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Are you annoyed by the title of this blog? By the implication that such fear is a choice? Hold your judgement for a moment and think about this...

Who am I? The question is so deeply built into us that throughout our lives, in answering it, we create our personalities and characters. And whatever comes after I am... becomes a powerful force in our lives. In many ways we are like sculptors, constantly working our thought chisel, so that the shape of our selves becomes more and more definite. And - here's the news that could be good or bad – the shape of each self becomes more and more fixed.

For example: some trainees turn up to my presentation skills workshops with these beliefs: "I am... someone who hates the spotlight." "I am... someone who doesn't like people looking at me." "I am... not a public speaker." So they're severely hampered making speeches, giving presentations, running meetings - even speaking up at someone else's meeting. 

Incidentally, don't just think it just applies to public speaking. Many other aspects of our lives can be crippled by such beliefs. Like putting on our own handcuffs.

Extreme example

I've seen this in a training workshop. Let's call the trainee Amy. Amy tells us she is terrified of public speaking. However, she wants to improve. So she listens carefully to training suggestions, then tries out an action in front of the camera. Successfully.

The other trainees grin and applaud, pleased for her.

And yet Amy looks unhappy - even when we play the video back to her.

"I didn't like it," she says.

The others are astonished. "Why not?"

"It looks weird."

"But it's obviously better!" "It looks good." "...Best we've seen you."

Amy shakes her head. "Look at my funny hand movement." Hand movement, expression, head, pointy pink ears - you name it - it doesn't look any good to Amy.

A belief? Or the truth?

A belief may be so powerful, we don't see it as a belief at all. We see it as a truth. Which means we're stuck. We choose to stay in a state of fear and inability rather than risk a much greater fear - the fear of being someone we're not.

So, to the point.

Your fear of the spotlight is not a truth about you - unless you make it so. Such fear is part of the armoury of beliefs that make up your ego's I am... You chose it; perhaps passively in increments over the years, but you allowed it to settle in and strangle a future skill. Now, recognize it as a destructive belief and it will start loosening its grip. Then set about deliberately replacing it with a belief that serves you better.

Now, let me sum up. You need both these steps together:

  • Admit to yourself that your idea of yourself as a poor speaker is not absolute reality. Admit that it is a belief and therefore can change as you keep creating the answer to Who am I?.

  • Start acting as if you are a confident speaker. Watch a speaker you admire. Look carefully at what he or she is doing – with voice and eyes and expression and body language. Now start doing those things. Perhaps one thing at a time. Do that gesture you liked. Do that nod that looked confident. Do that looking around, seeking people out.

And please, please get feedback from someone you trust. You're fighting a belief that was probably sculpted in stone years ago. Feedback will soften the stone.

Am I trying to change who you are? No, I'm trying to change who you believe you are.

Time to choose to be more - much more - than you thought you were.


I mean really seen - as in seen through. Actually, you have little choice, you're going to be seen through anyway. An audience can't read your thoughts, but they effortlessly read your inner feeling state, your motivations, your attitudes, the way you see yourself and your life. How? By what you do with your body and voice.

The trick - the most impressive trick - is to get comfortable about being seen through. Yes, that means choosing to be comfortable about who you are.

Interested in training in presentation skills?

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