One sentence from Brené Brown's new book Daring Greatly (published Sept 2012) really struck me. "We can't let ourselves be seen if we're terrified by what people might think" . For me that seems to be at the core of why people are scared of public speaking. If I speak out; people will find out my faults, they will see all my weaknesses.
What she's talking about it is shame (the belief that we are not worthy enough for love, belonging or connection). She talks about 12 categories of shame that have emerged from her research (• appearance and body image, • money and work • parenting • family • mental and physical health • addiction • sex • aging • religion • surving trauma • being stereotyped or labelled).
Our shame, in whatever form, can stop us for being seen if we allow it. We think we know what people are thinking. We think we know what the expectations are of the audience and quite often these are really tough expectations. "I have to be perfect when I speak, I can't make a mistake, People are expecting me to be really impressive etc. Underneath these expectations is the thought that I'm not good enough, I'm flawed and I'm ashamed".
Tough stuff - its no wonder people don't want to do public speaking. But it doesn't have to be like that at all. We create these thoughts often when we are under pressure and falsely project these thoughts onto an audience with a sea of blank faces. So if we fail to understand what is going on with that audience our shameful thoughts seem to be right infront of us. And that is not pleasant.
What's needed is a radical re-think of what we are doing with an audience and to learn the ability to be calm, centered, to work with the belief that we are worthy and not to get entangled with "What do i think the audience is thinking". That radical re-think of public speaking calls us to learn presence.