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My public speaking journey – a story of micro-traumas

It may surprise you to learn that I haven't always enjoyed meeting new people, talking to large groups, and teaching! Read my story here.

For those of you who know me through my videos and teaching, or even for people who have met me socially as an adult, you’ve probably noticed that I enjoy chatting to people, meeting new people, and feel very comfortable talking to groups. It may surprise you to learn that I wasn’t always like this!

Growing up with a habitual ‘freeze’ response

As a child, I couldn’t speak to anyone outside my immediate family. I felt frozen, as if I didn’t know what to say or how to behave, and I feared ‘getting it wrong’, even while knowing that by not speaking I was ‘getting it wrong’. Even if I did know what to say, I couldn’t move my mouth to say it. Aged three my playschool teacher asked me to say sorry to a boy and I just stood there in front of him unable to say a word. I remember moving to a new school aged about five and sitting on a wall during playtime for the whole of the first few months because I just didn’t know how to make friends and couldn’t talk to anyone. This only ended when one girl asked me to play with her.

There are so many memories that stick with me from that time – having to say a line in a school play aged 6 and feeling sick and anxious for weeks beforehand; always refusing or being unable to say ‘thank you for having me’ when I had a playdate at a friend’s house; being unable to ask for things in shops; not being able to speak to my extended family who I only saw a few times a year – the list of repeated micro-traumas is never-ending!

Looking and feeling different

I also felt very much too tall and that I stuck out from the crowd when I would rather have been invisible. I was a head taller than my class fellows until the age of fourteen, when some of the others shot up in height. Most of my childhood I felt very conspicuous and odd, a complete misfit. Later I had teeth braces and acne and felt very unattractive as well as being too tall and obvious.

Public speaking was an ordeal

As a teenager and young adult, I used to feel physically sick before interviews or presentations of any kind. My stomach was a bundle of nerves and I couldn’t stop the worries going around my head for a couple of days before the event. It was a combination of hating to feel all those eyes on me and the difficulty I had physically speaking.

Inspiration

When I was ten, I had a teacher who told us a story about herself – that she had been very shy as a child and that it would have amazed all of her teachers to know that she had ended up being a teacher herself. That really stuck with me and gave me hope that I wouldn’t always be like this. Funnily enough, I later became a teacher myself!

You may be expecting me to say that I solved my public speaking issues by using EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) but guess what! I cracked it before I ever heard of EFT! I wish I’d had the help of EFT at the time, as the process would have been much easier, quicker and less painful!

Teaching in Indonesia

This is what happened – I went to Indonesia to study gamelan music and I found myself in a country where I was again a head taller than most people (I am 5 foot 10 inches (175cm) and Indonesians tend to be much shorter). Many people liked to look at foreigners, as there were not many of us, and I assumed it was because I was always doing something wrong or against the local customs, and looked strange and ugly. I couldn’t have been more wrong. After a few years of living there I realised that actually Indonesians usually stop and stare at foreigners because they find them very beautiful (pale-skinned, blue-eyed and tall – no doubt I seemed quite exotic). I had projected my own internal stories and hang-ups onto behaviour that had quite a different origin and meanings attached to it than those I had assumed.

I also taught English as a foreign language – first in London and then in Indonesia. At first it was very difficult and nerve-wracking for me. I felt very anxious before new classes, until I got to know the students. There were a few challenging students who threw me off my stride and made me feel red-faced with embarrassment. The worst for me was teaching an hour-long conversation class – because what on earth was I going to talk about with the students for such a long time?! It felt like a nightmare – as the teacher it was my job to always keep the conversation going and not have awkward pauses, and to create an atmosphere where the students also felt comfortable to have a go at speaking in their second language.

Teaching too became easier as time went by. In essence, I overcame my fear and anxiety about public speaking by repeatedly trying and practising. I inadvertently created life situations for myself whereby repeated exposure led to familiarity and then confidence in my skills. With hindsight, I can see that my feelings of comfort when meeting new people and speaking to a large group came from an understanding that the vast majority are not hostile. They are pre-disposed to like me. There is no reason why they should wish me to dry up and feel embarrassed. By making that connection with the group as individual people, I became comfortable and confident that I am actually very good at giving talks, presentations and at chatting with people. I also realised that if I make a mistake, it doesn’t have to be embarrassing – it might even make me more relatable to my audience, and we can laugh about it together.

My core issues and beliefs were not yet healed

How, then, does this tie in with my EFT journey? Well, it turned out that although I was already comfortable and confident with public speaking before I found EFT, those same childhood scenarios and events were affecting me in other ways. The fears of getting it wrong, not being good enough and being paralysed with fear were showing up in different ways in my life. Although I had found a way to enjoy and feel comfortable with public speaking, I hadn’t touched on the deeper root issues. Now, these core issues were presenting as getting into unhealthy relationships, excessive people-pleasing, feeling that I wasn’t a good mother, and other subtle ways. Rather than public speaking blocks, and physically being unable to speak I was experiencing blocks to vocalising my truth, standing up for myself, and a fear of annoying or displeasing people in my life. Luckily, by then I had found EFT and I am still working with a practitioner to dig out and balance these events, feelings and beliefs.

False Truths

As a practitioner myself, I can’t tell you how many of my clients, like me, have some variation of these beliefs:

  • I’m not good enough.
  • I don’t fit in.
  • I’m a misfit.
  • I must try harder.
  • I must get it right but I never CAN get it right.
  • I don’t deserve things to go right.
  • I always mess things up.
  • It’s not safe to be seen/heard.

I have learned from my own work with EFT that it’s not only the ‘big T traumas’ that affect people’s lives. So many of us have had a lifetime of ‘small t traumas’ which seemed huge as children, when we felt powerless and alone and unable to change the situation for the better. Often as adults we look back and think these events were so small and even funny, and just what all children go through. However without our realising it, repeated micro-traumas can build up layer upon layer of false truths within us, so that we end up living our adult lives with a child’s fears and beliefs.

EFT is gentle and effective

EFT is an astonishingly powerful tool that can help us to really heal from a deep level. Some conventional psychotherapeutic treatments can become violent and re-traumatising, and also not consistently very effective. For example in exposure therapy for phobias or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), a person is exposed to the source of their fears or trauma until they are no longer affected by them. By contrast, EFT is extremely gentle and effective for phobias and PTSD, as well as for less intense or drastic conditions. There’s no need to just battle on using brute force like I did with public speaking! Using EFT techniques a skilled practitioner can help you to access the deeply hidden micro-traumas that are relevant to the problems you may be facing in your life today. It can be a slow and painstaking process, but little by little, the results show up in your day-to-day life in the form of increased peace, happiness, confidence, harmonious relationships, fulfilling work, improved health and manifested dreams.

If you’d like to explore how EFT can help us deal with life’s challenges contact me to set up a free 20 minute chat to see how I could help you!

Do join my free Facebook group where I regularly offer free group tapping sessions.

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