Holding back

If you are one of the millions of people who have a fear of public speaking, that fear is probably holding you back more than you know. Your fear of speaking has had a dramatic impact on the person you are today. After all, just like the saying goes, “You are what you eat,” your fear of public speaking has made your personality the way that it is because you’ve been thinking about it and practicing that fear probably every day.

I know, because I too lived in a world of extreme fear of public speaking; and I can definitely see how this fear has formed me into the person I am today. In 7th grade, I was assigned to give my first oral book report. I could use as many notes as I wanted to, so I wrote my presentation word-for-word. I practically had my speech memorized by the time it came for “show day.” My mother said, “The best way to get over your nervousness is to practice.”

So, I followed her advice. Good thing, too, because when it came time for me to read my book report out loud to the class while standing in front of the room, I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even read the piece of paper! Or, maybe it was just really bad handwriting. The class laughed immediately, of course, when they saw my hands shaking. You could hear the paper wrinkling from the back of the room as I attempted to hold it still.

That single book, and the written report I attempted to orate, took me all the way through high school. Yep, I presented the same book, the same presentation four times total. You would think it would become easier, but no. How I got into college is beyond my imagination. My grades were so poor, my SAT scores dreadful. My father had to bribe the dean of academics at our local college to let me in because my grades were so despicable.

Only after college did I finally join my first Toastmasters club, which, of course, changed my life forever. Toastmasters unveiled skills hidden deep inside me that I never knew I had. Eventually, Toastmasters gave me the confidence to start my own business, resign from my steady job (on the very day I was offered a big promotion) to grow my own business that was taking off.

After being a dedicated 10-year Toastmasters member, serving as club president, then area governor, then division governor, I left Toastmasters to promote my first of several books and a part-time (only one or two speaking gigs per month) professional speaking career.

Recently, I’ve returned to Toastmasters. Why? Because even if you’ve been a speaker for 10+ years, I can assure you…there’s always room for improvement! So, I encourage speakers of all levels to be continually enhancing their speaking skills by being a Toastmasters member, but that’s for a different blog post.

You’ve Underestimated Your Fear of Public Speaking

If you are reading this, chances are you’ve UNDER-estimated how profound of an impact your fear of speaking has had on your life.

This post is my attempt at giving you a severe wake-up call to overcome that fear NOW before another 5 years has passed! You MUST make it a bigger priority in your life–not next year, but, starting TODAY to get past this deep fear of speaking. It has probably already led you in an unfavorable direction that has reduced your potential in life. Chances are, you don’t even see the full damage this debilitating fear has inflicted on you and your life so far.

As you might imagine, 10 years is a long time to be a member of anything, let alone a Toastmasters club. I have a lifetime of stories to share about members’ experiences and backgrounds. Thinking of them and their stories, as well as my own, I’ve come up with a list of 75 ways public speaking has held people back from a life of full potential and enjoyment in the hopes that you might see how you are in familiar company with many others. Maybe, just maybe, one of these real-live situations will inspire you to take the next step and find out what you can do to start overcoming your fear of public speaking.

Public Speaking Fear Has Held You Back By Causing:

