There are people out there who are more afraid of speaking in public than dying: I was one of those people ten years ago – although you might not believe it today if you saw me speaking in public, which I do, now on a regular basis. I don’t really remember how I developed such a phobia about public speaking – perhaps it was at school, not knowing the answer when the teacher pounced on me with a question. I do remember an occasion early in my first job that left a long-term mark. It was during a recruitment campaign that the company was doing and there were about 200 young people in the room; for some reason the boss, without any prior warning, decide to ask me to explain to the gathered crowd what I liked about my job. Needless to say, I went completely tongue-tied and struggled to get a few incoherent sentences together until he finally realised that I was the wrong choice and moved swiftly along.
That experience lived in my head for years after and I really only managed to overcome the fear when I was recommended by a friend to attend Toastmasters meetings. Toastmasters organisation is a non-profit communication and leadership organisation set up in USA to help members improve their public speaking skills. There are over 280,000 members and 13,500 clubs in 116 countries around the world and there is also one here in Mallorca.
For more information see http://mallorcawordsmiths.toastmastersclubs.org/
Another experience I had recently again proved to me that the only way to overcome fear is to go ahead and do that thing you are afraid of and then keep doing it until it becomes so normal for you, that you don’t even think about it anymore. It becomes part of your comfort zone.
Many people suffer these days with a fear of flying – seeing the Concorde crash in 2000 was the beginning of my fear of flying and, of course, the following year it was not helped by seeing the live footage of 9/11. I have had hypnosis treatment, which was quite effective in overcoming the fear, but I really thought that as a person who likes to be in control, learning to fly would help me to understand what’s going on and therefore help me to be more relaxed. My husband gave me a voucher for a flying lesson on a fixed-wing plane to see if I liked it. After two years of ‘sitting on the fence’ thinking about it I finally got up the courage to call Valeria, from The Aviation Centre. On meeting Valeria (see our article 72) there was a lot of reassurance because this lady oozes confidence and capability. When you fly for the first time she is the right person to have sitting by your side.
I was told to sit in the ‘driver’s’ seat – headphones on, and a number of checks later we were taxiing down the runway. Once airborne, much to my disbelief that I had finally done it, Valeria offered to fly over my house so off we went in the direction of Son Vida; it was a pity nobody was home to witness my moment of glory.
One of the more terrifying moments came about 20 minutes into the flight when Valeria showed me what would happen in the event of engine failure. Not totally switching off the engine but lowering it considerably, we glided through the air as she selected a potential field for us to ‘crash-land’ – noting that we would probably be fine but that the plane would suffer damage. Lining us up for a rough landing and feeling quite scared, we glided towards the field and took off again just as we were making the final approach.
Back again at normal altitude Valeria mentioned once again to relax my hands and smiled at my white knuckles. Approaching the runway at Son Bonet for landing and still in charge of the steering, I was waiting for Valeria to give me the command ‘let go’ but she didn’t as we got closer and closer and she said finally “OK let go” and I did – as we landed – but my relief was short-lived and off we went again as quickly as we had felt ground beneath us. Another circuit and Valeria said, “Ok, this time you land the plane” and after a few bumps here and there we literally plopped to the ground.
The whole experience has left me feeling very excited at the prospect of learning to fly and while I’m still feeling quite anxious about it, I know the only way to overcome this or any other fears is to go ahead and do it anyhow. Wish me good luck!!!
Recommended Reading: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers