Are These 3 Things Holding You Back?

So you’re scared to speak up.

That’s valid, and that’s something we hear often.

We’re not telling you to not be afraid – that’s not realistic. But what if you did it anyway?

Don’t let your fear hold you back. Dig into it. Ask yourself what your fear is really about and what’s the worst that could happen?

Sometimes, the only way past your fear is through it.

Here are common fears we hear and how some Women Talk Design speakers face them:

The fear of failure

First, let’s look at what failure actually means. What does failure look like to you?

Is it losing your thought while speaking, not getting enough engagement from your audience, or having a technical mishap?

These are all normal things that many speakers experience. Sometimes, you can use a mishap as an opportunity to pause and check in with your audience.

“Maybe [during a mishap] you’ll have more room to improvise and to just talk. It’s a good opportunity to talk to the audience. A lot of times, it’s very interesting to know what people are thinking as you’re speaking. Just ask, ‘How’s it going? What do you think is interesting for you? What was the one thing that caught your attention?’ Use these types of opportunities to really engage and ask questions that you don’t normally get to ask your audience. It’s very informal, so it’s comfortable for everyone.” – Michal Ziso

Mistakes happen. You can acknowledge them to your audience, be human in that moment, use it as an opportunity to check in, and learn from it for next time.

It can be helpful to explore potential hiccups ahead of time. “What if my slides stop working? What if I forget something?” Give yourself a set time– just 10-15 minutes–and think through all the scenarios, plan for what you can, and then let them go. Trust yourself.

When you find you’re worrying too much about “failure”, pause and ask yourself “what’s the worst that could happen?”

The fear of judgement

It’s natural to fear judgement from others. But remember that your audience isn’t there to judge you, but quite the opposite.

“Advice from myself: remember that the people watching you want you to succeed. No one wants you to fail. Remember that your audience is rooting for you.” – Bibiana Nunes

Ask yourself if you judge others sharing their ideas. If you give others grace, make sure you extend the same courtesy to yourself.

“I think most people don’t really care about these things. We all think, ‘We’re human.’ I’ve never had someone speaking, and something went wrong and I went, ‘Oh, dear, so unprofessional!’ So I give the same grace to myself as I give other people. And if it’s something to do with slides, I will say something like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I have no idea what’s going on!’ I feel like I have more than my fair share of tech issues, and I’m shameless in letting everyone know that.” – Chimmy Kalu

You have something to offer your audience, and they are there to learn from you. They are cheering for you.

Once you’re in front of your audience, try to find one kind face. You can even bring that person with you. Then, when you worry about how others may be judging you, find your person. Focus on their energy. Focus on connecting.

The fear of inexperience

Confidence isn’t always inherent but you don’t need to feel confident to begin speaking. It’s something you can build as you go and the only way to build it, is to just start.

“Once you get a couple [talks] under your belt and you get more confidence, you could start reaching out and looking for things on a different scale. I was able to get my foot in the door at a couple places that spoke well for me to then go on to other places. Each opportunity builds the next.” – Lisa Maria Marquis

Remember that no matter where you are, someone is at least one chapter behind you. Someone is hoping to achieve what you already have. Share your experiences with them.

Whatever fear is holding you back, there are ways to overcome it.

Here are some tips:

Lean into community – Ask your network for support, feedback, and advice. Finding common ground with others helps strengthen your confidence.

Reframe your thoughts – Having negative self talk? Sit with it, examine why you are thinking that way, and consider ways to reframe that fear into something more manageable.

Step out of your comfort zone – Growth happens when we step out of our comfort zone. Sometimes doing the thing that scares us is the only way to minimize that fear.

And remember, everyone deals with fear.

“When I was just starting to speak, I was at a conference where I was giving a short talk. I ran into the keynote speaker in the bathroom and she was preparing the same way I was in the mirror. We noticed each other and she said ‘oh you never get over the nerves.’ So just start somewhere and know that even Nobel prize winners and laureates get nervous.” – Amina Qutub

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