“Why do I keep putting myself through this?” I asked, a drop of hysteria in my voice.
It was 2 hours before I was due to step on stage.
“I don’t even enjoy speaking very much, and it just causes me so much anxiety, for like months, leading up to it…”
My friend Jason turned his head and looked at me.
“Em, you’re going to be great. Don’t worry.”
“Yeah…” I looked out the car window at the Rocky Mountains wishing for something to stop us in our tracks– maybe an avalanche. That would certainly be an appropriate excuse (an “act of god,” in legal terms).
Forget it. There was no getting out of this.
*Flash forward to later that evening.
I had just fielded a number of questions from enthusiastic audience members, parents had rushed up to ask me questions and thank me. The hour and a half I’d spent on stage had flown by in a split second. I felt light, relaxed, relieved and content.
As we packed up the gear, Jason turned to me once more.
“Sorry Em, but I think you have to keep speaking,” Jason said.
I knew he was right. Damn it!
I experienced something very similar in California last week. I had flown out to speak with students at Pomona College. There was a growing knot in my stomach in the days leading up to the event. Why do I keep putting myself through this? I wondered.
But then, later that night as I was leaving the auditorium, I felt that same lightness. And hearing words like “this was the most useful workshop I’ve ever attended in my life,” made it all the more clear… I had to speak. I have to speak, because speaking is not about me.
Speaking doesn’t come naturally to me. I rarely raised my hand in class when I was younger. I am getting past those fears now, but the main reason that I speak and will continue speaking is that I have a message that needs to be shared. It’s not about me.
If you are someone who has long been afraid of public speaking or is just starting to get into it, know that speaking isn’t about you. It’s about the lives you might change, and it’s about the message that you’re communicating– a message that is, or should be, much bigger than you.
Do you feel anxious before getting up on stage? Is it worth it?