What Perfectionism Does to Your Public Speaking Anxiety

Fear of public speaking can also be a fear of death —an emotional death. We feel naked and exposed in front of an audience. We think people are going to scrutinize everything we say and do. We pressure ourselves to be perfect, or else our self-worth suffers. We dread confronting the possibility of rejection.

Here are some mindset tips to change this around:

1. Don’t Expect Perfection from Yourself

When it comes to public speaking, some of us tend to kick ourselves over every little perceived mistake we make. We magnify our imperfections, while ignoring all that’s good and well. The truth is, even the best, most experienced speakers make many mistakes. When they do, they recover, keep going gracefully, and all is well.

Keep going. The audience will never know most of your mistakes, unless you halt your speech, break down, and confess them. Carry on with poise. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.

2. Avoid Equating Public Speaking to Your Self-Worth

Public speaking is only a small part of your overall professional ability. If you’re not confident at it, there are many ways to help manage your anxiety. Whether you’re good at public speaking or not has nothing to do with your value as a person. Once you start using techniques to overcome your fear, you will learn and become better while practicing your new fear-reducing tools.

3. Avoid Being Nervous About Your Nervousness

Fear of the fear. We are more afraid of the anticipatory anxiety, the panic attacks, racing mind and beat-up cycle of our presentation afterwards. When it comes down to it, the fear of the symptoms and loss of control is much more than actually giving the talk. Nervousness is our adrenaline flowing; it’s a form of energy.

Once you get more comfortable, you learn to make this energy work for you, turning nervousness into enthusiasm, engagement, and charisma. It’s okay to be nervous. Make the energy work for you.

4. Avoid Trying to Memorize Every Word

Attempting to memorize completely will simply increase stress, and cause greater nervousness if the sequence of the words you’re trying to memorize goes amiss.

Here are more ways to reduce anxiety of public speaking and increase confidence:

  • Use logic. Ask questions like “What evidence do I have to support this perfectionist thought?”
  • Replace perfectionistic thoughts with realistic ones. Examples and worksheets here.
  • Simply identifying perfectionism will decrease the power it has over you. Always challenge your (automatic negative) thoughts to bring this to light.
  • Make sure that you allow yourself enough time to prepare and rehearse for your presentation, but resist the urge to obsessively over-prepare. Set yourself a timeframe and then stop and think about something else.
  • If you can, connect your talk to a subject that you are very familiar with or are passionate about. By addressing familiar subject matter, you are more likely to see the audience as friendly and sincerely interested in what you have to say, rather than concerned about your imperfections.

The Takeaway

Communicating your ideas clearly and presenting them openly in a public forum is an essential component of success across several domains of life. However, public speaking is consistently listed as one of the most common fears people have. It holds many back from reaching their potential.

The good news is that with the right level of motivation, technique, and support you can not only overcome the anxiety and fear of public speaking but actually change that nervous energy to a positive energy and thrive when you speak.

Need some guidance and encouragement? Reach out for more tips. Schedule a quick complimentary call.

The tools and techniques used for public speaking fear can also easily apply to anxiety of video and phone meetings.