“Hi, my name is ______ and I saw your video on YouTube. I felt_____ (a- inspired, b- confused, c- excited) by your speech and decided to message you for help. I have been struggling with the fear of public speaking for ___ years, and it makes my body ____ [adjective], my face ____ [adjective] and my confidence go to ____ [noun]. I know if this stays the same, I’m not going to graduate from _____ and I’m going to end up as a _____ [occupation] making ___ [single digit number] an hour for the rest of my ____ [expletive] life. Please tell me how you learned to manage your fear, you lucky _____ [noun]!
This is the basic template of the hundreds of emails I receive from people trying to control their fear. But around the time of this writing, I received an email from a reader that left me speechless:
“Hello Roy, I’ve been struggling with the fear of public speaking since I was 15. I’m afraid to introduce myself to the class, to answer a question that requires more than two words even if I know exactly what the answer is. Presentations are my ultimate fear—I prefer to receive an F than do a five-minute presentation. It is a monster that never goes away. Do you know what makes me most sad about it? I wasn’t like this at all before the age of 15. My dream was to become a news reporter. I’m 34 today. I’m happy for you, my friend, but this monster is holding me tight. This has destroyed me.”
What hurts the most is that this is a letter I would have written just a few years ago. It’s also the letter my future self would have written had I not made the decision to get over my fear once and for all.
Just as it was for the reader who sent that email, the fear of public speaking was a monster that dragged my self-esteem on a leash everywhere it went. But what I wish I’d known when I started my battle, is not an incurable disease. Fear is just a glass barrier waiting to be shattered and, once shattered, there’s nothing that can hold you back.
I felt the same way this person has for many years. I was completely controlled by my fear and there was nothing that seemed to be working in my battle to overcome it. But in order to shatter it, you must face it directly. You must step forward towards it and keep going forward regardless of bumps along the way caused by bad presentations, embarrassing screw-ups, or nerve-induced stomach pain. And you cannot halt the fight until you've learned to control your fear.