This article originally appeared in Zeitgeist, my high school magazine that I write for as a freelance journalist.
Although I’ve somehow established myself as an “eloquent” public speaker (an euphemism for what I really am: a chatterbox), the truth behind this “talent” isn’t the easiest thing to explain, let alone fathom. Considering how I spent most of my school career sitting in the audience, there was no way that the diffident, introverted kid I was back then would be someone otherwise. The stage was never my natural milieu, and it never will be: I’m not born to be a public speaker.
It took me a while – technically eight years – to realise that public speaking is governed by fear. The fear of public speaking is fairly common: it definitely exists in all human beings at varying levels. It’s simply stage fright at its absolute finest, something everybody is going to have to go through at some point in life.
It may be hard to believe this, but my biggest phobia is public speaking – not fish or revolving doors.
Despite being an active member of the public speaking realm in the past five years, I never got over my fear of speaking to large audiences. During my first public speaking experience, I was petrified upon seeing the audience of Medusas preying on their next victim. I nearly dropped the microphone, and my conscience was hollering, “Run away! Have some dignity!” Perhaps an eternity later, I was overwhelmed but refreshed. There were no rotten tomatoes.
I never got over this phobia: I was just as afraid the second time. And the third time. Even today, the umpteenth time, I still can’t talk into the microphone without having my heart beat out of my chest. I’m just like everybody else, scared of bringing myself in front of hundreds of people, the daunting silence begging me to break it, and the prospect of forgetting my lines even when there’s no script. But if there’s one reason why I’m able to look so unafraid, it’s only because I am afraid.
When classmates would ask me, “how do you do it?” I never really had the answer until today. I can do it because I’m motivated by fear. My observation is that when my peers are afraid, they allow it to overwhelm them. Afterwards, they come to the conclusion that public speaking “isn’t their thing.” Maybe, but maybe not: that was what I told myself years ago, and I’m here today. I’m not born to be a public speaker, but it still reminds me that I still want to have that capability. Whenever fear gets the better of me, a voice tells me that being scared is not what I want to be. I may not belong here, but so what? There’s nothing wrong with pretending when you’re taking centre stage – that’s exactly what actors do. Faking it till you make it will punch Fear right in its ugly face.
There’s a public speaker in everybody. It’s perfectly normal to be scared, but don’t be afraid to let him or her out.
Thanks for stopping by. Don’t be a stranger. That’s a wrap.