A month or so back, I was meeting some people at a pre-event party. Some of them were curious about my work and seemed taken by my personality. One of them mused that I must be very self-confident to be able to do what I do professionally. I told them the truth that I can be quite dependent on how others perceive me, but I have come a long way from where I started.
Many people when they write or speak about themselves, especially if they are working in a public sphere, portray themselves as ideal people. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates— the usual names that are associated with grinding and achieving something amazing. We live in a an era of self-proclaimed mentors where many people have something to share. Social media gives many of us the platform to do so. What happens in these places? Often, those who are speaking forget who is going to listen to them. They forget that social media is filled with so many mentors, gurus and self-help professionals, not to mention other kinds of messages that are geared to lure listeners, that those who are listening are affected deeply by the messages. In an era where it’s easy to lower people’s self-esteem, revealing one’s own flaws and humanity becomes important. I, for one, love to read accounts of personalities being vulnerable and honest. If I compare the kinds of books available to us, there are too few that focus on failures and what those failures teach us. So for me it becomes valuable to look at my limitations and see how the personal ties into and influences the professional.
Some ways in which you can manage your self-doubt while public speaking
1. Reflect on the root of your self-doubt
This requires some patience and kindness. Sit and think back on what could have been the source of your self-doubt. What comes to mind? My first association was that I was overly conscious to my mother’s responses as a child. This made me hyper-vigilant of her needs and reactions. I carried that forward into my adult life, looking at those around me and trying to take care of their needs. Since my work as an event host and emcee involves being attuned to the needs of the audience, speakers, and organisers, I have to say that response of mine has helped me. However, it is something that did affect my sense of self-worth making me hyperaware of others’ perceptions.
2. Tap into what boosts your self-confidence
To do a job that requires being onstage and making everyone feel confident and at ease, I can assure you that low self-confidence is palpable to the audience. So, it’s something I cannot carry onstage. Most of the time, I’m successful in tapping into my sense of self-confidence by reminding myself of my own positive traits, memories of positive feedback from past clients, etc. These help but there are still occasional moments when I slip. If I’m hosting an event and people in the audience are smiling at me as I speak, but maybe my eyes catch just one person who has a cold look— I feel a quick pang of doubt go through me. Did I say something wrong? Did I do something wrong? Are they judging me?
3. Reconnect to your purpose
In moments like the ones above, the key for me is to come back to the present moment. I feel connected to the energy of the event again, remind myself of my purpose and that I’m not so important that everyone will be thinking of me all the time! If the other two had not helped so far, this certainly helps take the heat off and be more in tune with the needs that arise as an event progresses.
4. Humanize yourself
A lot of pressure goes away when you believe that there’s always some room for mistakes. You are not infallible and as a result, you might slip up on stage and maybe mispronounce a word, say the wrong thing, blank out for a moment. All of these things have happened to people through the ages and they, and events, have survived. So, focus on what you would like to communicate and allow yourself some grace. It’s going to be okay.