Statistically speaking more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of death! I used to be one of these people. I can honestly say that there was a time in my life where I would rather have died than given a speech! My palms and other more visible and embarrassing areas would start sweating profusely, my legs would shake, and my heart would pound like rock song! All of that came on at the moment I found out I was going to have to speak in front of someone! Each subsequent thought or rehearsal through my mind leading up to the actual event seemed to bring even stronger physical symptoms. By the time of the actual presentation, I was exhausted from all of the physical anxiety and lack of sleep! But still the adrenaline would kick in just enough to make me feel confused and unsure about what I was actually going to say. I always seemed to make it through without fainting though at times I had no recollection of what I actually said or of the reaction I was getting.

Public speaking was just the pinnacle of a long list of various social fears that I had nurtured up until I was about 34. Some of the other things that would turn on my fear response were going to social events where I didn't know anyone, going out in public in my bathing suit (this was an especially tough one to overcome), talking on the phone, singing or performing in front of people, speaking out in a group situation such as a class, giving any kind of presentation, or even meeting someone for the first time.

As I look back, it is a miracle that I was able to have friends and even get married during those years! I guess I did have brief stints of confidence that drove me through and allowed me to open up to a small handful of people. During my 20s I took martial arts courses and became a black belt and eventually an instructor. This gave my confidence a big boost and I found that I could be a good teacher once I got past the fears of standing up in front of others and that I actually really enjoyed doing it! That was the strangest part. I had convinced myself that I didn't like performing or meeting new people or going to parties when in reality I secretly longed for those things and loved doing those things, but I had let my fear stop me and then reasoned my way out of having to face that fear. Perhaps you can relate.

Then something changed in me and in my paradigm. I was sitting there on a stage waiting to give a speech to a church congregation. My heart was pounding, my palms and other areas were opening the sweaty flood gates, my mind was reeling, and I was literally praying to God to make this all go away. That is when a thought came to my mind. "This is not about you, Linda" was what I heard in my heart. I even argued for a moment and thought well yes, this is clearly about me. I am falling apart here. But then I realized that I was not giving this speech for my benefit. I was giving it for the benefit of the listeners. My thoughts had been consumed with what they would think of me rather than thinking about how this speech could benefit them.

This was a big turning point for me. In a brief moment I realized that everything I had been doing, saying, and even the person I was portraying was all in the name of approval from others and sometimes even in competition against them. I was afraid of my fellow human beings because of what I thought they might think of me. I was competing against them to set myself apart or higher than I perceived them to be. The crazy part of all of this is that the issue of equality among human beings has always played a very large part in my life and it was something I was passionate about, yet I wasn't living that way.

This is where one word opened it all up for me and liberated me from these fears. That word is "WE". I started to think about how we are all in this together as human beings and how each one of us makes our own unique and valuable contributions. It wasn't "you versus me". It really was "WE". I remembered that we are indeed equal in value and potential, and once I really got this, there was no need to be afraid any more!

I realized that I was just as significant as everyone else! I could start doing things out of the spirit of contribution rather than competition. I was no longer driven by approval, but by service instead.

This realization has set me free to be the person I was meant to be and to live the life I was meant to live! Whenever I feel those old feelings of fear creeping back into my life, I simply remember "WE", and they vanish once again.

As the universe and its impeccable sense of humor would have it, today I am actually pursuing a career that involves public speaking, teaching, meeting new people all the time, coaching, and leading seminars. I haven't had to perform in my swimming suit yet, but I see that as a service to my fellow man by not doing so rather than a fear.

Author's Bio: 

Linda McPharlin is the developer of The Power in WE and the WE Way. Please visit to learn more about how "WE" can help you!