Putting my Courage to the Test

TalkI usually try to keep myself out of my writing.  But something has happened that is going to be a massive test of my courage, and so in writing about it I hope my experience will be of help.

My personal courage challenge is public speaking.

I want to overcome this fear so that I can do talks about courage and yes, I see the irony.  I have to practice what I preach so that I can preach.  And so I joined Toastmasters at the beginning of the year to gain practice and support in managing my fear. Toastmasters is an international not-for-profit organization that supports people in developing their public speaking skills.

I am making progress but I still suffer from anxiety before I speak.  I face the tension of my anxiety wanting to hold me back and keep me quiet, and my desire to push through the anxiety and develop. It is the prison wall that I wrote about last time.

Earlier this week I entered our club competition for giving an impromptu speech, and to my pride, and horror, I won. This means in 2 week’s time I have to give an impromptu speech to a wider audience. I won’t know the topic I have to speak about until I am in front of the audience.

This prospect is provoking my anxiety, and is a perfect lab test of my ability to manage myself. And this is what I have found. I have an old script that runs in my head and says things such as:

“this is my worst nightmare”

“I will make a fool of myself”

“my mind will go blank”

“I will go really red, and stammer, and fail catastrophically”

and so on.

But, I have found that I can change the script. I imagine taking a step to the side and looking at these thoughts as really unhelpful. And they are only true if I allow them to be true. Equally true, and far more helpful, are thoughts such as:

“I just won the first competition”

“I am a good communicator”

“I am good at this”

Now my anxiety reduces about 90%. I even find myself looking forward to the event. I am writing this to show you how our thoughts provoke our feelings and our fears, how the only truth they hold is that which you ascribe to them, and how you can change them, with some determination, and therefore change the way that you feel.

Hold steady, keep focused and quietly pass through the prison walls.

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