What Speaking at a TEDx Event Taught Me About FearBy Homaira Kabir
A few months ago, I received an invitation to speak at a TEDx event. I was taken totally by surprise, and—as you can imagine—I was euphoric in my reaction. Fear was nowhere on the radar, and in the trancelike state I seem to have entered, I graciously, and very quickly, accepted the invitation.
The trance didn’t last. Nor did the euphoria. As reality sank in, so did fear. Gut-wrenching, heart-squirming fear that seemed to cripple me and urge me to politely excuse myself from the event PRONTO! I wasn’t really prepared for this reaction. After all, speaking is a regular feature of my professional life. As a women’s well-being coach and trainer, my calendar has no shortage of talks and workshops, in organizations and sometimes at conferences.
I’ve also done many years of research on women’s confidence as part of my graduate studies in positive psychology and coaching psychology. I’m very familiar with strategies to manage fear, which I often turn to, given my discomfort with being center stage. I’m also very good at sharing these strategies with others and holding them accountable when it comes to putting them into practice.
But alas for the frailty of the human mind! How quick it is to go into self-protection mode when facing something new, an uncertain outcome, an unknown future. My awareness, my knowledge, and my experiences fell by the wayside as I let the more self-consumed parts of me run the show. My family had bribed me from approaching the event organizers so I wouldn’t bail out. So I did what most of us do when hiding is not an option: I set about crafting the perfect talk and working on the perfect delivery. I became obsessed with my 10 minutes onstage. I visualized a standing ovation. And this became my benchmark for success.
Enter the Inner Critic
Needless to say, the inner critic that I buckled daily into the back seat of my life took full control of the steering wheel. It found a lisp in my voice—one that I hadn’t detected in my 50 years of life—and ordered me to fix it. I obeyed and set about doing the impossible, given the brevity of time, not to mention the absence of a real lisp. My inner critic berated my appearance, added more imperfections to its regular list, and convinced the desperate me that all was fixable if I followed its draconian plan. Again I obeyed, and I embarked on a plan that had