I wrote a few proposals to present at three enrollment conferences this summer. Two of my proposals were accepted.
It was at that point that the fear set in.
Writing a proposal is easy. Especially when it’s a matter of answering a few questions on a form.
I have nothing to lose in writing the proposal. If it’s not a good idea then it wouldn’t have been accepted and then I can move on like nothing happened. Now that it’s all electronic there’s not even physical proof that I put myself out there.
Any time my ideas get any kind of validation I go through two stages:
Then the fear sets in…
What if I’m not good enough?
What if I can’t pull it together?
What if it’s not really that great of an idea and the validator was just being nice?
And it continues into a spiral of self-deprecation and doom.
That might be a little dramatic. But, it’s not far off either.
The only benefit of this summer’s presentation is that it’s far enough off that I’ve been able to push a lot of those feelings aside.
Because it is an unusual occurrence, I’ve never presented at a national conference, and these fears are biological reactions. All the self-deprecation is a physical response to the unexpected.
Fight or flight.
I learned about it in 2nd grade, and then again in 6th grade. It was always explained in context with zebras and lions. That fight or flight is triggered by life threatening situations.
It wasn’t until I started teaching and was getting training for new teachers that a new light was shed on fight or flight. It’s not just life threatening situations but perceived life threatening situations.
Because my brain is so powerful perception is processed the same way as reality. My body starts to react in order to save my life. This is the concept behind public speaking being a greater fear than death.
It also explains the girl in seventh grade class who stood up in front of the class with a box of cupcakes like she’s always done it, until she looked in the eyes of her audience. Then she burst into tears and couldn’t make it through (true story).
It also explains why, even after 20+ years of being in front of people I still sweat like crazy when I present. Especially in front of my peers.
Despite understanding the science behind it and having the experience that presenting has never killed me, by body still goes through the same reactions. I get scared.
The same thing happened with the money I spent to get to the conference. I worked with my boss to set up a budget. I had an idea of what I was going to spend. But all of that is like filling out a proposal. It doesn’t mean anything until I spend the money.
I spent a couple of weeks looking at flights and hotels and calculating food costs. When it finally came time to put the credit card number in and commit to going to the conference I froze. I waited a few more days.
The only thing that got me through was that I am going with a colleague and was booking for both of us. She asked me about it. I felt some social obligation to get it done. So I got it done.
Submitting the payment left me with a sinking feeling, like I had done the wrong thing. I literally looked over my shoulder concerned that someone was going to tell me that it was too much, the wrong flight, the wrong hotel, the wrong amounts for food.
Talk about irrational fear.
That was with someone else’s money. My own money is completely different story. For a completely different post.
How does your fight or flight get triggered?