The past two weeks my blogs have centered on you getting in front of an audience. As a leader, this will be necessary to get your face and your program out there. Yet many school librarians shy away from doing this other than with the smallest possible group. They know the value but find a host of reasons not to step into the limelight. The most obvious reason is fear.
Fear holds us back, and we can’t afford to let that happen.
Public speaking is a fear more common than death. Also known as “stage fright,” it is one of the most common fears. The phrase refers to performers, but it is, in essence, what we are all doing when we step in front of a group. Actors get past it or they wouldn’t have careers. You need to do the same because if you hide your light under a bucket, you will not be seen. If you are not seen, you will not be valued. And if you are not valued, you and your position are likely to be eliminated.
Terri Klass has sound advice on How to Stop Fear from Paralyzing Your Leadership. In presenting her five recommendations, she notes this fear can pop up at any point of your career, especially as the audiences get larger or feel more important. Each time you step onto a larger stage, there is the chance it might emerge. With these steps in mind, hopefully, you will be able to conquer it when it does.
- Name the Fear – Klass encourages you to identify the physical responses you are having. Can you recognize what is causing it? Notice and name your reactions (rapid heart, sweaty palms), and what they go with (not being sure you have the answer, wondering if anyone will listen to you, etc.) Recognizing that this is fear “talking” is an important first step.
- Share the Fear with a Trusted Advisor – Talking out the fear puts it into perspective. A fellow librarian or a friend (or both) makes a good listening ear. As you speak about the fear you just named, you are better able to see how inaccurate your fears are. If you don’t have someone to share it with, talk to yourself. Out loud. It’s hearing it that makes you aware of how much of the scenario you imagined is improbable and just some chemical reactions in your body.
- Try on a New Perspective – Klass has an imaginative idea here – think of someone who inspires you, and imagine them guiding you through this fear. How would they approach this situation? What attitude would they present? What would they say to you to encourage you? Can’t think of a person – Klass suggests you think of an animal. Imagine embodying the power of a wolf, the majesty of lion. It’s the perspective change that will help you manage the fear.
- Give It a Meaningful Good-bye – Look that fear in the eye and let it know you are done with it. Klass suggests writing down your good-bye and putting it away somewhere or speaking it into a mirror. Rather than putting away that fear, you can also burn it. There is a kind of satisfaction in seeing it go up in smoke. Gone forever.
- Commit to the New and Inspiring Leader – What are you going to do going forward? How do you want to be? Look at the presentation you made after having conquered your fear. How did it go? Remind yourself of this the next time you move onto a larger stage. Talk to yourself as you would to a friend who is beginning to shine more brightly.
I can remember reading Frank Herbert’s Dune shortly after it was published. A line from it has stuck with me forever, “Fear is the little death…. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.” Each time we step out of our comfort zones, fear will be waiting. Don’t let it keep you from being the leader you were meant to be.