Since my last blog was on squashing social anxiety, I find it fitting that the topic for this blog is public speaking. We all have mandatory public speaking at some point in our lives. Think back to childhood where preparing speeches and reading aloud to the class was a popular method of torture. But in your grown-up life (assuming you have turned into an adult), have you felt the pressure to perform at work? Even without the diagnosis of social anxiety, facing your colleagues to deliver a speech can be extremely anxiety provoking and well, horrible. I think of the difference between my parents: my mom will do everything possible to avoid public speaking, whereas my dad was a teacher and doesn’t mind getting up in front of a crowd. Opposites attract? (Sometimes for them, anyway.)

The scariest thing about public speaking is the judgment you assume will occur after. People are quick to judge others who have opinions- after all, the ones who don’t speak up aren’t judged as harshly. But the ones who don’t speak up are still at risk for others making assumptions based on lack of information.

I am (swallowing hard), an inspirational speaker. (Oh my god, did I just label myself as “inspirational”? How egotistical AM I?) So, I read from my paper half the time. At least I am being real, authentic in my struggles and successes. I share my story of both misery and happiness for a reason. I want to stand up to the people who make assumptions about mental illness and set them straight. And I want to reach people people who are struggling and let them know they’re not alone. That someone else has fought a difficult battle- and won repeatedly!

I have never had a negative reaction to my speeches. (I sound conceited again; let me explain.) People come up to me after and thank me for being brave enough to share my story, because the hope that is generated- even for only minutes- may be enough to help others stand up as well. So although it is extremely difficult to stand in front of a room full of strangers, although I have lingering social anxiety fears, I do it anyway. And people may be judging me, I am not sure. But I have learned to let this fear of judgment bounce off me. (I’m rubber, you’re glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you. Childhood retort? No? Hmm, I am getting old.)

So, I say I am an inspirational speaker and I fear that someone will judge me and say “she’s not inspirational enough” but this fear does not mean that I stop speaking. It simply means that a) I ignore it or b) I prove them wrong. I will not let myself be judged negatively for doing the bravest thing I have ever done in my entire life and be a victim to this judgment.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”.

Don’t consent.

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.