I am writing this in the middle of the night as I am preparing for my last mathematics lecture of the semester. If you read my last post, you can see how I overcame my fear of public speaking by enjoying math. As nerdy as it sounds, it’s true; and this is coming from a girl who used to have chronic social anxiety (and I still do sometimes).
Other than enjoying math enough that I want to speak to many people about it, there’s another aspect that helped me overcome public speaking. I’m going to keep this short and sweet: I had the burning passion to help people succeed.. really bad.
I knew that for a lot of people, math was a huge struggle. This was a huge opportunity for me because I could help them in the field that I was most good at. When I was in grade school, I kept failing in math, and there was absolutely nobody who could help me; I guess this is why I ended up wanting to help people who struggle in mathematics. Long story short, I applied for the student lecturing job (despite the fact that I was TERRIFIED of public speaking back then) with the simple purpose of helping students achieve A’s in their math classes… even if it meant going on the board and explaining things to 30 people at once. I really did not know what kind of disaster I was signing up for. All I knew was that if I embarrassed myself or said the wrong things, at least I could lessen the commotion because I knew about the discussion (which was math in this case).
Those fear, anxiety, and sleepless nights I had worrying about embarrassment and judgement in front of a group of people weren’t really needed. Contrary to what I thought would happen, none of the students hated me. So far, there was only one student who does not really like me, and I have learned to ignore ’em haters. 99% of students thank me for what I was doing; they thanked me for the handouts, exam tips, and explanations. All of the times I spent being anxious were compensated by the feeling when people thank you for being there for them; this feeling gives you the sense of fulfilment, making your life meaningful because you know that you are doing something not just for yourself, but for others. I can safely say that this emotion has kept motivated despite my 19 college credit hours, 20 hours of part time work, late working hours, and lack of sleep.
I clearly remember how scared I was when I had to click the ‘submit’ button on that job application; and I was also atomically close to bail out on the day before the first day of work. I was so glad I didn’t. I kept thinking of the people whom I was accountable for: the students, my boss, and my partners. If I quit, I will let them down; and I don’t want to let them down.
Enough about me. What is something that you are competent in and truly want to help people with? What knowledge can you share? If you like to do a particular thing and you are good at it, find a way to help people with that gift of yours. Since this is a public speaking topic, see if you can talk about it to a group of people, starting from a small group and work your way up to a bigger group. If you like drawing, maybe you can start talking to your friends in art class on how to make drawings more realistic. If you are a tech-geek, see if you can inform a student organisation about the latest productivity app. The possibilities are endless, but they all have one common theme: Be a teacher and help people! Help them in the best way that you can, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And don’t be afraid of people who you think knows more about the topic than you do. There’s so much knowledge in this world that it is impossible for one person to know everything. Most likely, the people you talk to will thank you for what you say and for the enlightenment that you have given them. Even if you do not start out speaking in a conference, it is still progress; and everybody knows that progress is what matters. Who knows, you might find new friends along the way with the same interests as you!
If you are truly driven by the passion to help people, nothing, not even fear or anxiety can stop you.