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Fear of Public Speaking

I just declined a speaking engagement.

Whenever I have spoken publicly before, I forgot to breathe, and my voice got all breathy and quivery, and my neck got red blotches, and when I got finished my friends were like, “… um… are you OKAY?! What’s wrong with your NECK???”

And besides my obvious physical deformities, I have this condition wherein it is actually painful to me to witness someone embarrassing themselves or otherwise in an uncomfortable public situation.

I recently sat through a presentation where the speaker was showing the same signs I mentioned above. She was breathing irregularly and I could tell she was trying desperately to control the quivering in her voice. She was obviously VERY nervous, and I actually started sweating in sympathy for her! I briefly considered tackling her and dragging her off the stage to rescue her from her/my misery, but I chickened out.

I wring my hands and bite my lip for the bad acts on America’s Got Talent.

And thinking about putting an audience through that discomfort because of my blotchy neck ailment makes me breathy and sweaty all over again.

The weird thing is, I’m not shy at all. I actually chased down a woman at Walmart last week to ask her how she did her hair. I’m a talker. And a partier. I love rooms full of people and being the center of attention and chit-chat, and I can spin a fantastic story. But, put a microphone in front of me and I choke up!

What about you? Could you be a public speaker? Do you get painfully embarrassed FOR people who are embarrassing themselves?

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Comments

  1. I love speaking in public and have since college. Communications was my minor and public speaking was just a part of it. My professor was extremely encouraging and next thing I knew, I was competing against other public speakers for awards.

    I was not always this way. I can remember in the fifth grade being called forward to receive an award for a science project and I refused to go down front. Everyone around me kept pressing but I could not make my legs move.

    So, I think it is just one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get and a ton of encouragement helps too. :)

  2. I’m just the opposite. I don’t mind being up on stage, but I’m not so comfortable in the room full of people. Still, even though I like being on stage, I usually shake a little and I worry about burping or doing something else equally embarrassing.

    I’m right there with you when it comes to watching others in embarrassing situations. Many times I’ve left the room while watching a talent show or a romantic comedy on television. It makes me cringe to see people making fools of themselves (maybe because I can relate). I’m cringing right now just thinking about it!

  3. My husband got me involved in toastmasters when we were dating, that helped! But I’m much the same, I can deal with a single person but not big groups. I think the reason is, I can cater what I say to a single person, but in a large group someone will always disagree with something I’ve said.

  4. It sounds like you are describing me! haha

  5. I’ve never tried speaking in public, but given my inability to even talk in stressful situations, I think I do a pretty awful job of it. The closest I’ve ever come is classroom presentations, and I never did very well. I didn’t turn all red or anything, but I couldn’t speak loud enough for anyone to hear me. Strangely, I never had any trouble singing on stage. Just talking.

  6. Aww, don’t feel badly. I have done a lot of singing in public, and, although it does get easier the more often you do it, I still get very nervous! Every time!

  7. I am right there with you sister. I cannot speak in public. I get soooo nervous. I also get really nervous for people on television. I cannot bare any confrontation such as a debate. I simply just CANNOT do it. Here’s the kicker. Even though I get nervous for others when they speak, my husband is an elected official and speaks every week and my father is a pastor and speaks ALL the time. AAAAAGGHHHHH! Drives me crazy. LOL. Just know that you are not alone. Alas, we’ll just be nervous enough for everybody. God Bless You and Yours.

  8. I am the EXACT same way. I never meet a stranger. I could talk for hours. I love doing stand up for my reserved crowd of friends. BUT let it be “Public”, I dont really know how to define that line but as yours does, my neck will let me know. Patchy hives, dry mouth, fiery ears, and total blankness. ( I just scratched my neck at the thought, one small hive for the cause at hand) Whats even more bizzare is I would love to travel around telling my story and change people’s lives. Now, remind me whats that called? Oh yes, public speaking. Thats why I just know you guys are on to something with this blogging!!! http://seekingfrugal.blogspot.com/ Here is mine, but there isnt much, I PROMISE SWEAR I am going to get rolling this week!! Please subscribe! I sure do love reading yours.