  1. Weight gain because you want to eat more when you have no confidence
  2. Stress and anxiety even when someone asks your opinion and you’re not comfortable with being put on the spot
  3. Anger because you feel trapped in a life with limited potential while you watch others succeed
  4. Reduced comprehension as your mind atrophies and slows down over time from lack of use and challenge
  5. Avoidance of conflict resolution because you are afraid what you say will make matters worse
  6. Limited expectations for yourself but high expectations of others to compensate for your shortcomings
  7. Reduced productivity because you fear calling a task “complete”
  8. Believing big problems are smaller than they are so you avoid them until they’re even bigger problems, in part because that’s exactly how you’ve looked at public speaking; a big problem for you that’s really not a big problem…until one day it becomes a source for many growing issues
  9. Rejection of suggestions from others for improvement because your public speaking fears kick-in that parasite called denial to save your ego from being harmed
  10. Accepting of ideas you don’t really believe in because you don’t feel your words will be received favorably if you were to speak your mind
  11. Inability to fully complete goals because that all-important goal to overcome your fear of speaking has never been handled like you know it should be
  12. Lack of goal setting ability; a whatever happens approach
  13. Reduced productivity because you feel you have to be perfect at even the smallest details
  14. Viewing everyone else as “lucky” because you feel you’re unfortunate or lacking
  15. Focus on not failing instead of succeeding
  16. Decisions based on potential for failure instead of focusing on the potential if your attempt was a success
  17. Excitement that quickly shifts to disappointment; an “it figures” mentality
  18. Wallowing in mistakes instead of learn from them
  19. Giving up too easily at, well, anything pretty much
  20. Broken promises that could’ve easily been kept
  21. Predicted failure before you start something new and self-sabotage yourself to make sure it fails
  22. Limiting of yourself with obstacles you’ve set yourself, whether they truly exist or not
  23. Shrugging off new opportunities due to fear of learning new tasks
  24. Refusal of greater responsibility when offered because you don’t think you can handle it
  25. Short-changing your life experiences by not grasping speaking opportunities (weddings, after dinner meetings, company party toasts, come to mind)
  26. Preference of seclusion over recognition because you don’t feel your worthy of gaining praise
  27. Constant negative self-talk that sounds like you’re justifying it’s your fault when things go wrong
  28. Constant bad moods even when you’re smiling to others
  29. Turning to alcohol or drugs for daily escape
  30. Smoking a pack of cigarettes a day because it’s the one thing you can control in your life that uses your mouth
  31. Paranoia of illnesses that you don’t have because you feel there MUST be something wrong with you if you’re always feeling this badly
  32. High blood pressure due to long, prolonged bottled up stress with no outlet for self-expression
  33. Reluctance to change because you’re only comfortable doing exactly what you’re doing…even though that’s not very comfy either
  34. Depression through the years as you might not even recognize the problem is your blatant fear of communication
  35. Constant feeling of being unsafe where it’s really your ego from being scarred that you’re trying to protect instead of physical safety
  36. Preferring predictability over adventure because you’re only comfortable knowing exactly how things will turn out rather than enjoying the adventure of the unknown
  37. Yesterday’s dreams that seem unreachable today because you’ve had so many years of unfulfilled dreams
  38. A sense of looking forward to things going wrong because that’s what you’re used to
  39. Comfort in being uncomfortable and you’re so used to it by now, so you can’t even imagine what life would be like without this albatross lifted
  40. Forgetting details constantly because your brain is unexercised
  41. Difficulty in prioritizing multiple objectives and you go through life wondering how others get so much accomplished with their days
  42. Inability to decide what you want in life because so much seems unreachable
  43. Difficulty to weigh what is truly valuable versus what is a waste of time
  44. Unwillingness to stand your ground for what you believe is right because you’re just not one of those “speakers”
  45. Life that seems like a whirlwind with no focus in sight and no order
  46. Feeling of lack of organization
  47. Being condescending to others masking your own fear and ending conversations quickly, which is how you prefer it
  48. Frustration displayed at the smallest situations instead of patience, understanding and sympathy for others
  49. Inability to see more creative ways to solve problems and stick to what worked 10 years ago
  50. Limited creativity so you wait for others to voice their ideas
  51. Selling less books because you insist that’s why you wrote a book…so that you wouldn’t have to speak
  52. Lack of fulfillment in spiritual activities because if you’re afraid of public speaking, you’re probably not going to volunteer as lay reader or communion assistant at your church or participate in Bible studies
  53. Experiences only partially enjoyed because you’re expecting something to go wrong…and it usually does
  54. Higher turnover if you manage people because you choose to not talk with them one-on-one or and especially as a group
  55. Jealousy when you see others younger than you or with less experience present content you know from the real-world is not entirely correct…and that person is STILL getting credit instead of you
  56. Longer unemployment cycles because you’re afraid to interview and when you do, you don’t show your best side
  57. Loss of promotion at work but you justify it as believing you must be more important to the company where you are
  58. Resentment because you went another year without a promotion while watching your buddies graduate to higher levels in the company
  59. Reduced motivation every year to look for new challenges because you’re getting older now and you just to “teach an old dog new tricks.”
  60. Dwindling sales but you blame the economy and higher prices as the cause
  61. Fewer referrals from outside contacts because you just don’t want to go that networking event and waste business cards
  62. Lost clients because you don’t call people back soon enough
  63. Impatience with others expecting them to work faster
  64. Internalized stress because you don’t want to say anything to anyone to improve the situation
  65. Layoffs…but you figure it was just matter of time anyway
  66. Less willingness to express yourself to others
  67. Poor relationship with spouse because you either say too much or too little because you have trouble articulating the right words during conversations
  68. Dwindling relationship with your children as they grow older needing your wisdom but you avoid conversation over tough issues
  69. Elongated dispute with siblings and other family members because you lack confidence to speak to them and get matters settled
  70. Hesitation to confront your fear in matters other than speaking because you figure you won’t get over those fears either
  71. Undue struggle and stress through school presentations that could be so easy if you just had a little training and experience
  72. Hardship at work for you and others because you were not comfortable defending your view of a new procedure introduced at your job
  73. Lost sales you should have easily won but you blame it on being too old, too bald, or your teeth are not as white as ought to be (fill in excuse here)
  74. Embarrassment among co-workers as another client has asked for someone else in your company to be responsible for their account because you lack good phone skills
  75. Unrealized leadership capability as you simply must be able to communicate verbally when leading people in any occasion or level
  76. Less money earnings because you will always make more money and be of higher demand if you can speak effectively in public to groups or one-on-one (saved this one for last)

Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking Now!

What is the one thing you can do right now to work on the underlying, root problem of all of these issues? Visit and join a quality Toastmasters club. Get active and set your calendar so that you can be at EVERY meeting. The Toastmasters program will do the rest just as it has for more than a century for members around the world.

Don’t put off another week, month or year to move beyond this fear of public speaking. The world is waiting your arrival! Refuse to be held back any longer.

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Marty Dickinson, ATMB, is a member of this Aurora Colorado Toastmasters club location called George Sutton Toastmasters every Thursday from 11:30 am to 1 pm. Come and visit!