Overcoming Fear of Speaking by Choosing a New Inner Landscape

Overcoming Fear of Speaking by Choosing a New Inner Landscape

Bluebell Wood – Rob Wiltshire

I’ve just read a great article about procrastination from Timothy Pychyl in Psychology Today  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/201003/procrastination-feeling-overwhelmed-helpless-and-ready-run-away where he talks about the wave of negativity that can overwhelm us when we sit down to a difficult task, and how learning to cope with this wave of mixed emotions is crucial in order to succeed at our goals.

I mention the article on this blog because Pychyl’s way of dealing with the negativity involves choosing to stand in a different space in his mind. This concept is something I use with clients around public speaking fear, so I thought you might enjoy reading the article. His thoughts on procrastination may also be helpful if you need to pull talks together, and struggle with the process (which would be all of us at some point!).  in Pychyl’s words:


My own personal mantra for these situations is one given to me by Parker Palmer in his excellent book The Courage to Teach. “I can have fear, but I need not be fear” (1998; p. 57). He writes,

“Each time I walk into a classroom, I can choose the place within myself from which my teaching will come, just as I can choose the place within my students toward which my teaching will be aimed. I need not teach from a fearful place: I can teach from my curiosity or hope or empathy or honesty, places that are as real within me as are my fears. I can have fear, but I need not be fear – if I am willing to stand somewhere else in my inner landscape” (p. 57).


I love the sentence “I can have fear, but I need not be fear”, and it relates well to my frequent comment to workshop participants who tell me:  “I’m a hopeless/awful speaker”: that when you do this you label yourself as a person, rather than seeing your public speaking as simply being one facet of your ability, not who you are. In workshops we play with this idea, and then move on to shifting perspective through various practical exercises: which also relates beautifully to Pychyl’s idea of learning to stand somewhere else in your “inner landscape.”

Can you imagine moving to stand somewhere else in your inner landscape when you need to?


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Comments (2)

  • Gail S Reply

    I agree. The context we have when we are doing anything, including public speaking has an enormous effect on our experience and level of success. The landscape you are speaking of is like the context.

    I have heard it said for example that Olympic athletes who compete in a spirit of serving something larger than their own personal concerns, like their national honor, tend to perform much better.

    One of my favorite tips for overcoming fear of public speaking is to focus on the valuable message you have to share with others rather than your own fears and concerns.

    July 11, 2011 at 5:05 am
    • Sarah Denholm Reply

      Thanks Gail, and you clarify my point beautifully when you talk about context. And I totally agree with your tip about focusing on your valuable message when you speak, it’s a great help to take the focus off yourself and your self-consciousness. Have you read Benjamin Zander’s book, the Art of Possibility? (He’s an orchestral conductor.) He devotes a whole chapter to “being a contribution” – and I see this idea work over and over again with my clients, and in my own life too!

      July 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

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