We cannot truly avoid having to give a speech, go in front of a class, or merely introduce ourselves to a stranger in a social gathering or business event. For most of us, the mere thought of having to face this and "show" ourselves to the public is more than bearable - it's completely frightening.
Not too surprising to most, but statistics show that the fear of public speaking rates higher than even the fear of death. However, as irrational as this may be, most people would rather avoid speaking in public than be faced with an irreversible event, such as loss of life.
As human beings, all of us live our lives alternating between the public and private sides of who we are. For those that keep their lives very private, the public place may be a very undiscerning and frightening place. These individuals often hide behind a mask of what they want others to see, due to the fear of being rejected and to avoid perceived judgment by others. We all have behaviors and idiosyncrasies that are best known to only ourselves, and keeping those thoughts and behaviors private is also a part of being healthy and having healthy boundaries. But, the irrational fear of being "exposed" is what drives us to hide behind our masks and avoid situations that trigger this fear. What we may fear is that others will see not only our private side, but our insecurities and vulnerabilities as well.
On a deeper level, public speaking triggers this irrational fear in us; that when we are in front of the public, we are exposed for everyone to see. All eyes are on us and, consequently, our anxieties, insecurities and irrationalities are triggered.
Here is a short list of some tips to overcome the fear of the public:
• Take a few deep breaths before you meet someone new or make your speech.
• Remember you are human and, therefore, imperfect, and are going to make mistakes.
• Realize that having a level of anxiety is part of trying something new and is essential to the growth process.
• Focus on your strengths - an error in speaking doesn't mean you are inadequate.
• Practice your introduction or speech and remember to be authentic to allow the strength of "who you are" to shine through.
• Kavita Acharya Hatten, MS, LPC, is a member of the Ahwatukee Foothills Behavioral Health Network. Reach her at (480) 598-9540 or firstname.lastname@example.org.