That Dirty Little Secret

I’ve noticed an interesting tendency among many of the high-achieving, smart people I coach. When they’re telling me what they would like to get out of our coaching relationship, they drop their volume, avert their eyes, and confess, “Sometimes I get really nervous when I have to speak in public. I know it’s stupid, but—“

These incredible people have been carrying this around like it’s a dirty little secret, like they should be ashamed. They say it to me like I won’t have heard anything like this before, and they’re sorry to disappoint me.

If you’re one of these people, please hear me:

It’s totally fine, and normal, and understandable to get nervous when you’re speaking in public or presenting. Even to get really nervous. Even to be so nervous you feel like you might throw up. It’s totally normal. In fact, I hear this All. The. Time.

You’re not alone. 

If you’re not one of these people, but you know someone who feels this way, please hear me:

I know you want to help! So please don’t tell your friend, family member, or colleague that there’s no reason to be nervous. Don’t remind them that they 1) know everyone in the room, 2) know their material, 3) have done this before. They already know it, and it only makes them feel like they’re wrong to be nervous.

Instead, listen to their worry. Let them know they’re not alone, that there are logical reasons to feel vulnerable and exposed when you’re presenting. Sit with them. Breathe with them. Ask them what they hope the outcome will be, and focus on the positive. Forward this post to them.

Feeling anxious about a presentation is reasonable! Let’s help ourselves–and those around us–shed the idea that it’s some dirty little secret.

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