Do you want to know one of my biggest fears? Public Speaking. If you know me, this is not surprising at all... but if you don't know me, you may think this is crazy since part of my "career" as an author is also being a speaker. To be a successful author, you have to also become a speaker in some kind of way. Sure, there are plenty of authors who aren't. However, as a self-help author, you are also expected to be able to give some kind of self-help advice to the public as well. Speaking also increases your audience, which increases your book sales. So for the past year, I have been faced with the task of overcoming one of my biggest fears for the sake of my author career. The thing that I am learning about fears though, there is an underlying trigger or cause to those fears. Something far beyond the actual fear itself. I want to break this down for myself to help you break it down for yourself as well.
Most fears are related to the fear of death...heights, spiders, snakes, tight spaces, deep water, etc. The fear of death isn't normally the act of death, but more the fear of the unknown. But that is deep and I could write whole book about my faith if we get into that.. So I want to dive into the fears that aren't life-threatening, like public speaking. The more I think about it, I don't know that my fear of public speaking has anything to do with the actual act of speaking in public. Yes, getting on a stage with bright lights and being the center of attention is intimidating. But sharing what I know with people in order to help them is actually exhilarating. Every time I am asked to speak, I don't hesitate before I say yes and after I speak, I am so happy I did and proud of myself. Reading that, you have to be asking yourself.... so why do you say you have a fear of public speaking when you actually enjoy it? To be brutally honest, the same reason you have the fear to start losing weight, the same reason you won't go to therapy, the same reason you haven't started that business, or the same reason you haven't left that job, the same reason you haven't cut out that toxic person in your life. I don't say that to be rude, I say that because even when you know something is good for you, that underlying fear rooted in our human needs and it can prevent us from doing the things we need to do the most.
I recently read that there is a heirarchy of human needs. Think of the food pyramid. The bottom of that pyramid is the foundation, the most important to our survival, which is food, water, shelter. The next layer is safety, and the next...community. That was surprising to me when I read it. I understand that in cave man days, humans needed a community for survival. But this pyramid of human needs still stands true today, so why is community so important? Imagine if you have a dream of owning a business and didn't have anyone that supported you. You could make it successful, but it would require a substantial more amount of work than someone that had a big community of supporters from the very beginning. If you have a community of just 10 people at the beginning, those 10 people can tell 10 more people, who tell 10 more people about your business and before long, you have thousands of people that know about it. The same thing is true with anything in life. We need some type of community to surround us, love us, support us when we can't give 100%, and accept us. Even if it is just a small group of people (even 1 person), you have to some type of community to meet that unspoken need that we all have to be loved.
I tell you all of that to get to this: when we do something that could potentially rock that boat, or pull us away from "community", there is a fear unlocked that sometimes we don't realize. I am a "work-in-progress, recovering, people pleaser" so this affects me more than other people, but we all have some type of fear of rejection. When we have a dream in our heart or a goal that we want to accomplish, below the surface, we think what people will think if we fail, we think of the people that won't approve of that goal, we think of the backlash that could come from putting ourselves first, we think about looking stupid in front of people.
For me, I am afraid of speaking for a couple of reasons. First, I hate looking like an expert to people. This is such a long-standing fear of mine that comes from my childhood. I was always put on a pedastal by my grandma. In her eyes, it was because I have always been hard-working and driven. But in my cousins or moms eyes, it was a point of contempt. So I learned at a young age that if you want to relate with people and if you don't want people to feel "below you" because of your expertise in a subject or because of your successes, then you MUST downplay your achievements at all costs. Speaking in public does not help with this. You are given the opportunity to speak because you are an expert, so you must be one. My fear in that is that it in doing so, I am cutting off access to a community of people that may believe I am higher up than them. Insert: fear.
My second fear goes hand-in-hand with my first, but my first fear is about losing a potential community, and this next fear is about losing the community I already have. I don't want to be labeled as a fake. I am an open book in almost every aspect. Although I am introverted and shy, once we start a conversation, it isn't going to be small talk. It's going to be deep and full of our dreams, fears, and struggles. Because I am an open book, everyone that knows me knows what I struggle with. They know I fall short every single day, in all kinds of ways. Unlike everyone else on this planet. Just like I just said, going on stage to public speak means I am the expert... and I never want anyone to feel that what I am saying on stage is fake. The confidence may be fake, but the words I speak are always from a place of wisdom learned through battles endured. The thought of anyone thinking otherwise scares me and always puts me back in a place telling myself that my fear is too strong, that this isn't my calling, and what I am doing is worthless.
Below I am attaching the heichary of human needs. I truly believe that at the heart of all of our fears is not the fear itself, but the fear of disrupting one of our foundational needs. For me, this fear of mine is rooted so deeply in losing my sense of community and belonging that at times, I will convince myself that it isn't worth it. I want to tell you something though... don't let those fears control your life. Those fears don't allow you to see what happens if you succeed. You are scared to quit your job to start a new business? Yes, that fear is rooted in the first two levels of your human needs- food, water, safety, and security. But what if your business thrives?! Not only will your first two levels of needs be met, but now you have elevated yourself to meet the highest level of needs that we have as humans - self-actualization.
We will always have our fears. It is human nature. Our job isn't to eliminate them, but to learn that they aren't the dictators of our life. Along the way, we will have plenty of failures and some successes, but with each of those, we learn. We are figuring out the right path to get us to the top of that pyramid, if you allow yourself to.
I could stop public speaking today and I will never have to worry about that fear again. If I do that, I protect my bubble of community and I stay safe and comfortable in it. If I refuse to let my fear control me, I may lose some people along the way, but I gain a whole new sense of community by helping people figure out their struggles, and I rise to the top of the pyramid by fulfilling one of the God's purposes for my life. We were made to rise. Face those fears and do it scared. It will be uncomfortable, it will suck, it will rock that firm foundation you have been standing on... but I promise you that eventually, that foundation will be stronger than before and it will allow you to finally reach the highest level of your needs. You were made for this.