So I’ve been meaning to talk about the great experience I had last week, and how enthralling it was to conquer a major fear. Over the course of my life, speaking in front of groups has been one of those things I hated doing. I get the typical shaky leg, which works up to my arms and turns into a very noticeable full arm stuttered. I get the forehead sweats and instead of focusing on actually delivering any sort of speech I start to worry about how I look and completely forget what I’m supposed to be saying. Needless to say, speaking in public is one of my top five fears.
Three weeks ago I wrote “Riffing on Saturn’s Rings” but before I posted it I ran it past a friend, and was fairly caught by surprise with her response. She expressed how much she liked the piece and how inspirational she found it. This instantly made my skin crawl because I really don’t do well with compliments. I’m always afraid my stuff is never good enough or lacks complexity, and then if I do get a compliment I’m afraid the rest of my work will always pail in comparison. So after we talked about my writing and I finally wrapped my head around the notion that it might be half-decent, she suggested that I perform it the following Wednesday. I laughed at the idea because as I stated earlier, speaking in public is uber scary. Unfortunately Fortunately she was serious and she turned into this catalyst that helped me through the process with just enough positive encouragement… she had me believing that I could do it. Looking back, that’s all I needed/we need, someone who believes in our ability to succeed. So when we have doubts or question ourselves, that person will reassure us that we can do it and we will come through the process unscathed and better for it.
So now I’m thinking I can do this, I’ve recited the piece to family members and my mirror like 40 times. I wrote it down three times and went over it countless times in my head as I lay in bed. The day is upon me and I arrive at the venue to find it decently full with roughly 20-25 people. I wasn’t nervous at the beginning, but then the promoter took me to the back to meet the rest of the artist. (Damn you foot… stop shaking) I tell myself to calm down and make small talk with the other performers, reciting the lyrics to Help I’m Alive by Metric in my head – “I tremble, they’re gonna eat me alive… If I stumble, they’re gonna eat me alive… Can you hear my heart, beating like a hammer… beating like a hammer” The promoter comes back and tells everyone their positions in the performance, and I get to go on second. (C’mon… breath deep, calm your nerves) Everyone goes to get their seats, I decided to hang in the back and go over the poem as many times as I could. Out of the four to five times I recited it, I screwed up three times easily. (It’s over!!!) I’m rattled, shaking, and doubting everything… I tend to find comfort in lyrics, so I sing Vultures by John Mayer and tell myself I’m going to come through this. “Down to the wire, I wanted water but I’ll walk through the fire, if this is what it takes to take me even higher, then I’ll come through like I do, when the world keeps testing me, testing me, testing me” Feeling better I get called up to the stage, take the mic and get lost in the moment. I can’t tell you any real specifics of the performance because I literally remember it like it was a dream. There’s no real clarity just a slight fuzzy memory of what took place. I know I did well gauging by the audience’s reaction, and people said they really enjoyed it. I was on cloud nine when it was all said and done, it’s a hard feeling to describe and even harder to mimic.
I think there’s something to be said about looking fear dead in the eyes and choking it out with two calm steady hands. Just standing there and saying “No fear, not tonight… Tonight, you fear me because I’m going to end you” that might be the most freeing feeling in the world. To know you just performed a feat that you didn’t think was possible. I’m in no way, shape, or form over my fear of speaking in public… but I won that day. Over the course of my life, I might lose a couple more times but I know that I am capable of winning. The whole experience has driven home the concept that we tend to limit ourselves as people, when in actuality we can accomplish anything. I challenge anyone and everyone who reads this posting or my blog to dance with a personal fear once a month. You’d be surprised at how great you are if you took a chance.