In numerous famous surveys, the majority of people say that their only fear greater than death is public speaking.

It's understandable that the idea of speaking in front of a group will expose the holes in your self-confidence. In my observation, most people have confidence issues in several aspects of life, so it makes sense that public speaking is a common Achille's heel.

However, in my opinion, self-doubt alone doesn't seem to account for the extreme level of fear people relate to public speaking. So when I recently discovered that there's an evolutionary component to being in the spotlight, it made a lot of sense to me.

Did you know that the fear of public speaking is linked to prehistoric man?

Predators seek the easy prey: those who are alone, vulnerable, in a flat, open area. More than two million years ago, early man learned that his chances for survival plummeted when he was standing alone in open territory (no place to hide), unarmed, in front of a pack of animals that were staring at him, licking their chops.

The odds were high that he'd soon be attacked. So our ancestors developed a fear response to this type of life-threatening situation.

Over millennia, this fear became programmed into our genes. And although your audience today isn't a pack of hungry wolves, the vulnerable feeling persists.

Though it's a bit of a stretch, your genes are programmed to look for threats. It's called adaptation, and we're geniuses at it.

The modern twist on this genetically programmed anxiety is to fear humiliation, embarrassment and rejection. Granted, these are big fears. Not life-threatening, but they are some of the biggest fears of modern life.

It's natural for you to want to avoid embarrassment like the plague because you don't like it when your self-confidence takes a big hit. Ditto when you're humiliated; you temporarily lose your sense of identity.

From asking a hottie out on a date to speaking in front of a hundred people, performance anxiety touches your life in a wide variety of situations. The key to mastering your biology is to understand it, then find ways to plug the holes in your self-confidence.

When you recognize that public speaking triggers a lot of nervous energy, you can learn to focus that energy in a beneficial way. Nervous becomes excited. Motivated. Passionate. Engaging. Likable.

When you're nervous, your energy is scattered. Your thoughts are dominated by self-doubt and worry—neither of which help you deliver a strong presentation. Others will pick up on your nervousness and will be turned off by it.

But when you speak from your passion, you are your most persuasive. Passion is both attractive and contagious. People want to be around you; they're more open to hearing and agreeing with you when you speak from your heart.

Today's Coaching Question: What would your life be like if you never got nervous again?

Author's Bio: 

Judy Widener is a Certified Life Coach and author of Power For A Lifetime: Tools You Customize to Build Your Personal Power Every Day Of Your Life. You can sign up for Discovering Your Values, a 5-day e-course at no cost at Her passion is assisting her clients to discover what is most important to them, then to create more balance and satisfaction in their lives. She offers a comprehensive program that teaches clients simple ways to build their personal power and overcome obstacles to achieving their dreams. Judy has coached more than 600 people over the past 13 years. Her website is