Public speaking evokes many reactions and, having recently completed a series of public speaking sessions with a group of college students, during our first meeting many of them confessed they were apprehensive to take my class. Why? Because of their fear of standing in front of others and giving a speech. It made them nervous. Some even used the word 'terrified.'
Through my years of teaching I've heard the word terrified connected to public speaking training a few times (many, actually) and with experience I've learned it's not about me as a teacher, but rather the subject, that triggers this response.
When I asked why they were afraid, several students told me they felt they were not good enough and feared they had nothing worthy to share. They felt like frauds, explaining they were young students just beginning their learning. They didn't want to be 'caught' and have the world find out how little they knew.
Fast forward to our last class where my students delivered a 10-minute speech. Each presentation was unique in its own way and rich with insight and perspective. I suspect I learned as much from them as they did from me.
How is it that we come to a place where we believe we are not worthy? Why do we fear we are not the "right one" to share what we know?
It's that cruel interloper known as Imposter Syndrome that gets in our way.
We overthink and sabotage ourselves into believing that we aren't good enough.
One of my students eloquently spoke about how this uncomfortable feeling of learning new concepts, ones we perceive as out of our reach, are similar to what a lobster experiences while it gains size and stature. As the soft meat of the lobster grows, it feels the tension and discomfort of confined quarters. Growth then causes a new, soft shell to form and the old inflexible container is shed.
The act of escaping from the old shell is known as ecdysis (from the Greek word of the same name, meaning "getting out") or, more commonly, as shedding. We need to feel the discomfort of what no longer serves us - the discomfort of our newfound knowledge - in order to be able to shed our old thoughts and convictions.
It's not dissimilar to being asked to give a presentation at work and thinking to yourself, "Why have I been asked -- I'm sure many of my colleagues are better suited".
Then as the days ramp up to delivering your speech, nerves are strangling you and self-doubt weighs heavily on your shoulders. Again that voyeuristic voice reports back, "You're not the one to be sharing this information".
If you really listen to (and feel) what's going on, it's discomfort and fear talking.
You're being asked to step out in front of an audience and it's easy to think that someone else is a better fit for the job rather than understanding that you've been asked for a reason and you are the right choice.
A former professor shared these wise words with my cohort and myself; "Today you are perfect as you are". I was baffled. I had lots to learn. That's why I was there. As the year progressed I learned that I had as much insight and perspective to share as my fellow students and professor did. I suspect my professor learned as much from us and we did from her. Funny how that circles back, isn't it?
The next time you prepare to deliver a speech, hold on to knowing you are fine as you are. And when your shell becomes a little tight, feel the discomfort knowing you're not an imposter, but rather you're growing into an improved version of you.
The true imposters are the rules and values that you buy into -- those that don't serve you.
You are simply the right person to share what you know at this place in time.
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