Here’s a simple truth: I get nervous when I have to talk in front of people I don’t know. Nervous, like I start to babble, get sidetracked, even stutter at times. I wasn’t like this when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. Back then I used to teach nursing courses as a sideline and I could stand in front of a group for hours on end talking about acid-base balance and the benefits of one sized catheter over another. Then, when I was the coordinator of an Alzheimer’s unit in a nursing home, I not only ran weekly seminars for the families of the residents, I went out into the community and spoke to various groups about mental health, the elderly, and nursing concerns.
I’ve always said I’ll talk to anything or anyone – even a rock.
But, now, in my 50’s, I’m not the public speaker I used to be. Part of the reason I think is because I’m alone so much. Writing is, for all intents and purposes, a solitary career. If I don’t read my dialogue aloud, sometimes I won’t hear a voice for 14 hours in a day. It’s made me a little gun-shy of speaking to a crowd. When I “speak” on the page, I can edit what I don’t like. In person, well…real life doesn’t have an edit button ou can press.
I tell you all this because I just found out something that’s made me relieved and just a little sad, as well. I submitted a proposal to RWA this year to give a lecture on a topic. I was denied. I’m sad about that because the topic is a really good, very relevant, and funny one. I’m relieved because now I don’t have to get up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk.
WHY, you ask, would I submit to do something that I obviously am not good at ( public speaking) and that I’m afraid/nervous to do?
Well, since you’ve asked ( heehee) I’ll tell you.
One of my favorite quotes is this one from Eleanor Roosevelt.
The reason I lovelovelove that quote is because of its call to empowerment. Anyone can do something that is familiar and comfortable. I get that, I really do. I’m the type of person who likes to eat the same things because they are familiar ( and I know I won’t get a sick stomach or have an allergy attack), visit the same places, wear pretty much the same style of clothing and hairstyle since the 80’s. Things that are familiar are comfortable and feel safe to me.
But doing something that you think you can’t, or don’t want to, or won’t be able to, well…that takes courage. Gumption. Nerve. Audacity. Fearlessness. And when you do it you get such a rush of power and a sense of personal accomplishment that you begin to wonder why you didn’t want to do it in the first place!
So, subjecting myself to the possibility I’d have to speak in public even though it terrifies me, is just one of those things I need to do to prove I can. To empower myself. To help me grow as a human.
It’s still kinda funny that I’m sad AND glad I didn’t get in, though!
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