Yesterday, I conducted a workshop on chronic pain and how our bodies communicate to us through physical sensations because they love us.
The irony is, I have a fear of public speaking and my body knows this. The mere thought of speaking to a group of people I don’t know seizes my chest, sweat pours out of my pores and I stop breathing. When I am on a group call, I often write down what I want to say so that I can read it, otherwise my brain can’t find and formulate the words it intended to say.
When I was seventeen, I was on stage for a competition. At the beginning, all I had to do was walk to the microphone and state my name and hometown. That’s it. Sounds easy, right? I thought so, too. No biggie.
Except when I got to the mic, my mind was blank. Completely frozen. I was wordless in a not-so-mindful way. I stared out at a crowd of what felt like 3,000 people.
The audio-engineer turned down the music. He probably thought my voice was too soft to hear over it.
Then someone in the crowd yelled, “You can do it!”
I stuttered what I think was my name, didn’t bother with a hometown and ran off the stage.
This memory plagues me anytime I have to speak to any more than three people I don’t know at once.
To add irony to irony (is that a thing?), I’m a Life Coach and I know that it’s all thought-based, lizard-brain, text-book “freeze” response.
I’ve tried EFT tapping, which helped bring it from a 9 to a 5. I’ve done various work on dissolving my thoughts such as “I will freeze again” and “I will sound like a bumbling idiot.” I regularly do Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds, breathing and guided meditations.
Any new tool I am exposed to, I try. I even had a fellow coach suggest I introduce myself, and begin a relationship with, my Future Self. She was very nice, by the way. Yet, my fear and anxiety was not alleviated. I was still not sleeping and my talk was two days away.
The day before I was to speak, a dear fellow coach suggested we try a different approach, “Let’s envision thawing out your frozen state.”
The visualization meditation helped immensely to alleviate my pre-speech jitters, and in doing so I had the insight that I’m choosing to do the speech despite my fear.
Why did I agree to speak?
Because I believe learning to communicate with your body and to understand its messages is life-changing. Because people who live with chronic pain don’t have to. Because my story, my experience, can help others and that’s worth so much more than my fear!
The morning of my workshop, I received a video in my inbox featuring Dr. Chris Germer, who had also suffered for years from the fear of public speaking. He, too, tried every tool he could find to alleviate it.
Until he realized it wasn’t about fear and anxiety…it was about shame. About feeling worthy. What he needed was self-compassion and to trust himself.
That’s when the light bulbs went on. I had been going about it the wrong way.
I was giving a speech on how much our bodies loves us and supports us. I know from profound experiences that I can trust my body to do what is best for me.
Once I could surrender to the belief that whatever is intended to happen will happen….once I could see myself in my audience…once I could understand our common connection…I believed I was worthy to speak to them. Worthy to share my message that could help them alleviate their pain.
My pre-speech ritual began with grounding and centering, a loving kindness meditation, some EFT tapping, a dose of Jin Shin Jyutsu finger holds, and a surrendering of trust to the moment.
You know what? I didn’t freeze. I had some second-guessing of myself in the beginning, but it moved forward. I found a groove and it flowed. I was myself. For the first time in 21 years it felt natural.
If you fear public speaking, try giving yourself some love, kindness and compassion.