Happy New Year!
Recently, I had the privilege of speed-mentoring some very determined youth at Ghana Think Foundation’s Barcamp Kumasi. Almost all the mentees told me that they had so many ideas of things they really wanted to do, there was just one thing standing in their way; fear of being laughed at. This fear was one I knew too well and even to this day battle.
You see, I find it amusing when I meet people who think I am so confident, brave and all that. What most people don’t know is that every single time, before I put up a post on Facebook, blog or make a presentation, there is that voice which constantly says to me ‘you’re not there yet’, ‘you’re not smart enough’, ‘this is not good enough! Ah! Do you want to display your ignorance for people to laugh at you’ and so on. I question myself ‘what if people laugh at me?’ Frankly, it is frightening to put yourself out there like that and so many times I just want to forget posting anything or speaking anywhere. But guess what, sometimes I actually win this mind battle. In spite of the self-doubt and fear of being laughed at, I just do it! And I know I should never stop because apart from the personal satisfaction I get from doing what I do, the private messages of encouragement and ‘thank you’ that I get are indications that I am doing the right thing.
I strongly believe that each one has their own purpose in life and fear must not stand in your way, hence this article. Here are some few tips that help me overcome from time to time:
- Learn from others.
There is nothing new under the sun and most of the things we want to achieve have been conquered by other people already so why not learn from them. I totally admire the way Mrs. Michelle Obama speaks. Most of the time, I more like gape at her instead of listen to her. I study her movements like a text book. On social media, I follow specific people I admire, I read about and learn from them. For those I am able to contact, I book appointments to meet and chat. When I attend training sessions in which I am not a facilitator, I mostly pay attention to the different presentation styles so that I can assimilate what I admire. There is nothing wrong with learning from others; you do not have to be like them entirely, you simply need to take the good from them and add to your good.
- Start with baby steps.
For instance, if yours is the fear of public speaking start by offering to pray or making a suggestion when you are in a group. Yes I know I know, every fiber and bone in you will resist this decision but do it anyway. You will most likely break into sweat, shiver uncontrollably or both. It does not matter, do it anyway. You can then graduate to reading the Bible during church service or to giving the vote of thanks at an event, etc. The first ten tries will probably give you mini heart attacks but I can assure you that will not die. I’m alive, ‘innit’?
- Pray before you start.
I do not mean to preach but this really works for me. Right before I speak or train especially, I pray silently ‘Lord, you say that when it is time to speak, you will show us what to say so please use me to bless your children’ The fact is, I do not even remember where in the Bible I read this, whether it was Paul who wrote it or it is about Moses. All I know is, God promised it somewhere in the Bible so I just remind Him of it and it works for me because somehow I know I am never alone.
- Practise. Practise. Practise.
I know this is probably a cliché, but it works like magic. Recently, I had an opportunity to speak at TEDx Adum. Now if you know anything about TEDx, you can understand why this was a big deal for me. I usually research and practice before any presentation but as for this event I took it up a notch. First, I wrote down my presentation in a story format. Read through at least ten times, rehearsed it in front of the mirror, audio and video recorded myself at least twenty times, rehearsed in front of my family and later the organizers before the big day. It felt a bit awkward rehearsing in front of my family and the organizers but by the time I gave the talk, there was not a shred of nervousness left in me, I just rattled away.
- It really is ok to make mistakes.
A lot of times, we fear that we will be laughed at because we may make mistakes and for this reason we do not even dare try at all. That is such a shame because come to think of it, who can ever walk on the surface of this earth without making a mistake? So you meant to say ‘please’ but said ‘prease’ out of nervousness, and so what? I have had my share of ‘preases’ and I am still alive and kicking! Your presentation, had typographical errors and so what? Big deal! Get over it and go again. I have read about enough successful people to know that they keep going in spite of their setbacks. Your mistake is an opportunity to learn a lesson and move on. And by the way, do you know that most of the time, the people who laugh at us are really laughing to suppress their own feelings of insecurity? I know this because I have laughed at others before, yes I know, shame on me! Most of these people do not have the courage to try what you are doing. So ‘prease’, be encouraged.
Believe me, even as I type this article on my little laptop, there is that annoying voice telling me that this is not good enough. It is always there, constantly reminding me that I will be a laughing stock. But if you are reading this then it means ‘I just did it!’ Yes, I sent it for publication in spite of that naughty voice that I can’t seem to get rid of.
Please, learn from others, take the first baby step, pray before you start, practice like you are crazy and don’t be afraid of mistakes. There is something amazing in you that the world needs to experience from this minute. 2017 is pregnant with amazing opportunities waiting for you to JUST DO IT.
You are fabulous!
Ama Duncan is a Corporate Trainer, Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network and Corporate Training Solutions.
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