By HB (16 years old)
Everyone has fears. Some people are afraid of heights while others are terrified by the sight of spiders or snakes. I, however, have glossophobia – the fear of public speaking.
When I stand before an audience, Nervousness becomes my middle name and I make friends with Mr Panicky and Mr Distress. I cannot stop my hands and legs from shaking. My heart pounds rapidly and I am unable to concentrate on my speech.
My voice quivers uncontrollably and my pronunciation is so horrible that people can barely understand what I am talking about. I cannot help myself from stammering so my speech is filled with, “Um…” or “uh…” much to the amusement of the audience. Sometimes I can become so nervous that I do not know what I am talking about or stop speaking altogether. When this happens, I feel like burying my head in the ground.
Ironically, I secretly harbour the desire to speak to masses. I have been dreaming about speaking eloquently in class. I would make a joke and my friends would laugh at what I had cleverly said. My teacher would give me a thumbs-up and I would feel exceptionally pleased.
Even if I have imagined a thousand times of making a great speech, I doubt it would ever happen in real life. It is easy for a bystander to say, “Relax. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.” But how do I stop the butterflies from partying in my stomach and the sweat pores from dripping?
Many people have given me countless tips on how to be confident in making a speech. The most popular one is to stand in front of the mirror and speak aloud. But how do you put anxiety at bay? How do you make sure that Mr Panicky and Mr Distress stay away and faithfully keep their distance? How do you tell your mouth not to dry up and your tongue not to tie itself up? How do you tell your body to stop shaking and your legs to buck up and not turn into jelly?
I can roughly guess the reasons for my stage fright. I am afraid of making mistakes and fear that my friends would laugh at me. I don’t want to look foolish to my peers or anyone for that matter but deep down, I know I lack self-confidence.
Perhaps I should hie over to the Toastmasters International Junior Club and learn from the speech masters so that I may reduce my fear of public speaking to manageable levels.