Pink polka-dotted fear
Fear about social media
Fear towards spanakopita
Fear against Tyra Banks
Fears that give you angst
This one causes a shake
That one causes a shiver
So many, many fears that we carry in our quiver
I doubt Dr. Seuss would have bought into my pitch to make it part of his library of classics, but a conversation with some associates the other day made me go “hmmm.” We touched on how introverted I am, and what I do to get over my “fear” of public speaking and dealing with the general public for my book promotions. The Dr. Seussesque rhyme came to me later when I realized that so many of our fears tend to be unfounded.
Before I go into that though, did you know that Dr. Seuss actually pronounced his name “Soice”? Fifty percent of us pronounce it “Soose,” and the other 50% pronounce it “Zoose.” Does this enlightenment suddenly make you realize that your childhood was built on a foundation of lies? So much so that, I’m sure, it will cause many of you to begin to suffer from logophobia—the fear of words. I can see you all hittin’ speed dial on your therapist’s number right now. Don’t worry, I’ll stick by you as you strive to conquer your newfound fear.
So let’s get down to it.
Many people confuse fear with simple, healthy nerves. Some prime examples of nerves vs. fear are: CN Tower Edge Walk, skydiving, roller coasters, job interviews, and public speaking.
Concerning scaling the CN Tower, skydiving, and roller coasters, there’s a way to kick those fears. You need to take your heart out of the equation and just use your mind. Sit down and write out what your fears are for the activity, analyse every aspect of it, and break it down to logic.
- CN Tower: You’re triple harnessed with straps that can hold the weight of a bus. Don’t worry, no matter how big your lunch was, you’ll be fine.
- Skydiving: You’re dealing with trained professionals who would not let you make the jump unless they felt you were prepared.
- Roller coasters: Designed by engineers, and tested repeatedly by roller coaster enthusiasts all over the world. You could probably rocket to space in one of those things and still come down safe and sound (as long as your parachute opens… of course).
All three of those could cause death (and FYI… I’ve done all three and lived to tell about them), but the chances of dying while doing one of those activities, is far less than with everyday activities like getting hit by a car as you cross the street with your head down texting your BFF.
Spiders, dandelions, third-grade teachers named Mrs. Lorenzo, and potato guns. Those kinds of fears are, in my opinion, quite illogical. Unless you are in the Amazon (where spiders are more lethal than a city without gun control), I highly doubt that the tiny little guy who’s crawling around your house is going to render you asunder. All of these examples can be logically analysed and conquered if you just take the time to break it down and well… break it down.
Great. Now MC Hammer’s song will be running through my head all night.
When it comes to an interview, public speaking, or performing in front of a crowd, nerves are normal. Nerves are healthy. I’d be concerned about you if you didn’t get sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach (and yes, vomiting can happen). If you didn’t feel those things, I’d worry that you are actually dead inside, or so arrogant that you feel as though you’re the other guy who can walk on water. The jitters you get before any of those experiences are just plain old healthy nerves. Not fear.
Why are you feeling this way? Because you care.
You care about doing right by your audience. You care about not making a fool of yourself. You care about delivering the right message.
I hope you always get butterflies and sweaty palms. I hope your heart always beats a mile-a-minute when faced with one of those scenarios. You’re alive! Embrace it! Trust me when I tell you that:
- the interviewer knows that you aren’t totally “you” at that moment (there’s some wiggle-room for stuttering and stammering);
- your public speaking audience is hanging on your every word, hoping that you will drop a nugget of inspiration in their lap (not worrying about the spittle in the corner of your mouth—unless you’re being projected on one of those jumbotron screens… then you might want to check the mirror before you go out there); and
- Aunt Beth is hoping that you nail that high note or stick that landing.
So how did I conquer my “fear” of putting myself out there? Simply put, I learned to get over myself and realized that I was given that opportunity for a reason. I realized that it was not about “me” at all—it was about delivering an effective message on a topic that I was passionate about. It is about doing right by my audience. It is about the passion of a message pushing me through my selfish feelings of fear and self-doubt. It is about respecting my audience enough to know that they are not in front of me because they have nothing better to do with their time. They are there with me seeking a nugget.
If I am not passionate about a subject, then I will keep my mouth shut and stay in the comfort of my home in my fluffy slippers; but if there is passion in my heart, then I owe it to the universe to share it.
As for my one and only true fear. I guess I have to come clean here.
I believe that earwigs are Satan’s bug and they have no place on this earth. You can put me in a box full of spiders and homework from Mrs. Lorenzo, and you won’t hear a peep outta me. But do NOT expect me to behave rationally if I see a single earwig crawl across the ground in front of me.
Shoot… Gotta go. I need to hit speed dial for this one.