Michael, one of my clients, asked me for help in one of our phone sessions:
“I have to give a presentation to my boss and others on our staff on Friday. It’s also going to be on video in our offices around the world. I’ve always had major anxiety when I have to speak in front of others. I get so nervous my hands start to sweat and my voice gets shaky. I really hate having to give these presentations, but it’s part of my job and I have to do it. Can you help me not be so nervous?”
“Michael, where do you feel your anxiety?”
“In my gut. My gut gets so tight it hurts.”
“Michael, imagine yourself giving this presentation. Take some deep breaths and breath into the place in your gut where you get the anxiety. Get fully present with the nervousness, bringing kindness to the feeling. Can you do this?”
“Good. Can you find a place in your heart that wants responsibility for causing this anxiety?”
“Yes, I want the responsibility.”
“Now put your focus in your heart, breathing into your heart, and consciously choose the intent to learn about what you are telling yourself that is causing the anxiety. Invite the presence of your higher self – the presence of love, kindness and compassion into your heart – which is what creates your loving adult self… now ask your little boy, ‘What am I telling you and how am I treating you that is causing you to feel so nervous?’
Michael asks this question.
“Now breathe inside and allow your inner child to talk to you, telling you what you are telling him and how you are treating him that is causing him to feel so nervous.”
Michael’s inner child answers: “You tell me that I better not forget anything and I better not make any mistakes. You tell me that I’m not okay unless they like my presentation.”
“So you are putting a lot pressure on your inner child, and you are telling him that his worth is dependent on others’ approving of you. If you had an actual little son and you told him, if he was going to a party of a friend, that he has to say and do everything right and if someone doesn’t like him he’s not good enough, do you think he would be nervous?”
“Yes! I haven’t looked at it this way. I’m making him nervous by not making mistakes okay and making his worth dependent on others’ approval.”
“Right. Now, open to learning with your higher self and ask, “What’s the truth and what would be loving to yourself?”
Michael does this. “The truth is that I’m fine even if I make mistakes or forget something and even if someone doesn’t like me. And since I’ve been practicing my inner work process and learning to love myself, I really do think I’m fine, but I didn’t realize I was putting this pressure on myself.”
“So what can you say to your little boy that would make him feel more relaxed about the presentation?”
“I’m already doing that. I’ve just told him that I will love him no matter how he does, and as soon as I said this, my gut relaxed. Wow! I might even get to the point where I can enjoy giving presentations! I know that what I have to offer is very valuable to our company and when I get myself off the hook to perform, I might like offering it!”
This is exactly what happened. As Michael learned to love himself and define his own worth, he stopped being nervous in giving presentations. Now, he actually enjoys them!
Loving yourself when public speaking – or in life in general – means not attaching your worth to how others feel about you, and learning to define your own intrinsic worth. It means making it okay to make mistakes, to forget things and even to fail. When you learn to love yourself and define your intrinsic worth, then your performance is an expression of your worth rather than a definition of your worth, and even failure becomes just another learning experience.