In the 19th year of horseback riding with fear as a constant companion in the saddle with me, I decided I'd had enough. I would no longer let fear dictate my riding decisions. I told myself "Susan, stop being a wimp" and threw my leg over my horse. 20 seconds later I was lying on the ground, with a shattered elbow and a deep gash in my arm that lead to a life-threatening infection (3 weeks in the hospital and 8 weeks at home). I got back on soon after, then a few months later began to feel fear so overwhelming that I didn't want to ride any more. The psychologist I worked with asked me if I'd ever thought of fear as a "gift to keep me safe." Clearly I had not. I had fought it for all those years, hating it.
Since then I've reminded myself of this many times. Fear IS a gift--it makes you stop and think, it makes you figure out the risks, it makes you weigh your choices and it probably saves you from pretty dangerous outcomes. Anyone who proclaims some version of "feel your fear and do it anyway" has never been seriously hurt. Sure, fear of failure doesn't seem like a big deal--until you get into specifics. If you're afraid of failing in a business endeavor because that failure is likely to cause to severe financial hardships (e.g. poverty), it's worth it to think of fear as a gift.
When it comes to speaking for business, people often feel fear. They'll be ridiculed, or embarrased, or made to feel stupid. They hate how they look and fear nasty comments about that. They fear they don't know enough and that they'll be unmasked as a ignoramus. And on and on. We humans do have an excpetinal capacity for imagining the worst.
Should such people "do it anyway"? No, they shouldn't. While their fears may be overblown, there's a kernel of truth (the gift) in all these fears. They will be diminished in some way. The answer is to improve their skills before they 'do it anyway'.
I respect anyone who tells me he or she is fearful of speaking for business. It is a scary experience for anyone who isn't well prepared. Before you leap into the saddle, stop to recognize your fear and make a plan to work with it. In my riding example, one of the key ways I've learned to work with my fear is to have someone hold my horse for me whenever I get on. A small, short moment that has reduced my anxiety and is keeping me safe.
What are you doing to keep yourself safe? Share your story in our comment box.