My heart was pumping and I could feel my body starting to tense. I was about to stand up and speak for 20 minutes… without notes or slides and without moving my body apart from the neck upwards.
I was speaking on a structured topic, including a demonstration and question time from the audience. There was no lectern to hide behind. No crossing the legs or arms to protect me. No hand gestures to lighten the mood. I had to use my voice, my words, my energy, and my facial expressions to move my audience. And I was being given feedback throughout.
My lizard brain, where pure emotions live, was not so politely questioning why I was putting myself through this. It wasn’t safe. Even though consciously I knew I was perfectly safe; I wasn’t at risk of losing an arm to a sabre-toothed tiger. It was a controlled environment and the support in the room was incredible. That didn’t stop my lizard brain silently having words with me.
It would whisper: ‘I don’t really need these skills.’ And my body urgently agreed, ‘No, Diana you really don’t.’
The butterflies tumbled in my stomach; my shoulders started to ache from the tension. I felt exposed. And despite all of these thoughts swarming through my mind and the mixture of feelings I was working through, I knew this is exactly where I needed to be.
I had to be in this situation to work through the discomfort it had risen in me. I knew as I persevered then I would break through a fear barrier. And it would give me skills that I could use for the rest of my life, in all areas of my life. Because that is how it works. When you bust through one fear it will impact the rest of your life.
You’ll step up.
You’ll add to your confidence pool.
Working through your big fears does that. So I had to go through it. Like Winston Churchill said: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ And by golly I did. Mr. Churchill knew his stuff.
The end of the first day
After the end of the first day, I was exhausted. I had to prepare a 15 minutes presentation for the next morning using the structure I'd been given. And I had to give the presentation without moving.
I was nervous. Even having previously presented confidently in front of audiences of 60+ people. There were seasoned presenters at the training that had completed over 100 hours of training and they were nervous.
Our ego loves to mess with our heads. When we’ve reached a certain level we believe ‘We’re above all of this learning nonsense.’ And that’s the mistake we make. If we are willing to embrace the discomfort of becoming a beginner again, then we have an opportunity to become even more of ourselves.
Learning doesn’t have to end when you complete school or score that first job. Learning to be flexible and humble and begin again is the path to personal greatness. To set aside the ego and the need to be right or to prove something is powerful.
Facing our fears
As creative women, we need to be able to face our fears to then move to the next level. It’s something I’ve learned as crucial to following an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial path or for daring to step up in life.
I’ve learned to use my fear to fuel me, to keep showing up, feel that discomfort and seek a way through it. So if you’re currently running from your fear and you’re feeling crappy because of it.
Stop running. Get still. Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Do the work. Learn from your mistakes. Keep going. And you will make it through.
Once you stop running, you’ll give yourself an opportunity to face your fear head on. It’ll be uncomfortable sure. How you’ll feel afterward though will change your life. Don’t believe me? Think now about a time when you did conquer your fear, how did it affect you? You felt pretty fantastic, right? The bigger the fear you conquer, the bigger the impact it will have.
As you get still then you can focus on the things that matter instead, because when you focus on the things that matter the fear will melt away and this will make it easier for you to move forward, and moving forward means you are conquering your fear.
Reminding yourself why you are doing something fuels you into maintaining momentum. This is where your vision becomes crucial and will help you immensely. Having a clear vision to work towards, as in a vision that you can truly see, feel, hear and taste even, fear will become secondary. It may still show up. It won’t have you running from the room.
You have to do the work to get the results you want. It’s also in the doing that your confidence grows, your skills develop and your fear dispels. You have to do the work. There’s no getting around this one. As you do the work then you will start to notice what doesn’t work.
This is when you learn from your mistakes. A mentor calls this failing forward because you’re applying what you learn and building upon your experience despite continuing to make mistakes. Mistakes do not equal failure.
Keep doing the work. Keep going. Keep applying what you learn even if you keep mucking it up. This was the biggest lesson I learned this week. We’d progress in one area with our language and then our trainer would add a new element, such as deliberate gestures. As our minds took the gestures onboard, the previous information would fall by the wayside.
This is where the feedback was golden as we were reminded of the previous information while practicing the new information. That is how we learned to put them together. This is also where having outside feedback from a coach is fantastic.
On a side note here, sometimes when we're learning from our mistakes we end up in what appears to be the same place as before. It’s OK. Know that you can never repeat a moment again. Every moment is new and there are shifts happening constantly. You are progressing constantly. It's inevitable. If you want bigger changes make bigger moves.
The final day
By the final day, there were nerves, yes. There was also calm knowing I was in a safe place to practice and muck up and have fun mucking up. I wasn't going to burst into flames. I was going to make a difference to how I faced fear in my life.
I was the last to give my 20 minute presentation that now included gestures, inflections, specific language, energy, and stories. I didn’t get to do my demo and there were things I was prompted on and yet I never felt more proud of myself.
I had made it through. I had kept going and had made it. And if you keep going then you will too.