A while back we heard from someone who had truly broken through some of his biggest fears in relation to interacting with and speaking to people. Many people wrote in to say how much they were touched by Anthony’s courage to face the things that held him back the most. Well after that he felt compelled to write about one of the most pivotal moments in his journey to overcome his fears… The night he stood up to speak in front of a crowd for the first time. It’s a really inspiring story that we hope you enjoy…
It Was Time to Put to Bed My Fear of Speaking to People
It was obvious to me and everyone around me, even if they didn’t say it directly to me, that avoiding people was leading to a very stale and lackluster life. It burned me to see people around me progressing with their careers and relationships while I wasn’t. I knew deep down that I had the potential to create the life I really desired, I could feel it, I could sense it, I just knew there was more of me than this and the amazing life I desperately wanted was attainable. Fulfilling my passion to use creative design to help society progress was not a pipe dream.
However, there was a massive wall in the way, made up of all the fears I had in my life and the cornerstone of that wall was my fear of connecting with people. This was so critical because when we look at achieving anything on a major scale you need people; you need the right relationships with the right people working in the right way. So me quivering at the thought of speaking to someone as if I’d just stepped out of my house in my Y-front’s and it’s minus 20 degrees outside wasn’t going to make those dreams come true!! No matter how brilliant my ideas or plans were, it couldn’t happen. Even though the thoughts in my head were persuading me otherwise, the fact remained that I had to develop massively in this area or I would have been stuck in ‘mediocre-ville.’
I was grateful when the opportunity arose to really work on this area. It was Autumn 2010 and we were taking turns to host and lead events to build our networks with the Lighthouse Entrepreneurial Club. It was a case of taking the stage to lead and teach people around becoming highly effective in their lives and businesses. I knew I had to step up, but it was very easy not to because all my life my ‘Modus Operandi’ had been to run away from my challenges. That night I was due to speak in the later half of the event – talking about how our perceptions influence our success. It was the first time I was going to communicate something quite substantial to a group of 20-30 people by myself.
As the Big Night Dawns…
I’m not feeling brilliant at all, but I know I must take the stage. I’m preparing what I’m going to present but on reflection I’m actually just trying to put out the emotional blaze inside. I’m reading the material and reviewing the plan trying to be calm and push back the thoughts brewing within. By the time we are about to start I feel trepidation but with that, degrees of appreciation and excitement as I know I’m making the right steps forward. All my fears around speaking are alive and kicking in the back of my mind.
To paint a better picture I’l tell you of my fears and my beliefs back then… Messing up brought massive pain, I hated doing ’embarrassing’ things as I believed I had to be perfect and not being perfect meant I’d never be successful or get what I wanted. Also along the way I had developed a powerful negative belief that I couldn’t remember much and that I would forget things easily. This was compounded by a low sense of worth and a belief that my worth was in what other people thought of me (which I delved into in my last Breakthrough Experience).
Back to the evening: we are now in the session and it’s my time to lead. The guys before me did well and said their piece. I slowly take my place. Why am I worrying? I know this stuff. We’ve been studying it for over a year now. I start speaking and going through the material but I’m hit with my fears and I lose my way. Heart racing, mind filling with a wave of thoughts about failing – I stumble again, getting back into that able calm state is much harder and less certain. I’m losing grip of what I need to say, it’s slipping from my mind. I look at my notes but my emotions are kicking off and I can’t think, I can’t focus, the words are passing through my head like sand through a sieve. It dawns on me that it all may go horribly wrong.
All I can see is a sea of faces peering at me. In my head I’m crying for someone to save me and cussing in my head why I can’t remember this stuff. I’m talking, desperately trying to remember what to say, but it’s incoherent. I’m skipping over stuff because I really can’t see me saying it well. This is horrible. I’m going to fail! “Oh no, I can’t do this”, that thought rushes through my mind.
Other strong negative thoughts swiftly follow. Now I’m rushing to get this over and done with. Heart racing…Oh sh**, oh sh** I can’t remember what I’m taking about. I’ve gone blank and I just stand there, umming and erring but nothing. All I can see is faces, some hopeful, some disappointed, some not knowing where to place their gaze and the most painful thing was that person trying to leave at the back of the room… I failed horribly in the most embarrassing way for me to do so.
Moments later Jai (one of the other guys on the team who was supporting us for the evening) spoke up and kindly fixed things by finishing off my part. I sat down. You might figure that I would be feeling like a loser or distraught but I felt alive, I was buzzing! Jai said a big reason for us doing this was because we were facing our challenges. I had the unstoppable desire to address the audience to help them understand what just went on so I stood up with conviction and purpose. I said to everyone that one of the reasons I was up there was because it was extremely hard for me to speak in front of people. Everyone started to smile and just started clapping, they warmed up and you could feel the appreciation in the room. Right then there was no fear or shrinking back, it all just fell away…
What Did I Learn From My Experience?
By Anthony Antoine, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International
1. To Fail Horribly Was the Best Thing
If I had succeeded – and succeeded well – it wouldn’t have been as freeing as deeply failing. Although painful, in that experience I dropped something big; it was the belief about what it would mean to fail and the story about who I thought I was – that perfect person who got things right. For a good time afterwards I felt ridiculously amazing, unencumbered and energised. I felt like I could take on the world and win! It felt like there was nothing in my way. Me royally failing meant that belief completely collapsed (for that period of time anyway) and I felt free as a bird.
2. We Must Question & Challenge Our Own Beliefs…
What was powerful in me failing so badly was I got to experience my worst nightmare and in turn see the truth. People didn’t disown me, on the contrary I gained a greater connection and respect with them through being willing to face my fears with them. It didn’t solidify my worthlessness, rather it showed me my inappropriate belief system. I experienced a glimpse of my potential.
Too often our perceptions of situations turn out to be very far from reality. By being open and courageous to put that to the test, the truth comes to light more and more. Once we let go of our limiting beliefs we then line ourselves up to succeed at greater levels and reduce the stress in our lives so that they can be much simpler, easier and rewarding. Only through testing, questioning and pushing my beliefs to their limits did I start to reveal what is possible.
You don’t need to fail like I did to step out of your comfort zone. What facilitated my growth was and is having people around me that care for and inspire me to face challenges that hold me back. People where the relationship are strong enough for them to show me things I can’t see for myself. A major factor in becoming freer in myself has been mentorship; having a highly trusted expert who knows me well and whose words and actions I trust has been pivotal to help me to see and close my gaps and overcome the limiting beliefs holding me back from succeeding.