Facing Your Fear

This past Friday night, I did something very out of character for me. I turned off all the lights and watched a scary movie. Not just any scary movie – the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Since I was five, I have been deathly afraid of Freddy Krueger. As a child, I couldn’t see Robert Englund or I would burst into tears. My brother wasn’t allowed to wear his striped sweater because it made me cry. When you’re five, you rationalize things in a very strange way. For me, it was about a man who came in your dreams, and I would have nightmares about him. It was very real for me.

What I found after watching Nightmare was that Freddy was lame. Maybe it was the cheap 1980s graphics and special effects, or perhaps it was Johnny’s Depp’s hair, but I am no longer scared. I don’t plan on going out and renting all of the Nightmare films, but I won’t need to hide my face from him anymore.

Did you know the number one fear of the average person is public speaking? The old school of thought would tell you to picture everyone in their underwear to kick this fear, but I have to be honest – that just tends to make things seem more awkward. Here are a couple of ways you can approach facing your fear – and everyone can keep their pants on.

  1. Don’t try to ignore the fear – it never makes it any better. You’ll be much more productive stepping up and facing the fear.
  2. Take small steps. If you have stage fright, it’s a bad idea to throw yourself into the running for speaking at something like SXSW. Start smaller, like a chapter of a local business group or even your church. Get used to being in front of people before you really put the pressure on.
  3. Remember that nervous people will sweat. Sounds gross right? Tough luck – sometimes, nerves can overshadow the power of your deodorant, and there’s nothing quite as embarrassing as being “un-sure”. You might think about wearing dark colors, just to lessen your worries by one.
  4. Eat something! It’s easy to not eat before you do something you’re afraid of, because you’re a tightly wound ball of nerves, but if you don’t eat, I promise you won’t be happy. Don’t pass out on stage.
  5. Think positive thoughts about yourself. Don’t just focus on your speech contents, but on yourself – are you having a good hair day? Are your shoes amazing? Did you buy a new outfit that you really love? It’s all about confidence and giving yourself a little boost will help you get out there and face your fear.

When I was watching Nightmare, I had a five year old part of me screaming into a blanket and hiding her chubby little face. I recognized her, I respect that scared little girl, but I was determined to conquer my fear. It paid off for me and Freddy is just a movie character. If you can overcome your fear of public speaking you can open all kinds of doors for yourself. Have you already battled your stage fight and overcome it? What did you do that first time to help ease your nerves?