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During my college years, I developed a kind of “stage fright.” No, I wasn’t reciting Shakespearean monologues on the theatrical stage. (Though I did have the lead in our middle school play back in eighth grade. And get this—I played a “hillbilly” named Charlemagne, aka Charlie. Too funny, right?)
I was just trying to talk in class.
I’m not sure how it started, but my heart began to race whenever I wanted to raise my hand, and as I spoke, I could feel my face turning a brilliant shade of tomato red. This anxiety haunted me off and on throughout college, depending on the classroom setting and curriculum at hand, and I am sure it will be a challenge for quite a while. But it’s also nothing I can’t handle. Here are some words that I remember whenever I freeze up:
Focus on one person. I’ve found that sitting near the front of the class—or if the desks are arranged in a circle, near the professor—so that it doesn’t feel like all eyes are on you while you are talking.
Just say something, already! Over-thinking what you are about to say only makes matters worse. I can attest that trying to make every word I wanted to say sound perfect only made me stumble later on. Just go for it. Raise your hand in class. Try out for that part in the school play. Give that presentation. And whatever it is, having confidence in yourself goes a long way.
Don’t beat yourself up over it. Sometimes, I’m just plain embarrassed by my public speaking anxieties. I would tell myself, “I’m an English major, and I still can’t speak in front of groups of people? Wow, that’s kind of lame, Amanda!” But being embarrassed about, well, being embarrassed, doesn’t get me anywhere! Instead, I have tried to focus on the times I do speak up, and regardless of how red my face is, I am still facing my fear head on.
And most of all – don’t let it stop you. I remind myself that I am always a work-in-progress. I don’t shy away from speaking up, having held multiple leadership roles on campus and even started a club. I take every opportunity to speak up, and you should, too!