There is a monster under the…

Because beliefs influence what we think and how we feel, it is important to look at why the myth of needing to fear public speaking persists today. If you grow up in a family or culture that believes this myth, you will too, until you challenge it. If your family and cultural background encouraged and rewarded self-expression, you will not have this fear or anxiety.

Our past experience, cultural background, education and experience help us determine our truth about the world. Our beliefs determine our feelings, initiate our actions, motivate our reactions and create our results. If your truth is “I fear public speaking,” then when you get up to speak, you will expect to experience symptoms of anxiety, which leads to feeling even more stressed, which leads to poor performance, which leads to poor results, which in turn supports your belief.

You can then state, “I was right!”

Rarely do we ask the tough questions about generally accepted beliefs. Today, we laugh at the idea that the world is flat and that if you sailed to the edge you would fall into the abyss. This was an accepted belief for several centuries, preventing exploration and creating fear in all sailors. New knowledge, current research and inquiring minds are continually upsetting old knowledge and the myths that resulted from lack of knowledge.

If you believe that you can, you will.

If you have a false negative belief about anything (public speaking), you can inadvertently set up a self-reinforcing cycle of anxiety and failure:

Because; I think what I think (fear of public speaking), I feel what I feel (anxiety)…

Because; I feel what I feel (anxiety), I do what I do (shake, forget my speech and mumble)…

Because; I do what I do (shake, forget my speech), I get what I get (a poor review and criticism)…

Which reinforces what I believe: I should and must fear public speaking. This is self-reinforcing false thinking: if I think I can’t, I won’t.

People tend to perceive events in terms of their emotional experience (I had a terrifying time public speaking). They also read what they want to see into events (It was terrifying speaking in public). Emotional anchors are very powerful inhibitors and can put blinders on the finest mind. People are inclined to select, interpret and filter external stimuli through their previous experiences, cultural values and acquired convictions. For the same reason, they tend to reject everything that does not fit.

As a result, it is often necessary to be aware of any interpretation of reality that is too rigid or is based on faulty perceptions. It is a challenge for most people to learn how to be aware of their perceptions and judgments, while maintaining vigilant awareness of their own biases. It is just so comfortable to hold on to what we “know” to be true. It is easy to believe that my point of view is the real “truth”; however, everyone has a different point of view, a different “truth,” and that is the origin of the challenge and difficulty of human communication.

It is my experience that most of us are fairly good at dealing with the day to day stuff, but we don’t regularly bring our internal résumé up to date and we forget what we have accomplished and achieved. The past is no indication of future results—good or bad. What you focus on, you create, with or without your awareness. I now believe that it is fun and exciting to get up to speak.

What do you believe?