I am an introvert.
That means this isn’t my natural habitat.
For years, I wished I could be more outgoing because if nothing else, it would come in handy during networking events.
When I came to terms with being an introvert, I allowed myself to opt-out of opportunities. I turned down an offer early in my career to speak at a community organization’s meeting. I enrolled in a small-group theater class to fulfill the public speaking requirement of my journalism degree; most others I knew took the lecture hall public speaking class.
I was content to remain just outside of my comfort zone, working as a print journalist, which involves approaching and quizzing strangers one-on-one.
And finally, I decided it was time to face my longstanding fear of public speaking rather than avoiding it forever.
A recent Business Insider article lists practicing public speaking as one of 14 uncomfortable things that could change your life forever. It’s No. 10. While public speaking might be scary, according to the article, practice is the key to getting better at it.
A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters International. I half-jokingly referred to Tuesday nights as Public Torture Night. I stood up in front of a group of strangers each week, practicing impromptu speaking, delivering prepared speeches, and learning to remain silent rather than say ums and ahhs aloud.
It’s thrilling to face fear. It gives you a rush, a reward for accomplishing what was impossible until you convinced yourself otherwise.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when I shared an essay about motherhood in an auditorium where people came (and paid money!) to hear me as well as other writers speak at the Listen To Your Mother show in Evansville, Indiana.
Before the show, I practiced in front of the empty seats and focused on doing my best. I was aware that perfect wasn’t going to happen. My goal was to enjoy and soak up that life glitter moment.
My public speaking practice served me well that day.
I am grateful to have the picture below as evidence that I enjoyed the imperfect moment. Sure, I’d stumbled over a word and felt awkward a few times before that picture was taken. But I kept going.
I’m still an introvert, but I’ve taken another step in making peace with that and doing fun things like public speaking anyway.