Supposedly more people are afraid of public speaking than of death. I don't believe this. Actually given the choice, most people would head for the podium, I am quite sure of that. However, it definitely shows how frightened most of us are of being seen and heard "out there."
What are we so terrified of? There are several layers to that problem.
First, there is our body. Being visible means, on a basic level, that your body is seen by others. When you enter a night club, stand in front of a group or class, are a public speaker, or just put your picture up at an online dating service, people will look at your body.
Actually, many of these people will only be fleetingly interested in your body, but that doesn't help. Immediately, you will feel scrutinized, exposed, judged, and vulnerable. And that is a very uncomfortable feeling. What makes things real complicated is that it is not just about being thin, pretty, and wearing the right clothes. Yes, we tend to fret about that, but we all know beautiful women who don't like their perfect bodies or are constantly haunted by the fear that somebody else comes along who is "the fairest of them all".
I once talked to a woman who told me, casually, this: Whenever she goes to some kind of party or any other gathering of people, she first looks around if there is a woman who is prettier than she is. If there is none, she is o.k. If she finds one, she is miserable and tries to leave early. I responded laughingly that I would have never ever had the chance of staying to the end of a party if that was my rule. But actually I felt sad for her.
If we have problems with our body image, if we don't feel comfortable in our skin, we will feel shame of "exposing" our bodies in public.
I had an 68 year old woman calling me for a session because she was deeply disturbed by a recent incident: She was walking down Florida's posh South Beach, and a younger woman came up to her and said: "You really should not wear shorts at your age." Well, we got it settled by tapping (doing EFT), and she came to the liberating conclusion that this cruel remark said a lot more about that woman than about her legs.
Body weight, of course, is a huge issue when it comes to be appear in public as a body. Intense feelings of "not good enough", of shame or even self-hatred can be connected to being either too thin or, more often, too fat – whatever that means to the individual woman. Many women or girls remember upsetting remarks concerning their weight: "You look like a pig" (a father), "Nobody wants to marry you with that butt" (a mother), or: "Her face is o.k., but you can forget about the rest" (a boy to his friends, and everybody laughed).
If you don't have the "perfect" figure, women are often ridiculed or actually completely invisible to others. To brighten this depressing subject a bit up, I have a little story that a friend told me long ago: She is not just a bit overweight but downright fat (and attractive!). One day, she went to a shoe store to buy some real nice, expensive shoes. In that store she noticed a man who was obviously some sheik with his harem of (fat) women. All the women picked nice, expensive shoes. At the end, the sheik turned to my friend, looked at her with polite appreciation and said: "May I pay for your shoes, too, Ma'm?" And she let him.
Being judged and falling short in a public place is a deeply entrenched fear in most people. Sometimes, a single event in a person's life can set him or her up for being terrified on an ongoing basis. Often childhood events like abandonment and rejection by mother or an absent father come in.
Lilly (I changed her name) comes to mind. She was a very good student and excelled in writing and speaking. She always had done very well. Until she was 10 years old, and there was this contest for public speaking in her school. After several rounds she was in third place and posed to win. And then it happened. She froze in the middle of her speech. She couldn't remember a single thing, couldn't utter a single word. And all the teachers in the jury looked at her with disdain.
That would do it, right?
The best way to deal with all this misery is to bring it into one's full awareness (since it is so shameful we tend to push it down), and then work on the symptons, the emotions, and the traumatic memories that are attached to it. EFT is a safe, very effective tool to do just that.
©2011 Carna Zacharias-Miller