It was never public speaking itself that bothered me. Once I was in front of an audience, I felt okay. Confident even. But the anticipation leading up to it was almost unbearable. The reliable, steady beat of my heart- duh-dun, duh-duhn, duh-duhn…-would spiral into a disorderly, off-beat flutter. My hands would turn frigid, my fingers feeling like small icicles.
But when I launched my own counseling private practice, I realized almost immediately that I was going to have to push outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to feel like I had accomplished something, that I had something I could be proud of. I wanted to feel like I had created a safe, familiar place for myself and also for my clients.
I counsel women undergoing major life challenges, spending hours each day encouraging them to face their fears, pushing them out of their comfort zones. What would it mean if I couldn’t push myself outside of my own?
So I created a new mantra for myself: “I will try anything new at least once (within reason, of course!)”.
And I did. I stood up in front of a room full of strangers to deliver my elevator pitch. I gave live phone interviews without having much time to prepare beforehand. And I started to regularly facilitate discussion groups where I directed the conversations.
I’ve turned to the tools that help me stay grounded and present in my everyday life, like journaling and meditation, and have found them to be instrumental in keeping me calm when I feel my heart rate starting to increase and the familiar chill creep up in my hands.
My goal in all of this isn’t to knock it out of the park every single time I speak in front of a group. Instead, I focus on simply being proud of myself for showing up, for pushing my own boundaries, and for taking one more small step forward.