Everyone has fear about something or the other in their lives. When I recall, my greatest fear as a young teenager was public speaking. I feared all types of public speaking. It might be reading in front of the class, morning assembly speech, telling an answer in the class or just talking with a group of people, I was scared of all of those. This article is about how I understood the psychology of my fears, the roots of it and how I am pro-actively working on uprooting it from the deepest corners of my mind.
Understanding the cause of fear :-
It was chronic. In my language classes at school, we had to read out the chapters loud in the class or deliver short speeches or poems everyday. Though I had good articulation and sound knowledge of complex words, I used to get scared whenever my turn would come. My heart would be palpitating, I would be sweating. Moreover I have a little incoherence in my speech mechanism, hence my words aren’t fluent. The anticipation of such blocks would increase my fear and this fear created more blocks. It was a vicious cycle.
It was only when I started out my undergraduate course, I started thinking. Thinking deeply, independently, trying to understand the world around me and more importantly, myself. I read a lot, networked and connected with people who had far more experience and knowledge of life than me. I started to backtrack and the truth was evident.
As a toddler, when I was learning to speak, I would be getting confused about the language since my mother’s people were talking in Kannada and my father’s in Tulu. As some of my kindergarten teachers describe, I was highly intelligent and my brain activity was high. As a result I would try to match my speaking speed with my thinking speed. That led to incoherence or mismatch in my speech muscles. An astrologer had even told my parents that someone had casted an evil eye on my intellectual capabilities and as a result, my speech mechanism was a little imperfect. I am not sure which was or were the reason(s), but yes, I had developed a slight incoherence in my speech.
I was not aware of it as a child. But people around me started pointing out. My teachers used to ask me whether I had some speech impediment. Neighbours, relatives, friends, everyone started making me aware of it, of that slight disfluency in speech. I can recall multiple events where I had very enthusiastically volunteered for speaking in front of the class or presenting in exhibitions but the teachers had quietened me since I didn’t have a fast, fluent speaking style. This stuck on to my tender, developing brains. I became more conscious while speaking. I volunteered less, and didn’t answer questions asked in the class though I knew the answers. This developed as a habit, a pattern. Neurochemical connections which led to chronic stage fear, fear of speaking. By the end of school, my self-esteem, self-confidence was at an all time low.
Fast forward to two years ago, I started reading about habits, psychology, human evolution and neurochemical programming. What was evident was my fear was a habit. It was a pattern which I had developed for many years subconsciously. Now I had to break it consciously.
The beginning of revolt against fear :-
Having understood the root cause of my deepest fear and insecurities, I now had to break all of them. I knew it would take time. After all, true greatness and success takes time and dedication. At 17 years of age, as a freshman at college, it was like coming out of a cocoon. After 10-11 years of just studying prescribed textbooks and clearing exams, I was interacting with the whole world. I was reading on the internet about life and the enormous possibilities ahead. I call this phase as the ‘enlightenment’. Everyone will experience it in their lives. More the earlier, more the better.
Now my sole intention at the bottom line was to break all those self limiting beliefs and habits. I used to remember the words of my earliest mentors in life, my kannada professor at school, “To overcome fear, you have to become fear. You have to become so good, that your competitors will fear you.” That was exactly what I was striving for. My college, being a premier college in the state, had many technical and non-technical clubs and activities going on around the campus. I registered for all the clubs and attended their recruitment process. Technical club interviews seemed scary, but I did it anyway. Radiating confidence and telling about your ambitions , goals in life was a key here. I learnt the art of making people believe in me, in turn reinforcing my self esteem. I was selected in almost all technical clubs and when I had to choose only one among them, I was aligned to the nano-satellite building team. I was a high performer in that team, headed my sub-system, planned sponsorship strategies, reached out for 500+ companies and made my way into the project management team. Starting volunteering for presentations at class, asking questions and answering them. One thing led to another.
The key thing that I understood here was, after understanding various reasons of your fear, you need to work on all of those AT THE SAME TIME. I worked on my self belief, overcoming stage fear, growing my technical knowledge, becoming a more better person from inside, improving my relationships, practising self-discipline and peak performance, all AT THE SAME TIME.
Momentum is the key to success :-
I had gained the momentum in life during my first year at college. I shouldn’t lose it now. I slowly started to transition because change is the only constant. Being stagnant and comfortable, achieving little amounts of success in the comfort zone is much worse than taking steps out of comfort zone and facing failures and embarrassments. Hence, I slowly joined TEDx team to learn managing events and helping speakers to articulate their thoughts, started a group with a couple of friends to delve deeper into technology, participated in product building competitions, hackathons, programming contests, started writing, reading much advanced topics.I knew I had come a long way in developing self confidence but yet, I still didn’t feel much ease in public speaking. That led me to Toastmasters.
Toastmasters was the perfect place for me to replicate the long term vision that I have in my life. I could fail hard and fast. I craved for embarrassments and awkward situations because I always hold the opinion that embarrassments can take you much farther in life than sweet successful situations. After all, I am that kid who is highly obsessed with achieving that version of myself which I always wanted to, deriving motivation from years of embarrassments, bullying and insults. I even started attending SHG meetings at Cubbon Park and with the experience gained at the National Conference 2018, I could feel the last mile of positive change in my mindset finally occurring. Through Toastmasters and TISA, I built a rock solid mindset about myself and the world around me and it has helped me to advance further in uprooting my deepest fears.
Today, when I feel the confidence about going on any stage, speaking in front of any audience without fearing judgement, without thinking about what others think of me because it has been embedded in my mind that I am born for communicating, I am born for leading and I am just getting started, and when I compare it with my yesteryears, it feels good. But there is definitely still a long way to go to achieve complete absence of that fear and insecurities in my mind.
To summarize the key points about how you can overcome your deepest fears, which I can extract from my compact 19 years of life,
1. Understand the cause of your fear: Every fear ranging from fear of insects, fear of heights to fear of financial crisis, fear of death, everything has a root cause. Analyze it and understand it, in out.
2. Beginning the revolt against fear: Plan on developing on all the aspects which are the causes to your fear. Remember that your life has to be significantly improved by you to overcome your fear in a fast and efficient way. It will take discipline and consistent efforts to even start seeing improvements.
3. Momentum is the key to success: Once you give your everything into it, you will be on the upward spiral, gaining momentum. But don’t stop there. Just keep moving forward and forward.
All of this may sound quite simple, but in practise, it will be difficult. There will be ups and downs. But never, ever quit. Your desire to beat that fear should be so great, that the downs doesn’t matter at all.
In the words of Mary Anne Radmacher,
“Courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, I will try again tomorrow.”