Public speaking usually tops the list of things most people fear.
I’ve found that when I do that which I fear most, confidence and joy typically follow.
The first time I had to give a talk in front of a crowd I was in grammar school. I hated it. I was mortified. Filled with anxiety and worry that I would suck, I stood there with sweaty palms wondering if I would have anything worthwhile to say. Would I stumble over my words, and saying lots if “ums” and “ahs”? That was many years ago. Despite all my fears, I lived through it.
Last Thursday, before delivering my first truly public talk about my memoir, Beyond Recovery: A Journey of Love, Grace and Forgiveness at Many Rivers Books in Sebastopol, I was a nervous wreck.
As the hour of reckoning drew closer, I psyched myself out wondering if anyone I invited would show. Most did. I was thrilled when the founding pastor of our church arrived. I had prayed all day that he would be there. I smiled and gave him a big hug, and thanked him for coming.
Later, as I began my talk though, I was afraid I’d drop a few cuss words and worried that I might mess up. I also wondered how the mixed crowd would accept or reject me talking openly about my faith, my struggle, and my recovery journey. How would they receive my stories of love, acceptance and forgiveness? Would they even know the inner terror I was feeling?
It didn’t matter, I had chosen to do this. I was committed and went for it.
Was it the best talk I’d ever given? No. Far from it. It did, however, give me that extra little bit of confidence to do things a little different next time. For example: I need to practice a little more, be lighter, and share from more from my heart in the beginning of my talk and not rely so heavily on my notes. I believe this will help me connect more and build a stronger relationship with my audience.
Perhaps I am being too hard in myself, but the point is, I am walking through uncharted territory which is scary and exciting.
I have found that the greatest growth happens when I stretch my comfort zone and venture out into the unknown.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
-Henry David Thoreau