  9. While I seem to be fine during the actual public speaking, my body does horrible things to me right up until the public speaking part. I don’t feel nervous but my stomach tells me I am …

  10. thesocialhomeschooler says:

    I used to be like you are, but God has worked on me over the years.

    The big turning point was when he called me to share something with the congregation after the church service about His love for all of us. I almost literally felt hands pushing me to the elders to ask them to speak. I was scared out of my mind. Later I found out that I had gotten up in front of almost 600 people!

    But out of my obedience came a great healing of much of the anxiety and self esteem issues that I have dealt with most of my life. And as I walked through the sanctuary afterward one of the people encouraging me was a lady who said, “I was happy to see others encouraging you, because I’d hate for this to be a one time thing!” Wow!

    God still keeps taking through opportunities to serve Him by speaking to others to this day, and it’s awesome!

  11. I’ve gotten pretty good at the public speaking thing, but I can’t watch shows like America’s Got Talent without getting embarrassed for some of the participants, just like you! I always want to pull them off the stage : )

  12. natasha says:

    Wow! I am exactly the same way! I think I need to have my mom read this because she has never believed me when I’ve tried to tell her how I feel. Maybe if she read about you she’d believe me.

  13. (Read this first part in a Valley Girl voice…) “Oh my gosh, I totally, like, know what you’re talking about.”
    A few weeks ago, I spoke at our local homeschool conference on teaching multiple ages at once. Now, these were mostly women I go to church with, along with a few visitors from other areas. And I was doing sorta okay, meaning not about to die from nerves, just feeling like I was gonna throw up…anyway, I was doing sorta okay, UNTIL THEY TOLD ME THEY WERE GOING TO RECORD ME!!!!!!!
    WHAT???!!!
    So yeah, I went from feeling like I was goinna throw up to…um, being recorded whle speaking. And I made them PROMISE me not to ever tell me where the recording was being linked to so I would never have to listen to it!!
    (Valley girl again)…Cause like, what’s worse…like, speaking in public, or like, being totally recorded?”
    Hey, come see me at One Faithful Mom dot com!!

  14. You just described me too a tee!!! LOL So glad to hear I’m not the only one that this happens too!!!

  15. What really helped me in public speaking is to choose two or three people in the audience, make eye contact with them, and then speak directly to them, as if no one else is in the room.

  16. It sounds like you are not alone Connie! I used to have problems with public speaking, but doing the big VBS show at our church, returning to school and taking a speech class, AND becoming a teacher helped overcome the fear of public speaking. It helps to be really prepared and practice ahead of time. It’s a lot easier to get up an talk in front of a bunch of 8 year-olds – it’s different when it’s your peers. One trick is to find a couple of nice faces in the audiences to focus on – you know…the one’s that nod and smile in agreement- they help boost your confidence make the rest of the audience not seem so intimidating. It’s too bad you turned down the speaking engagement. You have a lot of worthwhile things to say and everybody loves you!

  17. I experience both the neck-blotchy, quivering when speaking and the pain when seeing others embarrass themselves. My husband is a really great speaker, but when he preaches at our church (a few times a year) I don’t like to watch him speaking because I don’t want to see if he embarrasses himself. I don’t even like movies where people embarrass themselves and often leave the room or try to distract myself when I know such a scene is coming up.

  18. Heather S. says:

    I get the same kind of anxiety and pain when I see others embarrass themselves!! There’s a whole slew of TV shows I avoid because the entire premise is one awkward situation after another – hate them! And if it is real life it is even worse. I have been known to leave the room if I sense a train wreck coming just to avoid the discomfort! For the record I am painfully shy, so I guess this crosses introvert/ extrovert boundaries :)

  19. I’ve spoken a couple times and really enjoy it. However, I do get nervous (and all red in the face – what IS that about??) when I see a nervous speaker. So, I can relate to you!
    I enjoy reading your blog. You always make me laugh!

