Updated: Jul 23, 2020
“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy there’s vomit on his sweater already…mom’s spaghetti”
The opening lyrics to Eminem's most notable song to date.
You may not know me, but at one point, I wanted to become a rapper. Of course, this was not really my destiny as this dream was more “talk” than “action”.
I admit. I was a “wannabe”.
But Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” was my own personal anthem. I played this song on repeat as I studied for my final exams in college. It’s a song that helped me feel 10x bigger than I was, made me feel like I was invincible, and gave me the courage that I needed to win the battle of my life (exam and/or presentation)…that is…until the moment of truth “…and the words just won’t come out”.
I used to have a fear of speaking in public. Having been put on the spot several times in my professional life, I got used to it (cold feet that is). But every so often I either get anxious or I freeze on the spot.
…and literally, it takes me a long moment to “snap back to reality”
Shoot! I even have trouble returning items to Target because I fear they will question my return. Which is mostly due to impulsive purchasing.
When I speak in public I talk rapidly and my brain doesn’t keep up. I start talking and I stutter and stumble. Most of the time the words flow out of my mouth and do not make sense at all. I often scan my audience to see if they are laughing at me. Some have and others are sympathetic, but not too much. Maybe social anxiety (see blog post "Is it Shyness? Or Is it Social Anxiety?")?
I feel like a joke.
I’ve wanted to run away and on several occasions and I’ve wanted to quit my job because of it. But quitting was just too easy and I knew if I couldn’t deal with it at that moment I would have to deal with it at my next job.
The Fear of Public Speaking
The Fear of Public Speaking (Glossophobia) is a common form of anxiety.
It is believed that Glassophobia affects about 75% of the population. But did you also know that the fear of public speaking is America’s biggest phobia? Apparently, 25.3% of American have this fear of speaking in front of a crowd (1)
Glossophobia is often seen in individuals who have a social anxiety disorder, which is a fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, rejected in social situations
It is important to point out that not all individuals with a fear of public speaking have a social anxiety disorder. (2)
“…He’s nervous. But on the surface, he looks calm and ready to drop bombs. But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down. The whole crowd goes so loud. He opens his mouth but the words won’t come out. He’s choking, how, everybody’s joking now. The clocks run out, times up, over…”
Individuals who have glossophobia can experience slight nervousness at the thought of speaking in public while others can experience a full-on panic attack. (3)
As a result, people with glossophobia often avoid speaking in public as much as possible and often avoid public situations altogether. But when they do they hands start shaking as well as their voice when they start speaking.
Other symptoms include:
Increased blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Increased oxygen intake
How Does One Get Glossophobia
I mean, having glossophobia doesn’t seem like fun at all. But there is no real direct answer as to how someone gets glossophobia as it could be a combination of things.
Typically, phobias start in childhood or early adulthood and can develop through a combination of genetic tendencies and environmental, biological and psychological factors (4).
People who have a fear of public speaking may not necessarily have a direct fear of speaking in front of people. Rather, their real fear could be feeling embarrassed or rejected.
Glossophobia is highly treatable with exposure-based treatments.
With exposure therapy, the individual is coached on their abilities to cope with the situation over time. Thus, lessening the severity of their symptoms.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) does this exactly.
Medication helps as well in combination with psychotherapy (5).
If left untreated, the fear of public speaking can lead to serious detrimental effects on one’s quality of life (6).
Now, Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” is about overcoming obstacles and struggles. It’s also about gaining respect from other rappers, but we can look beyond this.
“You only have one shot to not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…YO!”
There are many opportunities to talk to someone and or speak to a group of people.
To overcome this fear, it is best to utilize every speaking opportunity. With preparation as well as experience one can be on their way to managing their fear of public speaking.
…and with the fear of public speaking being the number one fear in the world…I know that I’m not the only dealing with this.