Public speaking. Just the thought of it can send shivers down your spine!. Whether it’s a business presentation, a speech at a conference, or even speaking up in a group setting, the fear of public speaking can be incredibly daunting.
But is this public speaking anxiety rational or irrational?
Many of the clients I’ve helped overcome a fear of public speaking have said they knew their thoughts and fears weren’t rational, which is what made the fear even more frustrating. As I explain to all my clients, the only game you are ever playing is the one with yourself.
What causes a fear of public speaking?
Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that the fear of public speaking is a common phenomenon experienced by people from all walks of life. I have worked with junior advertising managers right up to CEO’s. I have also read that the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death! Having helped hundreds of clients overcome public speaking anxiety and listened to their stories I can well believe that to be true!
The fear of public speaking may manifest as anxiety, nervousness, or even a full-blown panic attack.
From my experience of working in this area, I’ve observed that the fear can be attributed to various factors, including:
- Fear of Judgment: One of the primary reasons for the fear of public speaking is the fear of being judged by others. The thought of making mistakes, being perceived as incompetent, or facing criticism can trigger intense anxiety.
- Performance Anxiety: Public speaking often involves being in the spotlight and feeling the pressure to deliver a compelling and engaging presentation. The fear of forgetting lines, stumbling over words, or appearing nervous can contribute to the fear. Add into the mix the fear of being asked questions you don’t know the answer to or being put on the spot and you have a double whammy.
- Feeling Anxious about Feeling Anxious: Public speaking anxiety doesn’t manifest on the day of a presentation or talk. Instead, you may find yourself starting to feel anxious days, weeks and even months in advance. Many clients have reported feeling anxious about feeling anxious, which puts them into a state of anxiety way before the event itself.
- Self-consciousness: Many individuals are self-conscious about their appearance, voice (especially the voice ‘wobbling’), or mannerisms when speaking in front of others. This self-awareness can intensify the fear and hinder their ability to be themselves, often feeling they have to ‘be someone else’.
The Rationality of the Fear
While the fear of public speaking may feel overwhelming and irrational at times, it is important to recognise that certain aspects of the fear can be rational responses to perceived threats. For example:
- Evolutionary Response: The fear of public speaking stems from our evolutionary instincts to avoid situations that could potentially harm our reputation or social standing. In primitive times, being ostracised from the group could significantly impact one’s survival. We are primed for survival, so when there is a perceived threat to life, the freeze, fight or flight response will naturally kick in. This may seem irrational, but when it comes to a threat to life, we are acting from the primitive brain and any rational or logical thinking goes out the window.
- Fear of Failure: The fear of public speaking may also be rooted in the fear of failure. People often attach their self-worth and identity to their ability to perform well, and the fear of public speaking amplifies this fear of not meeting expectations.
How to Overcome Public Speaking Anxiety
While there may be rational elements to the fear of public speaking, it is essential to address and challenge these fears to overcome them. These fears and thought patterns about public speaking are like programmes stored in the unconscious mind. And therefore the most logical way to rewire them is to work at the level of the unconscious mind!
This can be done in several ways including Hypnotherapy, The MAP Method, 3 Principles Coaching and EFT Tapping. When working with clients I take a bespoke approach to transforming the way you think and feel about public speaking. Each session is as unique as you are.
Public speaking anxiety is a complex phenomenon that can have both rational and irrational elements. While certain aspects of the fear may be rooted in our evolutionary instincts and fear of judgment, it is essential to challenge and overcome these fears to unlock our full potential. With the right intervention, we can transform the fear of public speaking into a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. And you never know – you might find you enjoy it!
Ready to take the next step to overcome your public speaking anxiety? Get in touch now to arrange your free consultation.
Sara Maude is an Edinburgh Hypnotherapist, Solution-Focused Psychotherapist, EFT Practitioner, Transformational Coach and International Wellbeing Trainer providing in-person and online sessions. Sara provides problem-free therapy which goes deep into the heart of the unconscious mind to create powerful lasting change.