This is the second part of a blog series on fear, embarrassment, and growth. Check out part one, “Your Fear Is Overrated.”
Public speaking has always terrified me. Even when I consciously realize that I can give a presentation or talk, I still feel shaky and shaken during the experience.
Even though my voice may crack embarrassingly next time I speak, I can’t stop sharing my ideas in public because of my fear. I can’t stop doing any of the things that make me uncomfortable and throw me out of my comfort zone.
I’ve written before about fear of new challenges in work or social life – how most of what we fear comes with the small cost of embarrassment. I’d like to look more at why thinking about challenges in terms of cost can be valuable.
There’s a sense in which thinking of my odds as overwhelmingly against me can be a powerful motivator. It can clarify my purpose and show me what really matters in a challenging moment. At the same time, it’s not exactly true.
Most of the time, facing and overcoming our challenges requires a simple, rational, cool-headed calculation. That calculation is the calculation of the embarrassment-to-personal-growth ratio – how much embarrassment will I need to experience here to get this task done?
That changes things. When I think about challenges this way, they seem less intimidating. They seem more like choices I make every day. How much work am I willing to put in to finish this project? How many hours of my day am I willing to trade for my salary? I never feel a fight or flight response to these questions – so why shouldn’t I try to rethink challenges that can lead to embarrassment?
Challenges are rarely all or nothing. Even when they do seem overwhelming, having that more objective perspective on the actual costs and dangers of of a challenge like public speaking can keep a check on my nerves.
Start thinking in terms of costs and benefits. As our founder Isaac Morehouse likes to point out, life, personal growth, and professional development (in my case, developing public speaking skills) are all types of games. You have plenty of options, and when you weigh them – and stop letting other people weigh them for you – you’ll find that you have much more to work with and fewer risks than you thought.
For me and for most other people, embarrassment is the price for personal development. It’s the currency of the muses – so why not start weighing and valuing it instead of fearing it?