  20. By the way, I’ve had lots of adventures with our chickens that I’ve written about on my blog. You may find them funny. :)
    Here’s the first of “Chicken Scratch”: http://dearlylovedmist.blogspot.com/2011/05/chicken-scratch-part-1.html

  21. I LOVE the photo you picked! Too funny. Like…okay….come on up and speak now…. ;) Okay, so I can be either way. It totally depends on how well I’ve rehearsed what exactly I am going to say or not. Times when I’ve gotten up to speak thinking I could just wing it were horrible, awful, very bad experiences. Other times, when I’ve organized the speech into well prepared sections, I’ve been amazed at how fluid the presentation has gone. So, for a geek like me, it’s all in the preparation. :)

  22. I’d rather give birth than speak in public. No kidding. And I’ve proven that. I’ve spoken in public, oh….2 times? And give birth…nine times. :) I hate public speaking. I turned down the opportunity to speak at our homeschooling convention this year. (But that was more because they wanted me to speak on the topic of multi age homeschooling. I did not feel that I had good tips for that. If they had asked me to speak on crisis homeschooling that would be another thing… ha ha. I KNOW that topic well.)

  23. I am the exactly same way..I can’t even watch those TV shows where people compete with each other on a stage..it makes ME nervous!

  24. I’ve spoken in public quite a bit in my life, and it doesn’t bother me. The only thing I don’t like is blank stares in the audience. I wish people would communicate their feelings with their EYES or something.

    Or maybe they are.

    Anyhoo, I actually look forward to it. However, sometimes my deodorant seems to fail me at the worst possible time. So somewhere inside me there must be something nervous for that to happen!

  25. NOT that I like to speak in front of larger groups but I always try to keep the attitude that “everyone out there is my friend” … that is what a boss told me the first day I was to start answering the telephone as a receptionist for a major league sports company (um, Joe Namath called my first day working) … because like she said, it makes you less nervous. I just figure what the heck, this is me, I’m an ok person, never said I was professional or an excellent speaker but …. it’s ME :) All about the attitude (and the Joe Namath call? I was so wigged that I forgot to put him on hold, thankfully caught it quick enough before the call was dropped).

  26. I feel your pain. My voice starts shaking when I have to speak in front of people. I’m a preschool teacher and I’ve had to do stuff in front of parent groups. Hate it. When I have to do parent conferences…I have to rehearse because I’m so nervous. What’s funny is I can be in front of a classroom full of small children and completely act a fool and it doesn’t bother me…
    And I understand about America’s Got Talent…I have to turn the channel because sometimes it’s so hard to watch.
    I’m working on doing better at this because my ds16 is worse than me. It’s caused him major issues in school because he can’t do the required presentations….

  27. This is ME!!!! I am the most outgoing, talk to anyone, make a crazy fool of myself kind of person except when you put me behind a microphone.

    Even on video I completely freeze up, quiver and cry.

  28. Sorry I’ve turned up rather late to the discussion
    Part of the issue is that we don’t know that we need different skills for public speaking than we are used to. When we have a normal conversation our listeners support us with nods, smiles, uh-huhs etc. We all know that we speak publicly we don’t got that support. We get blank faces. In our heads we think that blank faces are judging us, we feel that we are boring. So here we are looking for approval and not getting it
    BUT we fail to get the idea that blank faces are normal. That’s just how an audience listens. Blank faces are just listening faces. So we need to change our thinking because its us thinking we know what people are thinking. Next time you are in an audience just look at how blank the faces are. We need to change our mindsets when we speak pubilcly. Of course there is more to it than that. But I think its a secret that people don’t seem to know.
    I run about 40 courses a year for people who are scared about public speakinng and on my website I have articles on this.

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  1. [...] does anyone remember when I admitted that I have a fear of public speaking? That I get all panty and shaky and my neck breaks out in red [...]

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