Who'd like to be spokesperson? Any volunteers?
You know the situation, there's a meeting at work and people are looking for a spokesperson and they look at you. You feel like running away, can I make an excuse to leave the room as I’m feeling unwell?
Maybe your colleague asks if you'll be the one to give the presentation, perhaps online when you'll be on camera. Or someone passes you a microphone. Either way, feelings of anxiety kick in. You avoid eye contact (we all do it). You start sweating and your heart races. The strange thing is, the harder I try to relax, the worse it gets. So much so that your hands start shaking. Worse is to come. You feel people are noticing that you're nervous. The audience is silent and you think they are judging you negatively. People are staring at me. Afterwards, you feel guilt and shame and your family or friends notice you don’t seem happy. You appear detached.
Not a great experience, is it? But what's described above is a plain fight, flight or freeze response that often has low self-esteem at its root. Sometimes, somehow, at an earlier time in your life, your subconscious mind made a processing error. Just like your computer might develop a software bug. Maybe it was something someone said. Standing in front of the class and you forgot your times tables or you fluffed your lines on stage at the school play.
Also, whenever you enter a room full of people, even people you know well, the same feelings of anxiety sometimes kick in. You notice some turn around to look at you. Even eating breakfast in front of colleagues or clients is causing anxiety. You also have to meet clients as part of your job. Maybe these are well-qualified experts in their own field and you believe you don’t know as much as they do. It’s only a matter of time before they notice you’re nervous and if you’re nervous, that’s all the proof you need to believe these clients will know you’re a fake. A fraud. Someone who isn’t really worthy.
Gosh, not a great time is it? What I’ve described here isn’t make-believe. These situations are real and experienced by real people. Nice people who are often described as good team members, and reliable.
How sad it is, then, that because of these symptoms, these individuals deliberately avoid the limelight, and make themselves small and safe: they hold back from applying for job opportunities, avoiding giving presentations to showcase the great work they do. Avoid social situations where they believe they will be judged badly.
But as someone who experiences many of the above, it's important to recognise this isn't you. You're very capable and you're a good presenter. If only you could relax. Carl Jung made the observation: what you resist, persists. In other words, the harder we try to suppress any unwanted emotions or feelings, the stronger the feelings become. Almost like a game of whack-a-mole. Suppress one feeling and another pops up.
Now, here's the good news. You're not alone. Amazingly, everyone in that room listening to you is wrapped up inside their own heads. We all exist in a reality of our own making. Nothing is real. If you and I went to see a musical, we’d both pick up different things that we liked and disliked. Different because we both see the world differently, based on our past experiences, beliefs and our values. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just true.
So, please don't take this personally but to people in your audience, you're really not that important to them. Simply because everyone is living a reality inside their own heads, worrying about their own difficulties. However, releasing this anxiety and achieving the calm confident self that you would want is truly within reach. Train your subconscious to expect a different outcome and you’ll get a different outcome. Simple.
Confidence doesn't just appear, it requires you to take action. Therefore, take action and you'll be on that journey to a happier, more fulfilled version of yourself.