If He Can Do It (Public Speaking), So Can You


If you fear public speaking, this story will inspire you. (It was posted on my Psychology Today blog, in response to my article on “Why You Fear Public Speaking, And What To Do About It.“)

“My story is that I started out with SEVERE communication apprehension. It was so bad in my early twenties that I would think twice even before going to the grocery store for fear that I would be judged and would not be able to communicate with anyone. I started a Master’s program in Communication Studies (I know, perfect choice huh), and had such a hard time speaking up in class that most of the time all my fellow grad students (about 8-12 people in most grad classes) would make their points fluidly and I would be the only one conspicuously not contributing to class discussion. I know that my communication apprehension cost me many good grades in my educational career because I was just too scared to even approach the professor or to ask questions and contribute in class. Then, as a requirement in that same Master’s program, I had to TA. Teaching changed my life. I went into this program knowing very little about it and found out that it was actually geared toward teaching and performing. One semester I even had to perform an ethnographic script in front of a packed auditorium - “great,” I thought, “two hundred and fifty people get to judge me at the same time.” But it was one of the best experiences of my life. I kept finding myself in these situations that I feared and, of course, I would elect for them so it was of my own doing.

Now I teach public speaking courses at a community college with students ranging in age from 18-40. I’ve also taught upper division classes in Communication at a University. Sometimes, at the start of class, I still get what I call “fear throat,” where I feel my throat closing up. I find that positive self-talk, telling myself I’ve prepared for it (and preparation is the key, in my opinion) and that I just have to act confident and the rest will follow seems to work really work for me.

I think a huge part of my communication apprehension had to do with my personality - I was and am a very sensitive introvert. What changed for me is that I went from being an extremely shy and nervous introvert to just forcing myself into situations where I would have to speak up until I learned to speak up effectively. I still feel that I am an introvert (not a very shy one anymore) but that has to do with the fact that I just prefer to be myself more often rather than around people because too much social interaction still exhausts me. I have become so good at performing not being an introvert that my fiance doesn’t believe that I am or was one. Amazing how what we identify ourselves as can have such an affect on our psychology and how we perceive the world. I guess the most important thing to remember is that identity and, hence, personality are unstable things, constantly changing and changeable. It’s possible to go from being a painfully shy, anxious, introvert to being an instructor at a large University and college.”

Your thoughts on/reactions to this?




  1. Sara Anne on 12.04.2011 at 12:55 (Reply)

    what a great story! i, too, found that teaching changed how i could relate to other people…i was, (and still am, to a degree) very shy and extremely introverted, and yet I believe (and have been confirmed in that belief) that I am called to the ministry. This is difficult since much of ministerial work is designed for extroverts and introverts are often encouraged to “get over it” in order to be good ministers. I felt like I was failing at what I was called to do until I began to teach christian education classes in the churches i worked at-and it totally changed how I could relate to people and made the rest of my ministry fall into place! I am still a very introverted and shy person, but knowing that I have an area in which I really excel in front of others has boosted my confidence in myself. (Not to mention this blog, of course, which reinforced my sense that NOTHING is wrong with me just cause I’m introverted!)

  2. Patricia on 12.04.2011 at 14:51 (Reply)

    This is a wonderful story and I could relate because I found teaching to also be a strength for me.

    As a woman, 40 years ago in Graduate School, I was not allowed to take preaching classes - I always felt a lack of ability and confidence because I did not have the “true” lessons. Then I got a position in Campus Ministry and was asked to teach classes in roommate conflict, friendship, engagement for couples, and how to discuss ethical issues…Wow could I teach and people started to say, well if most ministers shared like you do, I would think about church.

    Now, most clergy are much more casual in their presentations and only a few want to be “great preachers” but more are called to do the work and build community

    I got a copy of the book you recommended Susan - Thank you - I am enjoying it so far

  3. Valerie on 13.04.2011 at 05:21 (Reply)

    I can totally identify with the above comments! The best thing I ever did to help me to be able to speak in front of groups was to become the teacher of a Ladies class at church! They help me to realize that I do have something to say and that we can grow together during our class time.

  4. Danielle Gauthier on 06.05.2011 at 12:50 (Reply)

    I took a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course in my early twenties and some time later, after being told by a tour guide in Hawaii that you had to be a very special person to become a tour guide, I took the Tour Guide Course the City of Montreal was offering just to prove him wrong. I came in third of the class, ahead of two other students who were tour guides at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Part of my test consisted of playing tour guide at the Notre-Dame Basilica in front of busloads of ‘real tourists’. By the time I was halfway through my subject matter, my teacher told me to stop so another student could continue. To my humongous amazement, I heard myself say to him: ‘I’m not finished!!’ He had to order me to sit down so the other student could pass his part of the test.

    If it hadn’t been for the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course, I would never have dreamt I could greet busloads of tourists and talk to them about the Basilica and actually have so much fun I didn’t want to sit down and shut up! Maybe I should move to Hawaii…

    Danielle Gauthier

  5. Offers on 15.05.2013 at 02:38 (Reply)

    u r absolutely right it’s so hard to master the skill of public speaking, especially if you were taught according to the lousy education system.

    i took a few classes but got this website suitable:


    Hope that helps you Ram!

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