When I was a kid, I hated public speaking with a passion. The idea of getting up to do a speech was absolutely terrifying. Then I took an acting class and discovered that I LOVE performing. It took me a few years to realize that I could use that love of acting to make public speaking easier, but I got there. I don’t remember my process but I eventually got to the point where I could convince myself that I was playing the role of someone who knew about topic X and that my character didn’t mind talking about it at all. Now, I do storytelling and acting and public speaking and I am generally unfazed because I can draw on that sense of creating a character.
I originally thought that was all there was to it, just drawing on an imagined personality to get me past any worry about how I was coming across* but then I got into doing personality tests and discovered that I was an introvert**. I had always thought of myself as an extrovert because I am pretty outgoing and not at all shy, but when I started to dig into what being an introvert means, I realized that I do get easily burnt out in social situations and need time alone (or almost alone) to recharge. And I am super aware of the emotional temperature of every room that I’m in – that’s a whole separate blog post though!
Anyway, as an introvert, I really like for all the roles in any given situation to be very, very clear***and I especially like to know what roles I am playing. Soooo, when I perform, either as a speaker, storyteller or actor, it is very clear. And, if I am the person in charge of the room (as the performer) then that’s even clearer and I have no problem stepping into that role.
I’ve been trying to use this knowledge of my comfort with being a performer to ease my nervousness in other situations, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but it is definitely one of my ‘go-to’ solutions for creating ease for myself whenever possible.
*The really funny thing for me is that if I think too much about my stories or my monologues or anything beforehand I start to freak out a little because I don’t remember the details. HOWEVER, my ‘character’ apparently does because I get up in front of the crowd and slip into that role and the stories and details come pouring out. It doesn’t happen immediately upon hearing a story or writing a monologue – I have to do a certain amount of practice and then something kind of clicks and I’ve got it. I’ve had to learn to trust that click and know that the stories will be there when I need them.
** An INFJ actually. I’m not all cute about being an introvert, I don’t request special care and feeding. I use the information from personality tests to figure out how to operate more effectively in my own life – I don’t expect other people to adapt to me. I will set up some pretty strong boundaries to protect my down time or to ensure that personality differences are respected, though. There is more than one ‘right’ way of being in this world and I won’t let anyone say any different.
*** I seriously think that this is one of the reasons I love so many urban fantasy books about werewolves – everyone automatically knows how to interact with each other and where everyone stands. I wouldn’t want to be a werewolf, of course, but I like the idea of having clear systems for that kind of thing.