I have always had a fear of public speaking. I could not speak in front of the class at school without feeling my face burn. I could not speak in front of countless students without looking at the wall in the very back of whatever room I was in.
It was tough to go up there and talk, even though I would practice my presentation by myself without any issues. I would suddenly forget what I was presenting about, and I would look to the slides for help, even though that is not what you are supposed to do.
Needless to say, public speaking was my worst fear, besides flying... and I did not know how to overcome it.
When I got to grad school, I knew right away that presentation projects would be expected. Right away, the nerves set in. My first presentation of the semester was in October and I struggled hard. Meanwhile, it was a group presentation, and my hands were still clammy!
After that night, I wanted to improve. I really wanted to push past it. I hated feeling helpless up there with people staring at me. It is all in my head. I always think that people are judging me while I am speaking, and that makes my face burn hotter.
So, I started to practice, and I knew that if I was in graduate school or going to pursue a doctorate, I know that presentations will be in my future.
All of my finals turned out to be presentations, and from all of the practice and skills I used to manage breathing and whatnot, I did so much better. The nerves were in control, and my face was not red. My hands were steady and I knew what I needed to say. My professor even commented that there was a significant change with how I handled public speaking and that she was impressed.
Yeah, my heart might have been racing still, making my breathing hard and shallow, but I noticed improvement. I was proud of myself. I do not know how it happened, but graduate school erased my fear of public speaking. I am so glad for it, just in time for one of the most important chapters in my life.