Do you tremble when it’s
your turn to talk? Do you avoid public speaking at all costs? And do you feel
like that fear is holding you back? I sure did. Here I share my story of leaving
my comfort zone and finding my voice.
Sometimes, when we speak, we aren’t communicating effectively. Furthermore, if you are like I was, speaking could be a big source of discomfort, insecurity, stress, and confusion.
Seeking Comfort by Ceding the Floor
For years, I struggled with my voice, my communication skills, and having confidence in what I said. I felt challenged even to be heard and express myself, so I defaulted to not speaking up for myself—or not speaking at all.
I became comfortable listening, and I developed
personal tricks to cede the floor to someone else so that I wouldn’t have the
responsibility to carry the conversation. My comfort was being in the
supportive role of asking questions, reacting, and listening. This was a cover
for my lack of confidence, assertiveness, and effective communication skills.
In this series, building effective ways of being is just as important as addressing what doesn’t serve us. And, in my opinion, the top two life skills that help to navigate life are (1) effective listening skills and (2) effective speaking skills.
It is not easy to expand our skill set, but it
is definitely possible. And well worth it. The goal is to gain comfort in self
by gaining mastery of these life skills. Here I aim to share some tips that
helped me to gain confidence, assertiveness, and finally, my voice.
From Getting Side-Eye to Taking Center Stage
First off, as it has been repeatedly said, awareness
is key. My insecurity, doubt, and sensitivity made me fully aware of my
inadequate communication skills, but I didn’t do anything to improve them until
my focus shifted to making positive change. Once I was aware of the possibility
of positive change, I sought to better my communication skills. My goal was to
be free of my fear of speaking, since it was holding me back. Taking this on
meant also taking on the dreaded public speaking.
I was such an unskilled, bad public speaker, I
would tremble—I avoided speaking in public whenever possible. I’m going to be
honest . . . overcoming this fear was a lot of work: taking risks, leaving my
comfort zone, and making sure to practice, practice, practice. I built new, effective
speaking skills and reframed my thinking to replace everything that wasn’t
working for me. It was a total trial-and-error process, so I had to endure
learning the hard way what didn’t work for me. What did this entail? Bombing,
debacles, and a lot of side-eye. Surprisingly, that was the best part of this
growth. In finding ways to express myself, meet my needs, and have my say, I
also became very comfortable with things not going my way. I still got side-eye
if someone didn’t like what I said—we can’t please everyone all of the time.
As with all positive change, it really takes
commitment and determination to stay the course, get the results, and achieve
success. As long as you commit to overcoming any obstacles to reaching your
goal, it is only a matter of time until you do. If you want to be more
comfortable expressing yourself, stay determined until you achieve it. This is
a process of growth, not something to be zipped through.
Facing Fear and Finding Your Voice
I found that working on my assertiveness
helped with my voice. Specifically, using my voice to meet my needs became the
driving force of my communication skills. A lot of times, we end up angry,
frustrated, annoyed, bothered, and so on, instead of opening our mouths and
expressing our needs. Getting in the practice of speaking up helped me to solve
problems and divert emotional upset. Also, on the topic of avoiding emotional
upset, what we say is just as important as how we say it.
Insulting, cursing, name-calling, and saying
hurtful or disrespectful things is not helpful if your goal is to communicate
effectively. As tempting—or perhaps even involuntary and out of control—as it
might be to speak this way, in my mind, using effective communication skills
means that we are making the situation better, not worse. And it is true what
they say, taking the high road and maintaining respect with your words will
always benefit you most; reacting with disrespectful or hurtful words will
always backfire and make things worse for you. Don’t we know that?
Take the time to make the effort; do the work to get the benefit. There are tons of resources, books, and information, for us to build any skill for which we lack confidence or want to improve. To improve my speaking skills, I went to my local Toastmasters organization and moved through its program, and even beyond. I completed 20 speeches over the course of my attendance, and what I found was that getting over my fear of public speaking really helped me to get over my fear of speaking in general.
Wherever there is fear, there is opportunity for growth. When we don’t stay in the fear, we can attain freedom from it. This is what I call freedom and happiness, which is what you gain when you master effective communication skills and find your voice.
Debbie Jacobs is an advocate, writer and healing specialist living in Alexandria, Virginia. She lived most of her adult life with a diagnosis of depression, anxiety and bipolar and speaks out on how self-improvement is life improvement and believes we all can live happy lives just by making positive change to ourselves. Her influences are Louise Hay, Napoleon Hill, Les Brown and Tony Robbins. She does positivity life coaching and is in the process of writing her first book on her healing process of accomplishing positive thinking, positive effective coping skills and healthy self-esteem, what she calls “freedom and happiness.” She shares her work to motivate, inspire and help others make positive change to themselves for their freedom and happiness too.
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