Public speaking and the imposter syndrome

Who hasn’t felt like an imposter when they think about standing up to give a public presentation? You might have to stand up in front of an audience, it could be a team meeting, a class seminar or a conference in front of one thousand people.

In those moments before they call out your name, imposteryou get that sick feeling in your stomach, your hands and knees shake, your heart pounds. You worry that you’re going to open your mouth and say something stupid (or worse, say nothing) and then they’re going to realise that you have no idea what you’re talking about. And there will be that horrible uncomfortable silence, or worse, they will laugh or ridicule you.

You are going to be in the glaring spotlight. Even putting yourself forward is a terrible risk. Who am I to think I could do this? Maybe they’ll ask a question I can’t answer. They’ll find out that I don’t know very much at all. The other presenters are so much better. Who am I to be standing up here in front of all these people? You scan the room and feel all those eyes focused on you. It’s like being caught naked or exposed. What if they laugh? If they are bored? If they just think it’s silly?

It’s a bit like the emperor’s new clothes. You are standing up there hoping they will like what you say but worried that they’ll see right through you! At any point, someone could call out “You don’t know anything”.

As a result, many people avoid presentations. Or only do them when there is no way out and, therefore, don’t do enough of them to get good at it. They miss out on the many opportunities that come from putting yourself forward.

Extract from The Imposter Syndrome.

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