We all experience a bit of anxiety before an important conversation. But left alone, it can drain your confidence more and more with each missed opportunity. Opportunities to influence an audience in a keynote; to demonstrate your value in a meeting; or to close a sale.
Each opportunity you have to speak up or speak out will result in either you building your anxiety or building your confidence. Which do you prefer?
Step 3: Dissolve Your Fear.
Think of your gnarly monster as a glass of ice and we are going to melt that ice. To be sure it will take time. Just like with ice, you need the right atmosphere to do it. With patience, it will happen and you will be left with a glass of nice refreshing water instead of fear.
How you dissolve your fears will depend on what they are.
Although you were stepping back and observing in step two, you may have already begun to chip into the ice monster. Often by shining a hot light on the ice monster you can see assumptions that have been made and by challenging those assumptions you have already begun to dissolve your fears.
But now it is time to take deliberate steps. The path I recommend is the one in which you make small incremental changes in what you do to dissolve the fear over time. The goal is to replace the fear with confidence.
Confidence comes with practice.
This is where the effort, time and commitment of change comes into play. You have in very powerful brain, a story. This story was created by an event which related a situation to fear. Then each time you experienced that situation, your brain put it in the category with the first experience and your fear was triggered. Each time it is triggered the story grows stronger.
Now you need to reverse that path. Each time you face your fear and overcome it, you begin to replace that story of fear with a story of success. Over time the story of success, and your response to the situation, will become your new story and will be stronger than the fear story.
Some of you may be tempted to just jump right in – like facing their fear of heights by base jumping off a building. The problem with that approach is that it’s one event. Your brain will not see that one event as something that can overcome a well worn path – your story of fear. It is not an action that you can take regularly and so your brain will see it as an anomaly.
The better approach is to build your strength over time. Just as you would not go from couch potato to marathon runner in a day, you will not go from fearful to confident speaker in a day. Doing one TEDx talk will not make you a confident speaker. Taking on new opportunities to build your public speaking confidence over time, will.
The steps to confidence.
Each of us has a different path to take from fear to confidence. It is important to identify:
- Your ultimate goal – what does it look like for you to be a confident speaker.
- Your current level – those observations you collected will help identify your starting point.
- The size of the step – change happens over time but you need to identify a big enough gap between each incremental change so that you are challenging yourself, but not so much that you reinforce the fear instead of confidence.
With Cheryl, her observations helped her to identify the situations in which she was fearful of being caught as a fraud (which she is not). She started with conversations with the individual members of the audience and worked up to larger and larger audiences . She also started with simple topics and built up her confidence over time by presenting more and more complex topics.
The result of you going through these 3 steps is your specific formula for addressing your fears. If you have more than one fear (which many of us do) you can repeat this process to help you overcome each one. And if you ever feel you have slipped back into a fear behavior (this could happen if you stop too soon or take too long in between steps), you can start from step one and use your personalized approach to get back on track.
A bit of anxiety is normal. But when that anxiety keeps you from successfully doing your work, it’s time to open the door and face the hairy, icy monster. Because you now have what you need to name your fear, get to know it, and dissolve it replacing it with confidence in yourself.
This path can be a slippery one – it is an icy monster after all. As with any unknown path, it is better traveled with a guide. If you want to have a guide on your path from fear to confidence, contact me. Together we’ll melt the fear and replace it with confidence so that you can get your ideas out of your head and into the world.