Until a couple of months ago, the thing that frightened me more than anything else — even more than my childhood fear of crows attacking me — was standing up before a group of people and speaking.
In February of 2017, I took the biggest ever leap out of my comfort zone and faced my biggest fear: public speaking in front of parents and teachers 🙂 I participated in the Nourish Conference which is a school workshop intended for parents and educators who want to discuss and learn more about well-being.
I was first introduced to this conference by my school counsellor who I worked with for about 6 months – in a lot of our meetings, we discussed about mental health & well-being, confidence, overcoming challenges (etc.) and we thought it would be a perfect idea to share what we’ve discussed in our meetings with parents and teachers. While I was excited to be able to talk about something that I was so passionate about, I was also really nervous – to me, the idea of speaking in front of parents and teachers seemed impossible when I often already had difficulties delivering presentations to my classmates. However, I understood this opportunity as a perfect way for me to demonstrate some of the things I was able to learn through my discussions with my counsellor regarding confidence and overcoming challenges so I happily accepted the offer.
Ironically, our presentation was on “doing hard things” 🙂 We discussed some tools to help “identify and dissolve limiting beliefs”. In the last few minutes of the presentation, I also talked specifically about introverts and what it means to experience school as an introvert as well as how this affects me personally on a daily basis. I also gave advice to parents on how to support their children who are struggling to open up to friends and teacher at school, and how they can be actively involved in their children’s lives to support their well-being.
In preparation for the conference, I did A LOT of practicing 🙂 I practiced at home, at school, in the train, and as I began feeling more and more prepared for the day, I also began to see my confidence improving. I also made sure to practice some of the strategies for public speaking that I learnt in class as well as from my counsellor – this included things like enunciating every word clearly, gestures, breathing techniques, etc.
While I was very nervous and anxious on the day of the presentation, I definitely think it helped a lot that I was talking about something that I was truly passionate about and on a topic that I was clearly knowledgeable about. It also really helped me that I had my counsellor by my side during the entire presentation and the confidence she demonstrated in her parts of the presentation also gave me the encouragement to stand up in front of everyone with confidence. I also appreciated that my counsellor decided to make the workshop “introvert-friendly” – in between the presentation, we gave the teachers and parents some time to reflect quietly and we also gave them activities to do individually. During this time, I was able to practice the next few sections of the presentation in my head as well as give myself a few minutes to relax and breathe.
At the very end of the conference, some parents and teachers came up to congratulate me on the presentation and I really enjoyed hearing what they had to say about our presentation as well as about the topic.
While I was very happy with how the presentation went, especially given how much and for how long I’ve always avoided speaking publicly, what made me even more happier was hearing what the audience had to say about the topic. One of the parents in the audience came up to me after the presentation to thank me for some of the strategies I shared about finding the confidence to say “no.” It was especially interesting and refreshing to know that some adults also struggled with the fear of saying “no” 🙂
After conquering my biggest fear, I truly learnt the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone, in the context of public speaking. I have learnt that public speaking can really help to influence important decisions and to motivate change – these were things I’ve consistently tried to achieve in my life but it was only after the conference that I truly felt like I was able to demonstrate my passion for promoting well-being and that I was able to motivate positive change for parents and teachers.
Since the presentation, I promised myself to do something scary on a regular basis. One of the most important things I’ve learnt this year is that facing my biggest fears allows me to develop wisdom as well as confidence – since presenting at the conference, I’ve learnt that I’m so much more capable than I think I am 🙂