The day I was dreading rolled around without much fanfare. I was strangely calm going into the meeting so I was hoping that things wouldn’t be as bad as I initially thought. I was second on the agenda so I thought I would give my little presentation and sit back down easy peasy right? Wrong!
The first person on the agenda was late so it was looking like I would have to go first. I reluctantly said yes.. the room was slightly empty so I figured I could push through. Just when it seemed that it was show time the person in the first slot showed up. She launched into her presentation full of enthusiasm. I sat in my chair barely listening because I was watching the door and the room slowly fill up. As my coworker continued to talk well into my time I felt my breathing start to get shallow and my hands began to tremble ever so slightly. I willed myself to take deep calming breaths to no avail. She kept talking, people kept pouring in, and I kept thinking I will be okay, I won’t stand and give my presentation I will sit at the table while I advance my slides. By this time the person ahead of me had blown through her time and mine. My heart began to race. My coworker sitting next to me kept whispering breathe breathe and rubbing my shoulder. By this time my level of anxiety was spiraling out of control, it felt like the walls were closing in on me. Finally I couldn’t take it and I swiftly walked out of a side door. I barely made it into the room before the tears began to fall and I was struggling to catch my breath. The only sound in the room was me gasping for air.
Needless to say I did not give my presentation. I was beyond embarrassed. Luckily for me no one knew what was going on especially since my colleague got extra excited talking to the room about Brucellosis and used up my time and hers. I’m not certain if I had a full fledged anxiety/panic attack or if that was just an extreme case of the jitters. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before and I am hoping it never happens again.
Arrrrrrrrrrgh!!!! Please excuse me while I vent!
I have a fear of public speaking or being the center of attention. It is a fear I’ve carried for my entire life. It has not gotten better as I’ve gotten older, or the more I do it, as people LOVE to tell me it will. I do not enjoy participating in any activity in which the focus will be on me. I don’t volunteer to make speeches, give toasts, presentations, etc. I prefer to be one with the background. I am sure there is some deep psychological connection there and a therapist would have an absolute field day analyzing this and me, but it is a part of me and I am ok with who I am. Am I limiting myself by avoiding the stage/attention, perhaps, and some would probably say definitely, honestly I don’t care. The Lord knew what he was doing when he didn’t bless me with a talent like singing because it would have definitely been wasted in possession!!
Most people who’ve met me are surprised to learn about my fear and once they find out they all want to “cure” me.*sigh* While I can understand their motivation, but when I am telling them it is not as simple as they think WHY in the world don’t they believe me? Why do they keep pushing and insisting their method will be the way to fix it? I don’t think I should have to explain myself nor what I’ve done to overcome thus far in order to get them to back off.
Once and for all here’s what everyone needs to know so they can stop passing along the same advice thinking you are the first one to tell me this stuff: It does not matter if I know everyone in the room. I am going to be scared if it’s a room full of strangers OR my family and friends. Picturing everyone naked does not help. My fear has nothing to do with my lack of knowledge about a topic.It has not gotten better every time or the more I try. I tried hypnosis. It didn’t help!!!
So who put a bee in my bonnet you ask? The powers that be at work have decided that I should present at our quarterly meeting. I said no. They kept pushing. I never really had a choice. Despite KNOWING how I feel they put me on the agenda anyway. They reassured me with “you’re the expert. You just need to do it more and the better you’ll feel.” I was told if I feel “too” bad about it then to let them know and I won’t have to do it, but I already know the deal. You don’t say no here, you do what you are told. So hopefully I won’t make a complete ass of myself for 15 minutes while people stare at me. Maybe my voice won’t crack and by some miracle I won’t tear up, as I often do when standing in front of a group of people. Guess I should quit griping and go work on my power point <insert sarcasm>.