Healing In Action: Public Speaking

Standing up in a room full of people is on my list of fears in life. When I was nine I began reading as lector in church. It was my first experience with public speaking. Before my first time reading, I spent afternoons practicing reading aloud to my mother. She helped me read hard words and demonstrated how to build my fluency skills and pacing so that my reading would sound good. I remember a peak emotional experience the very first time I read in church. I remember looking out at the crowd of people looking back at me. I wanted to do a good job and I wanted to make my mom proud. I walked up to the pulpit. As I started reading, I had a feeling come over me. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. I kept reading even though something inside felt off. And that was when the priest came over and pointed to where I was supposed to be reading. I was reading the wrong passage. I felt embarrassed and kept on reading. Then sat down. When it was my time to get up and read again it happened again. I’d read the wrong passage and was flooded (for a second time) with feelings of embarrassment and thoughts of being wrong and a disappointment. After that day, I continued reading as a church lector, made various speeches and presentations in middle and high school and college. Now I facilitate transformational group experiences for adults. I feel a sinking in my stomach before I speak now. I know I’m feeling what got frozen all the way back in time from that first experience in church. This brings me to the healing process. Many of us have more than one peak emotional experience that can sort of freeze something inside us and then as adults we can relive this moment in scenarios that replicate that first moment long ago. One way I’ve learned to facilitate and hold space for my healing process is through talking to myself very kindly before I get up to speak in front of people. I speak to my nine year old self and build her up and remind her that no matter what I say, or if I mess up, everything is ok and I got her.

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