I was all of ten years, the first time I stood on a podium to deliver a speech. I would never forget that feeling. My stomach churned, my hands went cold and even shivered, I was forgetting everything that I had memorized. Was there a tremor in my voice?
That was the start of a journey.
I delivered the speech well that day, pausing at just one point as I had forgotten the sentences in that frightened haze. I received many words of appreciation, but what I remembered clearly was that feeling.
Of standing before them all, and forgetting what to speak.
That marked the start of my fear for public speaking.
All through my school years, I’d do well if I had a paper in hand and was reading from it. Because if I memorized the words, I was sure to forget them. If I decided to speak on the spot, I’d never have enough to tell my audience.
The fear was there, but despite knowing the fear, I stepped up and spoke whenever I could, even though most of the times I made a fool of myself not knowing what to say. I was a tad lazy and far too self-conscious during my teenage years, but even that didn’t keep me from speaking up whenever I could. Somewhere inside, the ten year old girl was urging me on to try, so she could forget that feeling the next time she stepped onstage.
Eight years of trying to get rid of my fear, and it was still there inside me.
I didn’t speak in front of an audience for a whole year, as there was no need for it. And then I started college. I volunteered to deliver a short welcome speech for the Director during the orientation program. I doubted that I’d be a bumbling mess and create a horrible first impression, but as I started speaking into the mic, my voice was clear, the words coherent. And I didn’t even have a paper in my hand.
I thought I had gotten rid of the fear, but I hadn’t. When I went up to speak for a competition, I found the same old fear that the ten year old girl felt, though to a lesser degree. I still wasn’t at ease.
It was after that, that I told myself this.
The fear won’t go, because it’s a part of me. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get used to it, and eventually be friends with it. I recognize the fear these days, but I’m not afraid of it. It sounds weird – how could I not fear it, if it IS fear? But I’ve accepted the fear, and it’s there while I speak. But my words aren’t jumbled, and I always have something to say.
And people listen, because maybe they too, know the struggle of a ten year old who forgot her lines and never gave up.
[ A chapter in the story of my life. ]