What is your biggest fear? Mine is speaking in public or in front of a large group of people.
How do you confront your biggest fear? Well, I confronted my deep fear of public speaking rather unexpectedly just two weekends ago when I was pulled up on stage while attending a conference in Las Vegas. After I walked under the spotlight and grasped the microphone, I looked at the eyes of over 400 attendees staring back at me. But, I quickly realized that these were the eyes of supportive, loving people. And I realized it wasn’t really that scary. (Watch the full video below).
The Power of You (POY) is a 2-month online course with Mel Robbins and her amazing team. She invited the POY class participants to a reunion in Las Vegas so we could get to know each other in-person, share our experiences, and hopefully get answers. At the registration desk, we dropped our names in a hat, which were entered into a drawing for a live, onstage coaching session with Mel. Of the 400 attendees, I was one of 4 names drawn from the hat.
Mel has an Audible series called, Kick Ass with Mel, where she coaches 8 people through habits or issues in their lives that are keeping them stuck. Mel helps each person go beneath the surface level - to the root cause. And this is what she did with me two onstage weekends ago!
From my experience with Mel (see video above), I found that I am fearful of saying words, any words. I fear I will not find the words or that I will not be able to accurately articulate what I mean. I am scared that I will look or sound stupid. I am fearful of being laughed at, or being judged by others. I dread eyes looking at me because I think they might find me lacking, without value. Or, perhaps they will find me ugly. In other words, I am terrified of people thinking that I am a piece of shit (root).
"I am terrified of people thinking that I am a piece of shit." - Wendy Wagoner
A quiet childhood
Throughout my upbringing, my mother was not fully attuned (my brother and I were 13 months apart and he had some physical issues that needed special attention) and my father was an alcoholic. While a small child, my dad did not like noise in the house. To receive the love I wanted from him, I had to stay quiet. So, I quietly played in the corner. If I cried, he would often say, “do you want me to give you something to cry about?” Sometimes he did.
Misbehaving has consequences
My father would return from work on Fridays (he worked out of town during the week), hoping to come home to peace and quiet. Instead, he was responsible for disciplining us if we had misbehaved in his absence. My father did not want to spank us with the belt. But he did because my mother expected that from him and he was frustrated with the situation. I remember feeling bad for him, and yet at the same time I was upset for being hit. I would cry (because of course it was very painful) and this would only make him more angry.
Grandma embarrasses us all in church
Once, when I was 5 years old and my crippled grandmother was staying with us, the neighbor forgot to pick us up for church. My grandmother found us another ride and we slipped in the side door since mass had already started. While the priest was talking, my grandmother decided to yell across the church at the people that forgot to pick us up. Every eye turned towards us and the judgements flooded in. I wanted to shrivel up into nonexistence. Since that moment, I haven’t walked into a church without worrying about what people thought of me.
Teasing has consequences
During my adolescent puberty stages, my brother would come into my bedroom without knocking, and say to me, “boy you’re ugly” or “boy you’re stupid.” And sometimes “you’re so flat chested.” When you are told something often, you start to believe it. Plus, my brother was popular and cool, so I figured he would know. I decided I better stay hidden so people would not tease me like he did.
I was going into the 4th grade when we moved to a new city. At the new school, the pretty girls pretty much ran the playground; they decided who could play with them on a given day and who couldn’t. As the new girl, I was bullied and told that I was not allowed to play with the poplar girls. This validated my belief that I should stay small in the hopes that I would not be picked on. I never raised my hand in class to read or answer a question. In fact, if we were reading out loud, I would count down the lines so I could practice reading the paragraph before I was called on. I would literally take an “E” in a class before I would get up and speak. I would even get to the end of the bus line over and over again so I could take the last shuttle to junior high school and avoid walking the halls before class.
It was a fascinating experience to be both a traveler and a tourist in Colombia. Before this trip, I had forgotten there was a difference between the two! Now, I remember why being a traveler is worth the effort.
A traveler has a flow, no real fast agenda. A traveler chooses to stay in places where they have the opportunity to connect with fellow travelers and actively engage in the local culture and these places are not always the safest or easiest to get to. On the other had, a tourist stays in safe, secure areas that are often easy to get to. Moreover, tourists have no real need to connect with others. In other words, they more or less stay separate from the local culture, they are watchers. Tourists make a daily game plan and go by it.
While we were mostly travelers on our recent trip to Colombia, we also embraced our inner tourist. Near the end of our trip, we chose to stay in the safer areas of town and did not make deep connections with the local people as we did during first part of our trip. Being a tourist felt more familiar. We could allow ourselves to turn off the constant awareness you maintain as an alert traveler. Moreover, we could communicate in our native language. Yet, as a tourist, we found it difficult to be “in the flow” and noticed that we were crankier. We also felt out of touch with other travelers. What does that mean exactly – not to have to rely on all our senses at the same time as a tourist? Why does it feel more familiar?
As a traveler, you have to use your left brain to communicate and maneuver, but it is your right brain that works to maintain your “flow’ of staying in the moment. Actively engaging both halves of the brain and being in your body is a good balance for your whole system. The trick is to find your “flow” and trust that the Universe will have your back – even when you crave those familiar comforts. The familiar comforts trigger our old habits of how we usually exist. In that familiar place, we live in our “stories” of who we “think” we are, which does not allow us to simply “be” in the present moment.
In one short moment so much can take place. I meet the eyes of this man in this photo. In that moment what happened? A connection was made of curious inquiry on both sides. My initial inquiry to myself of what had this man seen during his life in this huge city of 9 million people? Bogota was once one of the most dangerous cities in the world and that was less than 20 years ago! I felt drawn to take a picture of him, in that moment, standing in this plaza square filled with pigeons and people. Surrounded by the architecture of very old governmental buildings and churches. Then in a split second my inquiry of what was his story changed on a deeper level. It was a connection of feeling that we were the same even though our actual lives were so very different. In that split second moment of eye contact I felt a perfect “being” moment of true connection.