From Self-Consciousness to Self-Confidence – The End of Stage Fright
I suffered “deer-in-the-headlights” stage fright until I was nearly 50.
The shame and desperation ran deep. All I wanted was to manage the terror, but nothing helped until 1990 when I discovered the principle of what has since come to be known as Relational Presence (RP) — the practice of speaking with only and always one person at a time in groups of any size. But I hadn’t realized that RP had moved me into realms of ease beyond my wildest dreams until 1995 as I was being introduced by the president of the National Speakers Association to give my first presentation at our national convention. Hundreds of my peers–professional speakers and other speaking coaches among them–were sitting in wait out there.
As I’m being introduced, my heart is pounding big time. THUMP! THUMP! THUMP! Each crash a seismic event. But every thump feels like ecstasy, an electrical surge of pleasure!
It was then I fully understood that symptoms of stage fright are exactly the same as those of intense excitement! Red face, weak knees, and a blank mind. But without negative interpretation, these are no problem at all.
Since then I haven’t had one moment of anxiety in front of groups. What a miracle in my life, and what joy it has been to help others make this natural transformation from self-consciousness to self-confidence.
Along the way I have identified a continuum of 7 states of ease/dis-ease people typically experience in front of groups:
Terror. Primal, overwhelming impulse to flee or avoid any public exposure. Moving up from Terror to Fear is a result of simply showing up.
Fear. Here there is at least a sense of what one wants so much to avoid. Standing in the Fear in front of a supportive group relaxes the worst of it into Anxiety.
Anxiety. This comes when the Fear has been faced and is abating. Those with the courage to stand in the unease of Anxiety soon find themselves Coping in public speaking situations.
Coping. Here the Anxiety is controlled but continues to lurk just beneath the surface. Most people with significant speaking experience, even professionals putting on a great show, live their entire public lives here. Those in the Coping state sometimes transcend to moments of Ease, but they don’t know how they got there, or how to stay there.
Ease. Achieving this plateau brings pleasure and freedom in body, mind and soul in front of groups, any time, anywhere. The Anxiety is gone. When moments of Coping return, you know exactly how to get back to it, and naturally move toward Flow.
Flow of your content and Mastery in all situations arise naturally from Ease.
When you acknowledge to yourself where you are in this continuum, and then isolate the Relational Presence “muscle” and exercise it regularly, you move effortlessly and pleasurably toward Ease. RP, again, is the practice of speaking with only and always one person at a time in groups of any size.
Self-consciousness with groups is just an old habit we can easily do without.