Hey world, I get nervous as crap when I speak in public. I have an irrational fear of public speaking that takes over my body and does funny things. If you see me holding the mic close to my chest, its probably because there is no other way to stop that automatic fight or flight response my body is shooting through me and I have a death grip on the mic against my chest to cover that unstoppable shaky hand of mine.
I have no idea where this fight or flight response is coming from. I can’t really think of a situation that changed me from the kid who grew up in participating in school plays and student council to the adult who has something to say but has an irrational fear of speaking in public, but whatever it was, I’m here to win it over and destroy that fear.
Slowly but surely, I honestly feel better about it. Having started to see the changes in myself I guess I felt it was time to share this with the world, to sort of close this chapter of my life so I could get it out of my head once and for all and just maybe, help someone else.
There is no hiding it, the first few talks I gave I was so full of dread & fear. The first time I grabbed the mic and walked up on the stage I thought I was going to pass out, then that shake started.. oh dear that (&#!n* shake.
I know my subject matter, I can speak about it all day long with friends and people I work with and get tons of great feedback and positive support.. but for some reason when I step up to the podium or stand in front of a large team my body just throws my brain under the bus and overloads my system.
With some practice though. I’m starting to notice changes. The second time I gave a public talk, I noticed I was remembering more about the experience.. The 3rd time I was actually able to sit back down in the same room after giving the talk. But something still triggers my fight or flight response.. Not sure what it is..
So with all of this said, I love sharing.. I love talking with people. I love connecting with peers, talking through things and what I do. I’ve been given the opportunities to speak and have enjoyed every one of them immensely – even through my anxiety attacks. I’m determined to beat this.
When I first started writing this post over a year ago, I just sort of left it as a private reminder but something happened recently that really got me thinking about this. (or maybe procrastination is my problem.. 🙂 )
What really got me thinking about this in a round-about sort of way was John Willis’s article on burnout in IT and especially at startups.. It got me thinking about the pressures people face – to be on top of the world, to be everywhere, to speak, share & present at events, to know & learn everything, to have friends and family (work life balance) and it got me thinking about my fears and concerns and how I react. I actually felt the same nervousness in my gut just reading his post that I feel when I get in front of a large crowd. I even feel some of the same nervous energy just post *this* post.
Is my anxiety an manifestation of burnout? Irrational fear of letting people down? Concern that I may succeed and have to do this more and spend more time working on work when I should have a better life balance? Am I trying to do and achieve so much that I’m failing at all of it? I want to succeed, provide for my family and flourish – are the demands simply too much and I show it through channeled anxiety?
Again, I don’t know the answers..
What I have learned though is that the community is out there who does want to help and that whatever our fears, concerns and emotions may be that we often internalize and let take the best of us, we can overcome them – Personally and as a Community. I appreciate John for reminding us that real people are doing real work and we should be in the now and in the present to help each other. It took a lot of courage to write something like that – In a way, just seeing John put his soul out there on a platter gave me the courage I needed to finally share this post before I let it get the best of me.
Always looking forward to hearing what others may have done to cope and grow or push through these responses.
Does exercise work for you to alleviate rush of adrenaline? Do you do breathing exercises? Have you been able to do better as you talk and share more? Did you have to result to beta blockers or any medication to assist while re-training your brain & body? Vacation? Holiday? break from everything? Yoga? (i’ve had lots of recommendations for yoga…)
More to come as I explore and learn.. (nervously awaiting hitting the publish button…)
After all, I enjoy sharing.. I enjoy hearing other people tell their stories. I don’t know what I’m really afraid of.. other then maybe I always felt alone in this adventure at times (anxiety does that to a person!) but again, I’ve seen some great response from the community as of late that has lit that fire under me to speak up, share and do what I love to do – to have a passion for something and learn to live my life without that fear and not let it turn into burnout or something worse.
oh btw, I hope to see everyone at another #DOES, PuppetConf, DevOpsDays or other conference.. Talks are out Be sure to say hi! I may look nervous but I promise I’m still nice.