A huge Women on Fire welcome to hundreds of new readers who’ve joined the Spark! after I met you at the Thirty-One Gifts national conferences.
In the past two weeks, I spoke to thousands of women at arenas in Denver and Columbus, Ohio about how to create and build a strong, loving, supportive community that serves you throughout your life, similar to what we have at Women on Fire.
My dream has always been to provide as many women as possible with inspiration, strategies and support so we can all have our dreams.
Photos at Thirty-One Gifts conferences in Denver and Columbus by Meredith Schoenberger
Speaking to large groups is one of the best ways to share what you’ve learned in order to benefit many others.
But for me to present in front of large groups, I had to overcome one major obstacle: a phobia to speak in public!
Some of you will find that hard to believe — and my mother, in particular, because I spoke my first word at five months and according to those who love me, I’ve never stopped talking!
Years ago as a press secretary, I spoke on behalf of public officials and could easily and fluidly speak in public. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a fear blanketed me, causing me to panic to talk with more than a handful of people at a time.
(I always wondered and thought it curious that my phobia started around the time I went from talking for others to standing on my own and speaking my own beliefs?)
I want to tell you how I overcame this debilitating phobia in case you face any similar kind of fear that prevents you from sharing your gifts with the world and living life full out.
But first I want to introduce you to the dynamic, inspiring woman who founded Thirty-One Gifts. Cindy Monroe is a role model for us all in following her own dreams — to design beautiful, useful bags, totes and purses and provide women the opportunity to sell them and own their own businesses.
She started her dream in her basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee only 10 years ago, as a 29-year-old mom of two little kids.
Today, Thirty-One Gifts, now headquartered in Columbus, is the 17th largest direct-selling company in the world!
Before I share how I overcame my fear to talk to thousands in an arena, I want to answer the number one question I was asked these past weeks.
How does it feel to walk on stage and go before thousands of women!?
Standing back stage in the darkness, preparing to slip through the curtain, I could feel the enorous energy from the massive crowd pulse up through my feet and into my body. The energy and music simply carried me on to the stage.
The minute I stepped into the bank of lights, I was riveted by the warmth and excitement from the audience. As Alicia Keys would say: I had my feet on the ground and my head in the clouds once I heard our theme song Girl On Fire being played. It was exhiliarating!
I could literally sense thousands of women’s good will and eagerness to listen and learn. A good thing to always remember: your audience wants you to succeed!
Grateful to have Women on Fire Andrea Dowding, Brit Eaton and Tandi Musuraca in the audience cheering me on!
And, no one was more surprised about my being comfortable on stage than me!
Only a few years ago, my mind would go blank if I had to speak to more than a few people. And, that led me to worry I would pass out …or worse, throw up. (It never happened, by the way, but it sure felt like it could.)
So, how did I overcome this fear and stand on stage before thousands?
Here are five key factors that helped me to go from fearful to fearless:
1) Having a purpose bigger and more powerful than your fear – I feel so passionate about Women on Fire and the community that we have created that my strong desire to help other women led me to burst through my fear.
Given the choice of caving in to my fear and forgoing my dream to share Women on Fire with thousands or facing my fear and working through it, I knew my choice!
The thought of women not having the encouragement and sisterhood they deserve – because I was too scared to stand in front of them — was way worse for me than my fear.
Women on Fire book 2 co-author Carrie Saba spoke of this, too, in her chapter on overcoming her fear of heights. It was more important to be a role model and enjoy family activities with her daughters than to give in to her phobia of heights.
(Wait until you hear what Carrie did to overcome her fear! You can read all about it in her chapter “Scaling New Heights.”)
2) Practice, practice, practice – A few years ago, in the throes of my worst fears, my talented husband Rob Berkley hatched a plan for me. He took dozens of little yellow Post-Its, drew smiling faces on each one, and stuck them all over our 10-foot sliding glass doors.
They became my “audience!” I gave my talks over and over to the happy, sticky Post-It people. I did this until what I had to say became a natural extension of who I was!
Whatever might scare you is often vanquished when you practice in a safe environment the behavior you wish to have instead.
3) Seeking professional help – To calm my nerves for one particular speech, I engaged a professional therapist who works with energy.
It was a remarkable and brief experience over the phone. The result was that I could imagine the entire stage filled with generations of my ancestors with their hands on my shoulders in support. After that, almost magically, I was never again afraid to speak to a crowd — even thousands.
If you are interested in this work, I am happy to share Dr. Dale Schusterman’s information and his work with Family Constellation therapy.
There are several forms of Emotional Freedom Techniques, often referred to as EFT, to explore to help remove blocks and fears. I highly recommend! There is no need to suffer.
4) Inch by inch – After learning to speak comfortably in front of a dozen people, I branched to 20. Then I spoke to 40, 80, 100, 250 and 350. While speaking to thousands is only slightly different, because of the complexities and technical aspects of the stage, speaking in an arena for me now felt like a natural progression — with just a few more people;-)
We talk here often about taking one, small step at a time — over and over — to get to your dream. And that’s what happened for me. Over a decade, I approached public speaking from super scaredy-pants to absolutely loving it!
Celebrating back stage afterward in Columbus with my Women on Fire sisters whose love and support were invaluable: Brit Eaton, my best friend Jan Allen, me!, Kacy Cook, Tandi Musuraca and Andrea Dowding
5) Surrounding yourself with whatever support you need – The love, support and belief in me from my Women on Fire sister made the ultimate difference in being able to speak with ease, comfort and joy!
I simply put out a call for support on our private Women on Fire members’ page and instantaneously I was held up, encouraged and cheered on. I could not have done it without my sisters. I would not have wanted to do it without my sisters! Thank you all so much for being there for me.
With you at my back, I knew I could fly!
Now that I’ve no longer allowed fear to control my life to publicly speak, I can’t even begin to tell you how many wonderful things have come to me. Perhaps you are here and part of this amazing circle now because of you met me at a speaking engagement!
My hope for you is simple. If you have any fear in your life right now that holds you back from having your dream, just know there isn’t anything together we can’t solve. Step-by-step. Strategy-by-strategy.
If you have an inspiring story like Carrie Saba’s about overcoming a fear, please share on below in the comments so we can all learn from you and celebrate your success.
Thank you for being part of this amazing, fearless community!