How You Use That Feeling

I tell a wise, older woman (someone who’s always on stage) all about how nervous I become before public speaking, especially before large audiences. It’s the worst! It’s a tightening, a storm inside, a clenching up, a racing heart, an irrational fear of impending doom. It’s a dark, terrible rush of. . . something.

“It’s called adrenaline,” she says calmly. “And it’s good.”

As a performer and someone so used to the stage, she tells me what to do. It’s so simple! She explains that I can reinterpret that bodily experience as so good, so important, so vital. She explains that the very feeling I hate so much is the hormone responsible for success in public speaking. Adrenaline provides clarity, poise, organization, and the ability to improvise. Adrenaline makes someone so sharp in the moment, so ready to win. Adrenaline keeps a person on high-alert and boosts confidence. It makes a person hyper-aware and attuned to what’s happening around her.

It’s good. Be thankful for that feeling. Use it. 

It’s so strange to suddenly love the feeling and no longer fear it. It’s so wonderful to reinterpret a negative, terrible surge inside as something strengthening performance. This short conversation about how to embrace that rush of adrenaline makes me less fearful of the next speaking event. Athletes know this, and now I do, too.

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