That’s what I tell myself in moments leading up to any situation where I have to, ironically, take a stage and speak to a group of people.
I remind myself that I’m a hack, an incompetent imposter, worthy of every bit of indifference the audience is sure to cast upon me.
I tear myself down over my face-for-radio looks, the font on my slides, the number and quality of said slides, the extra helpings and skipped workouts that transformed these pleated dress pants into a tourniquet, why I’m wearing dress pants with PLEATS for goodness sake when the other speakers apparently stepped out of a “Stylish Guys – Trendy Men’s Wear” Pinterest board, the fact that I even know such a board exists, the gas bubbles from that shotgunned Diet Coke which are now trying to pull a Shawshank Redemption and break free from me through all available exits, the opening joke that isn’t as funny as the one Mr. Pinterest delivered from the stage earlier, the content I should’ve re-written, the empty chairs, my delivery, my gestures, my stories, my voice, my message, my worth.
I’m tempted to rely on the old tricks for dealing with public speaking jitters: imagining the crowd naked, deep breathing, running screaming from the room because of a catastrophic medical condition (bubonic plague, leprosy, Bieber Fever) I’ve cleverly faked. These won’t work for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to) the fact that they’re either breathtakingly inappropriate, ineffective, or what that pesky speaking contract has defined as “legally actionable”.
But my love for speaking will always outweigh my ability to do it as well as I want.
I love to speak precisely because it makes me uncomfortable. It forces me to create when I don’t feel like it. To research when complacency whispers that I know enough. To practice when arrogance screams to wing it. To reinvent myself and my message when pride convinces me otherwise.
Speaking pushes me to see the audience as individuals I’m here to serve when vanity says it’s the other way around.
And in those backstage panics, what gets me through is the humbling realization that my time on God’s good Earth is at His good pleasure, and whatever time I’m afforded on that stage must be devoted to lifting others up. Make them the focus, and that’s when I find my own.
Many of you in this community speak to crowds, and for paychecks, both modest and plenty. Some love it. Some loathe it. Some do it well. Some don’t.
Regardless of the stage or situation, neither of them is truly yours. You’ve borrowed them both from an audience who believes you can help them do something more, less, better, or differently. Be worthy of their trust.
You’re living a life that someone in that room would dream to have. Enjoy it. Fill it. Share it. Bless others through it.
And go easy on the Diet Coke.