I saw a painful surveillance video the other day showing a thief attempting an escape from police by climbing a ten-foot ladder. He plummeted to the ground on the first attempt. The sirens grew louder and he tried again, and fell. In fact, he fell five more times to the cement floor of the store he had attempted to rob before he made his escape. It was almost comical, and the news anchors joked about his tenacity. In his case, fear of getting caught and facing jail time fueled him, and he succeeded in eluding the police. While I certainly don’t condone thievery, I thought, “Lucky thief,” and noted that his fear worked to save him.
That same night, I listened to a preacher talk about busy-ness in our lives. He pointed out that this franticness that so often can overtake our lives is fueled by fear. Especially in the current economy, the fear of not being able to pay the bills or the mortgage can be suffocating, and so folks will work themselves nearly to death, sometimes at the loss of their marriage, health and happiness. Fear can destroy lives and opportunities.
If I were to ask you to think back, I am sure you can remember distinct moments when fear was empowering and you accomplished something great and other times when it held you back, or hurt you. Fear is always there. It is a part of life.
Fear is primal. Humans like every mammal have the instinctive reaction of flight or fight when faced with a possibly dangerous situation. This inherent mechanism is essential for survival. It is our ability to analyze the actual level of danger in a given circumstance that will enable us, as humans, to use fear to our advantage!
Public speaking and now, television cameras can cause intense fear. For years, surveys on common fears show that public speaking is second only to the fear of dying!
If your knees shake before you are about to walk on stage and the butterflies in your stomach feel more like angry wasps, then you may be feeling the primal response to fear, and it’s time to make that reaction work to your advantage.
- First, in all probability, no one is going to die from speaking in front of people, or a camera. Flight is not necessary. Check that off!
- Next, those knocking knees are a result of energy that is surging through your body, and energy is contagious, and therefore great to have when you are seeking to connect with an audience, so embrace that sense of being so wonderfully alive!
- Remind yourself that you are darn good at what you do, and what you know. Faith can dispel fear… have faith in yourself! IDEA: create a little cheer, as you might if a small child needed to be encouraged. Now repeat that positive reinforcement to yourself and be as accepting of those encouraging words as a small child would be! If a child really wants something, they get it, right? Now, go for it!
- The extra energy you are feeling in your tummy and limbs needs to be burned off a bit… find what works for you; it may be jumping up and down, or touching your toes and stretching with vigor. One speaker shared with me just last week that she would do a routine of movements to relax and focus her before every speech, sometimes in the restroom, to the dismay of other patrons!
- Breathe. Take air deeply in through your nose and concentrate on filling the lower lobes of your lungs. Exhale through your mouth, keeping the breath even. Force the breath out until there is nothing left. Repeat as necessary.
- Still have extra energy “on stage”? Try this trick, (it works best if you are standing): Your weight should be grounding you in your back leg, with one foot slightly forward, kind of like a dancer’s first position. In this solid stance, you can burn some energy off by tensing the buttocks muscle attached to that back leg and then release. No one will know, and the largest muscle in the body will burning the edge off that energy!
Make friends with Fear. It will always be there, but it need not control you. It can be a reassuring presence to energize you, and give you that edge that you need in order to be your best when you are delivering your message, or your story.
There is nothing that Fear and Faith cannot enable you to do.