Isn’t it strange that public speaking is known to be the greatest fear of all (followed by death!), yet most people will not tell others? Process that irony for a moment. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld said that what this means is that when you go to a funeral, you’d rather be in the coffin than doing the eulogy!
People who disclose their fear feel that they are extremely weak and are worried about what others will think of them. With it being the greatest fear known, why does it make you feel vulnerable and weak?
This theme has come up often in the Getting Over Stage Fright workshop. Time and time again, people come from all over the country and sometimes further away to share their “secret” in a very supportive environment where they are at last understood by everyone in the room. Why does it take them to such great lengths to feel that they can finally share?
The fear runs so deep that months before the workshop, they are already convinced that they will be the worst one in the room. They admit that they’ve been hiding it from others for a long time. Then, once they share their fear, and hear others share their story, this incredible bonding experience occurs. They say that it is cathartic and therapeutic to talk about this fear at last. The healing process begins immediately and a deep trust is established.
The 82nd workshop was just a couple weeks ago. The group members were so caught up in telling their story that they spoke 3 times longer than I’ve ever seen before! When the weekend was over and they were asked what they found to be most interesting, they said that the group dynamic had a large impact on them and there was a weight lifted in no longer feeling alone. They felt safe to apply the new tools they learned throughout the workshop. They let go of their fear more and more as they felt safer.
A couple people started off their introduction with, “I feel very nervous right now”. Afterward, they said the release of admitting that to the group instantly took off the pressure they were feeling. By the end of the workshop, they felt they were ready to do the same when they returned home.
While sharing, some have unexpected emotion arise. This is a normal reaction, as it’s twice as hard to speak about something personal while also facing their greatest fear of speaking. In most cases people will feel very upset with themselves for showing emotion, and the feeling of being out of control will cause them to go back to the original feeling of “weakness”. This is addressed immediately and it is explained that being vulnerable is a great act of courage and strength, rather than incompetence. It takes much more effort to share than to hide.
Vulnerability also sets the stage for others to follow. If that person at the workshop hadn’t been brave enough to share deeply, maybe the others wouldn’t have shared so much. By sharing your challenge, you are more relatable to others, they feel a connection that makes them feel more human, not so alone. They let go of the tendency to compare themselves to others once they know what is really going on in someone else’s mind. We are all human after all.
Why is it so discouraged in general to show vulnerability by sharing your feelings and emotions? Likely years and years of programming through society, media, culture, upbringing, etc., has taught us that. But we can change that now that we are aware.
After the workshop, there are follow up calls, and many times I hear the group members saying they’ve decided to be open about it with their family, friends and at work or school. They say what a difference it has made. It also opens others up to share with them that they too have been hiding this fear. Then there is the surprise on both ends that the fear has been covered up and hidden so well for so long!
Learn from them and read about their experiences last month. The power of vulnerability reduces pressure and replaces self-blame and guilt with a feeling of empowerment. Remember that there’s no courage without fear.
Being brave and being scared—being strong and being vulnerable—are two sides of the same coin. Start opening up to others today!
Read more here directly from the workshop members and their experience last month!