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Are you annoyed by the title of this blog? By the implication that such fear is a choice? Hold your judgement for a moment.

Who am I? The question is deeply built into us. It doesn't take many years to start sculpting ourselves with answers. And whatever comes after I am... can become a powerful force in our lives. For example: some trainees turn up to my presentation skills workshops with these beliefs: "I am... someone who hates the spotlight." "I am... someone who doesn't like people looking at me." "I am... not a public speaker." So they're severely hampered making speeches, giving presentations, running meetings - even speaking up at someone else's meeting. 

Don't just think of public speaking. Many other aspects of our lives can be crippled by such beliefs.

Extreme example

I've seen this: (Let's call the trainee Amy). Amy has told us she's terrified of public speaking. However, she wants to improve. So she listens carefully to training suggestions, then tries out an action in front of the camera. Successfully.

The other trainees grin and applaud, pleased for her.

But Amy looks unhappy - even when we play the video back to her.

"I didn't like it," she says.

The others are astonished. "Why not?"

"It looks weird."

"But it's obviously better! It looks good. Best we've seen you."

Amy shakes her head. "Look at my funny hand movement." Hand movement, expression, head, pointy pink ears - you name it - it doesn't look any good to Amy.

A belief? Or the truth?

A belief may be so powerful, we don't see it as a belief at all. We see it as a truth. Which means we're stuck. We choose to stay in a state of fear and inability rather than risk a much greater fear - the fear of being someone we're not.

So, to the point.

Recognise that your fear of and inability in the spotlight is not a truth about you - unless you make it so.

Such fear is part of the armoury of beliefs that make up your ego's I am... You chose it; perhaps passively in increments over the years, but you allowed it to settle in and strangle a future skill. Now, recognize it as a destructive belief and it will start loosening its grip. Then set about deliberately replacing it with a belief that serves you better.

Am I trying to change who you are? No, I'm trying to change who you believe you are.

Time to choose to be more - much more - than you thought you were.

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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