Feeling judged and fear of public speaking
Feeling judged…this is such a common theme that comes up for people who lack confidence in speaking. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I can’t recall a single situation where it has not played some part! Even those who are more confident at speaking in public can still be challenged by this at times, particularly when stepping into a more challenging speaking situation.
Feeling judged and shame about speaking
Feeling judged is very closely linked to shame, and both are powerful feelings, and ones which cannot simply be ignored. In exploring the theme of feeling judged, I find that, like many things, the issue is not clear cut. We can be very effective and confident in some speaking situations and not in others. This can then lead to apparent contradictions within ourselves. Different scenarios I’ve encountered include:
The successful entrepreneur who comes across as confident, but is crippled inside by the thought of needing to speak to at a networking event.
The newly elected golf captain who can effectively negotiate deals at work, but is terrified of giving a speech at the annual captain’s dinner.
The project manager who can really connect with her team, but is passed over at management meetings.
The toastmaster who has won numerous competitions, given amazing, inspiring speeches, but is afraid to give an opinion at meetings.
These contradictions can add to further shame, as we feel that we should be just able to ‘get over it’. However, it’s not as simple as that. The thing is, that those reactions served a purpose in our past, to keep us safe when we needed it, but they no longer serve us well. Because these reactions are so ingrained, I find that it’s practically impossible to think our way out of it…something that many of my clients have tried before they’ve come to me. So what to do about it?
What can we do when we feel judged and shame around speaking
Well, for me, I look at two things, 1) what it feels like in the body, and 2) getting acquainted with my inner critic. In this article I’m honing in on the body piece.
So what do I mean when I say to look at what shame of feeling judged feels like in the body? It’s easy to use words to describe how we feel, but these can be deceptive, as we can simply be thinking in an abstract way about the feeling. What we need to do is get stuck into the physical experience. What does being judged or shame feel like to you? Perhaps it’s a hunching of the shoulders, a tightness in the chest, or a shaky, weak voice. Everyone has different experiences. It is not particularly pleasant to go there with these sensations, but go there we must, if we want to make lasting changes. Rather than make judgements about the feelings of shame, such as “It’s unpleasant,” instead, we can choose to be curious, “I notice a heaviness in the pit of my stomach.”
How getting to know feelings help us to speak with confidence
As we get better acquainted with these feelings or sensations which associated with shame or feeling judged, they don’t feel quite so overwhelming. In fact, it reduces the power that they have over us. I liken it to surfing, if you’re fighting the wave, you’re on a losing battle, but if you go with it, it’s a whole lot easier, and fun (even if that does involve falling off the board, as I do quite spectacularly!) So, by allowing these sensations to be there, a transformation can happen. We become more present in ourselves, and more mindful. As a result, we can speak from a place of presence, one which comes across as passionate and confident…whether or not those physical sensations connected to feeling judged are there.
Feel the fear (in your body) and say it anyway
As we get better acquainted with these feelings or sensations, they don’t feel quite so overwhelming, and in fact, it reduces the power that they have over us. I liken it to surfing, if you’re fighting the wave, you’re on a losing battle, but if you go with it, it’s a whole lot easier, and fun (even if that does involve falling off the board, as I do quite spectacularly!) So, by allowing these sensations to be there, a transformation can happen. We become more present in ourselves, and more mindful. As a result, we can speak from a place of presence, one which comes across as passionate and confident…whether or not those physical sensations connected to feeling judged are there.
If that all sounds a bit difficult to apply, and you don’t quite know where to start, then you can access a body awareness audio file that I have on my website. It helps you to get more connected with your body, and only takes 2 minutes to listen to. Simply sign up to my mailing list and you can access that, along with other free resources.
I find it fascinating that by opening the door to our fear of speaking, we can be liberated from it. If you’d like to read more about how to overcome your fear of public speaking, check out Why just calm down is bad advice for nervous speakers.
This article was published by me on Linked In on 22nd May 2018.