What happens to you when you have to introduce yourself in a group?
“Oh God I’m going to have to speak. In front of all these people. I knew it. I don’t want to go first. Why do they make us do this? Oh no, I don’t want to go last. Say something about myself. Introduce myself. I don’t know what to say. I’ve got nothing interesting to say. I hate this bit. Listen to her she sounded great, looks good too. You can tell this a breeze for her. Everyone else is so confident. Why is it just me? Why am I so nervous? I’m pathetic. My heart is banging in my chest, my stomach is half way up into my chest. I feel sick, got butterflies. I’m shaking. How will I be able to speak? Everyone will see how I rubbish I am. I knew this would happen. I’m going to make an idiot out of myself. Why do I come to these things, it hasn’t got any better. Why can’t I still explain what I do without tripping over my words? Interesting and unknown fact about myself? No fucking idea. My minds gone blank. I can’t listen to a word anyone has said, so how can I possibly remember anything about them or their names later? All I can hear is my heart banging. I can just see everyone nodding and smiling at him. God he can even made them laugh. I can’t do that. My voice is going to shake. My lips feel numb. Where will I look? I always end up staring at one person fixedly. Why can’t I just be like everyone else? What am in such a state for? Why hasn’t this got any easier? I’m a professional for fuck’s sake. All I have to do is say my name and what I do. I’m holding my breath. My month’s dry. What will everyone think of me? I’m going to embarrass myself. Why didn’t I wear that other top? It’s hot in here. I always wear the wrong thing. God I hate being in groups. Oh no, it’s me next.”
Sound familiar? You are not alone. Infact I imagine it’s few people that don’t go through some sort of reaction to having to speak in front of people, particularly strangers.
It’s one of the most common fears. But the common fear is not public speaking.
It’s fear of judgement. But this manifests itself as self-judgement. We want to protect our identity, self image and self esteem.
It’s worrying about how other people will perceive and receive us based on what we look like, what we say and how we say it.
It’s fear of rejection, from the group or specific ‘influencing’ individuals we are aware of within the group.
It’s comparing ourselves to others and viewing them as different and so ‘better, confident and competent’.
It’s not feeling good enough, smart enough.
It’s worrying that the anxiety or nerves we feel will be visible to others and seen as weakness.
It’s worrying we’ll fuck up and embarrass ourself.
It’s worry that we will disappoint ourselves.
It’s discomfort and risk around exposure and vulnerability.
It’s a sense of uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen and may not feel in control.
It’s making the whole scenario a whole lot worse than it actually is; not feeling safe and the body reacting. Any situation that has the potential to hurt us will trigger a fear or stress response in our body. When we think, we feel what we think.
Re-read the above internal monologue without the monologue; self-talk, internal judgement and self-comparison. See how much quieter it is, less stressful and more manageable. It is a fear based reaction without the thinking about the reaction, just noticing. We can recognise the pattern or process we are putting ourselves through and reframe it, relaxing some of the energy caught up in fear.
“I’m going to have to speak. In front of all these people. Say something about myself. Introduce myself …. My heart is banging in my chest, my stomach is half way up into my chest. I feel sick, got butterflies. I’m shaking. My minds gone blank. My lips feel numb. All I have to do is say my name and what I do. I’m holding my breath. My month’s dry. It’s hot in here … It’s me next.”
If you knew everyone else around you was feeling the same how would it be then? If you named it and said “I’m a bit nervous” how would it be? If you accepted your nerves and knew they were just understandable nerves would you be less stressed? Like an actor with pre-performance jitters who is fine once they are on stage, if you knew that once you got on with it, you’d be fine, you could trust yourself, would you be less anxious?
You got this.