**Names and identifying details are altered to preserve confidentiality. All stories used with permission.**
Gina called and asked if I could help her with her public speaking. Her job had become more public facing and she found herself speaking in front of groups more often. Each time, she experienced intense anxiety before the engagements. Once she got into the groove, she felt better. But afterwards, she would be relentlessly critical of her performance, even when participants told her that her talk had been inspiring and powerful. She wanted to get a better understanding of why she experienced anxiety and beat herself up while learning new strategies to make speaking more easeful and even fun.
In our initial conversation, we explored her anxiety, breaking it down into her physiological experience and identifying key moments that precipitated that experience. This inquiry revealed that the anxiety grew from a fear of judgement associated, at a deep level, with letting people who depended on her down. When we explored the self-criticism, Gina realized that it sprung from a deep desire to speak from a deep place of alignment with the purpose of her work. She felt that she often soft peddled her passion for the work in an effort to make her speeches more appealing and less bold. This was a significant revelation and challenged her assumption that the self-criticism was related to being a 'bad speaker' or being in some way technically deficient.
We began a series of three sessions by helping Gina develop simple practices and a pre-speaking ritual to help her establish a sense of grounding and presence even while experiencing excitement (which feels exactly like anxiety). From there, we entered into an interactive visualization to help her experience and shift the energy she experienced during a recent speaking engagement.
In our second session, we again worked with visualization to help Gina connect with a master of public speaking who served as her teacher and offered her a gift to serve as a totem to bring with her when speaking. And in our final session, we created a ritual to help Gina ground into her deep purpose and distinguish between what it felt like for her to embody that purpose in her speaking vs. what it felt like to shy away from it.
Over the course of our sessions, Gina had several speaking engagements and with each one reported greater feelings of ease, confidence and comfort. Colleagues remarked on the different energy she brought to her speeches and she had learned to gauge success by how aligned with and grounded in her purpose she felt. At the end of our time together, Gina expressed that she now had a completely different understanding of public speaking and her role as a speaker.