Step 1. Recognize that the fear exists.
Step 2. Have an amazing team that supports you and makes you pancakes at 5:30 in the morning.
Step 3. Meet INCREDIBLE people and communities that give more support toward conquering that fear.
Step 4. Crush that fear like there’s no tomorrow.
Step 5. Buy some hair dye!
Last Saturday, July 26, was Dracut’s turn for the handing off of the petitions signed in opposition to the proposed Kinder Morgan Tennessee Gas Pipeline. This march consisted of communities all across Massachusetts gathering for one cause, to STOP the proposed pipeline.
Team East and Team West have been working very closely with each of these communities, but when the march happened in Dracut, both teams were way too far to bike to it, so Team For the MASSes, specifically Alissa and I, were asked to show up and speak in their place. That is where my story comes in and how I was able to overcome a challenge I faced this summer.
My fear of public speaking has always been a dark cloud bearing over my conscience. Every time I have to give a presentation or speak at an event, whether there are three or 30 people there, butterflies are having a field day in my stomach. This time, though, my fear of public speaking overcame me.
Alissa and I were practicing our speeches in the sanctuary of the Common Street Church in Natick, MA, in front of our team, and I felt so helpless and scared of presenting the next day that I couldn’t give a presentation without looking at a sheet of notes or pausing because my mind became blank due to fear. This fear of presenting, of messing up, of looking like a fool overtook my entire soul, and I could not keep myself together. So that was step one — Recognizing that I had this fear and actually saying it out loud to myself and my teammates.
Right away step two happened! My team talked me through my fear, ways to relax, and to potentially overcome this blip I was having. My teammates gave me the support I so desperately needed and really helped me gain some confidence. The best part was the hugs we all gave each other, showing that we’re here for one another and that no matter what the situation, there is plenty of support. Oh, another great thing my team did for Alissa and me was get up at 5:30 a.m. with us in order to make us delicious pancakes! We had to leave Natick around 6:30 a.m. to make sure we made it the 30-plus miles to Dracut, MA, by 10:30 a.m.
On to step three. While Alissa and I were participating in the Rolling March, we met so many incredible people! Everyone who came out for this event had common goals, values, and love for one another. They didn’t care that we weren’t Team East, the team that’s been working with this
town hands on; they cared that we were here and supporting the opposition to the proposed pipeline. We had amazing conversations with so many of the walkers and were truly inspired by their efforts and the incredible work that they are all doing.
Step four: crush that fear! I was able to do just that! I’ll admit it — it was a rough start. I could feel myself shaking and my mind starting to go blank, but then I looked out onto my audience and saw friends and familiar faces, Alissa right by my side, and my team with me, albeit only in spirit. What was more powerful than getting in front of the microphone in front of the dozens of folks was the encouragement I received after the speech. In particular, Jim Cutler gave me advice that I will never forget. I should preface that during my speech I mentioned how public speaking is a struggle for me and that I couldn’t have done it without the support of everyone at the Rolling March event that day. (You can watch the speech here!)
Finally, step five! After coming back from the march, I felt amazing! I know I haven’t completely conquered my public speaking fear, but this is just one giant leap in the right direction. There is no way I can forget July 26 and the Rolling March in Dracut. So, why does step five involve hair dye? Well, even days after the event, I still had my accomplishment high going through my head and going into a CVS store, I decided to overcome another fear of mine … changing the color of my hair! A totally different fear but a fear nonetheless. I couldn’t bring myself to go with a drastic color; my hair is dirty blonde so I chose a reddish blonde color. It wasn’t so much the color that I feared but the act of dying my hair and changing my looks. However, I dyed my hair that night and overcame yet another fear.
This week seemed to have an overlapping theme of conquering fears. Fears that I finally faced and had to deal with but also fears that have been lingering and will probably always linger; however, the butterflies in my stomach will no longer feast on my nerves.