Seems like many people have the same pattern with the fear Lots of the stories I read here reminded me of my own, in that I didn't have a fear for much of my life. I used to be very comfortable being in front of a group, enjoying business training programs where we had to role play (I felt I was one of the best at it), reading my writing in front of an audience in college, being in some plays, etc.
It all began when I decided to do a voluntary presentation to a group of about 20 clients back when I was in my mid twenties. I practiced the presentation very matter of factly the day before and the day of the presentation, drove to the event offsite with an associate, even chatted casually with him on the way. When it was my turn to get up there, I did without hesitation, and began.
Within about 30 seconds, while I was talking I could feel my heart starting to pound, my throat tightening up, and I literally asked myself "what the heck is going on here? Are you you having a panic attack?" My voice started shaking, and I started to lose my train of thought on the material. The room seemed to be very aware that I was choking, and everyone seemed to be staring at me.
My associate, who was there to be more of an aide, sensed the moment and started handing out some pamphlets we were supposed to hand out later to break the tension. I saw him do this and appreciated it, so I started again. Just then, a woman asked me a question, which in retrospect distracted me from the fear enough to get me rolling again. Miraculously, I focused on her question and the subject material and totally relaxed, used some of the energy to make the presentation better, and it went great. Even got a few good laughs, and a nice round of applause at the end.
But, since that day, the fear of fear has lodged itself in my head. I have been worried about getti! ng stuck like that to the point where I, like many others, try to avoid public speaking. I have done a few presentations since then, but nowhere near as many as I would if I wasn't concerned about it. I have given a eulogy without any nerves at all, seminars to clients without nerves, a toast at a dinner party went well, but on a few other occasions presentations were a little shaky. And, a few times, I found myself getting too worked up before having to speak at silly moments such as having to introduce myself in front of a large group.
This is the stupidest thing ever. I used to have no fear, I know I am a good speaker, and I actually have no problem with the idea of getting up in front of a group. But, I seem to not know when the involuntary physiological reaction will take over, so I just worry that I will "crash and burn" like I almost did that day. I see myself as this big confident guy, not some whimp who can't handle the pressure (which is what I think I'll com off as if I fall apart), so I avoid the risk.
I wonder why many of us have the same story - a life without fear, and then a sudden development of nerves. I wonder if it's literally changes to the nervous system that occur as you get older. For a case in point I've attended a bunch of school plays and concerts through the years for our kids, and despite kids being blatantly nervous at times, I don't think I've ever heard any of them get the shaky voice thing, or freeze up.
It's holding me back, as I could make a lot more money in my field if I started presenting again. Thanks for reading my story.