This past Saturday, I did a reading at Lady Jane’s Salon Silver Spring. It was the first reading I’d done of words that I wrote since my junior year of high school. It was my first public presentation of anything, period, since my first year of grad school. I really, really, really did not want to do it. I am not an extrovert, I am not a loud person, I am not gregarious. I like being behind a keyboard, not a podium.
Racheline took pity on me and made me a sample recording of the passage I wanted to read. I practiced for my cats (they were unimpressed). I spent the train ride to the La Madeleine’s, where the reading was, practicing and trying not to freak out.
And then…it was awesome. I didn’t fall flat on my face. I spoke loud enough that nobody had to shout “we can’t hear!” from the back (Have had that happen.) The crowd actually laughed at a couple of points. I didn’t feel like an imposter, I felt like an actual author who was reading from their actual book and doing a damn good job of it. And at the end, I actually sold books!
If it had gone miserably, though, I still would be writing this post. This post isn’t about how when you get up to do the thing you really, really are scared of doing, that all the terror falls away. It doesn’t. It’s also not about how it’s all totally going to work out because let’s face it — I could have totally fallen flat on my face. It’s not even about how facing your fear makes you stronger (although I think it does, a little; or at least shows you the parameters of your abilities, which is useful if nothing else). It’s also not just about public speaking.
It’s about that, if you have to do the thing you really, really are scared of doing, you are actually going to make it out the other side, more or less intact. It may not seem like it, but that presentation or job interview or performance is actually going to be over, and you can breathe a sigh of relief and say I did it. Which is the other point: It’s probably going to go way better than you think it’s going to.
So what’s your Thing that has got you terrified? We’ll give you a pat on the back and tell you you’re gonna do just fine.