”

  1. I see posts like this and wish truly I had the time to put into workshops and go and listen to people speak regarding subject matter I am very interested in. So much to think about regarding fear, Donna, that is so interwoven throughout this post. To go through transformation which affords us opportunities to achieve things we thought we never could, that’s empowering! The subject of “fear” has been in my face lately and every time it comes, I must rise above the panic and the urge to run. For that is exactly what fear does … makes you run so you don’t stay to face that fear. I’ve been hearing stories based on fear, things have happened to us personally that if we allowed to catapult us into fear, would, and everywhere I look with the exception of those who live a protected and privileged life, fear is pounding on everyone’s door. If we don’t have a grasp on our own personal fears, the fears of this world will end up destroying us. EXCELLENT post, one in which brought much thought to the forefront. I am also very proud of YOU for overcoming your fears! Thank you for putting together all the information contained in this post. Again with this I wish I had not the time constraints I do in my life. But, that is the way my life is right now. Much Love to you!! 💞🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a trying time to say the least for many people and if all we can do is hold our ground by acknowledging our fear – then that is a huge step forward! I know you are very pressed for time given all the things you are doing and all the critters you care for. I’ve read about how you are able to think straight when faced with the fear of one of your kids being very sick and you doing the exact right thing to help them without your fear getting in the way! That shows you can be with your fear without it overtaking you and that’s awesome! We do the best we can with what we have! Thanks for your comments, Amy! Take care and much love to you! Donna

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      1. BLESS you, Donna! Your confirmation regarding how I do my best to face fear in my life means more to me than I can even tell you! While I was working in the SICU as a critical care nurse, I learned to put my emotions aside when dealing with an extreme crisis. That is where I learned in spades how to face fear. Yet when applying that to my personal life it is so much harder than even I could imagine. Seeing someone you love struggle and slowly slide downhill, while doing all that I know how to do, is heartbreaking and so stressful. I am indeed honored that you have remembered what I wrote and in so doing you have deeply encouraged me to not collapse, to not stop, and to keep on going. HUGE HUGS!! 💕💋💕💋💕💋💕

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Wow, a critical care nurse – incredible and hugely responsible vocation. I can totally get it – you would suit this position to a “T.” And you would have learned to function with fear in the background, where it needed to be, and not in the way. Like you said though, when it’s personal it is so much harder. You will keep going because that is who you are – you draw a line in the sand and say – the buck stops here! I am inspired by your strength!! Much love to you!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I in turn am inspired by your strength. For you to understand where I am at in my life, you yourself must have experienced similar circumstances. Perhaps not in the way I have but the outcome would have been the same. I honestly do know what it takes to stand firm with fear growling not too far away threatening to destroy everything in its wake. You keep on doing what you are doing. You need to be very very proud of yourself for all the work you have done and the immense progress you have made in your life! Much much Love to you this day! 💕😁🌷💕

          Liked by 1 person

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