Parachuting in to the unknown
Any King’s Speaker will be able to testify that one of the most difficult doors they have ever walked through is the door to their first King’s Speaker’s meeting. This really is no great mystery, and if you think you are alone in this, you couldn’t be more wrong. It makes perfect sense of course - walking into the scarily unknown is, by its very nature, something we are all inclined to shy away from.
However, let’s not forget how incredibly normal and logical this is. As stammerers or people with social anxiety, we are pre-conditioned to have an inbuilt aversion to “scary” speaking or social situations – I know, because my aversion is probably bigger than yours.
It is far too easy to let this fear hold us back, and to prevent us from doing things. If, as I have all too often done, let fear rule us or hold us back from doing things, we let ourselves be controlled by it. However, by confronting this fear we very quickly and very effectively turn the tables on it, we starve the fear of the oxygen it needs to make life difficult for us and we take away its power – and, magically, all of a sudden we are back in control.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway” is probably one of the most over-used clichés you will ever hear, but like most clichés, it is invariably true. What is the worst that can happen? We stammer, feel awkward, feel embarrassed – well that is fine, we have all felt those things before, so nothing new there. However, if we feel these things on our own terms, in a room full of friendly kindred spirits who know all too well what we are feeling, at a time of our choosing and on our own terms, we immediately give ourselves the upper hand. In this situation the fear has to work even harder to compromise us, we make the fear afraid of us, not the other way around.
Feeling the fear and doing it anyway isn’t about jumping headfirst into the scarily unknown and not knowing whether we will live or die. It is about saying to ourselves “it makes sense that I will find this hard, but I can do this, people far less brave than me have done it and survived, therefore so will I”.
My first speech at King’s Speakers was something I put off time and time again. My excuses were becoming ever more imaginative, but at the same time my fear grew ever bigger. So I finally took that leap into the unknown.
Afterwards, when I realised nothing terrible had happened and that I had somehow survived, the parallels between this speech and a parachute jump struck me. Both are scary and intimidating leaps from a great height into the unknown. More importantly, anybody who has ever done a parachute jump will tell you that the first 2 seconds are terrifying, then the reminder of the jump is a glorious, life enriching gentle but exhilarating glide that makes you want to do it again the second you land – just like your first King’s Speech will feel (don’t take my word for it, ask any King’s Speaker and they will agree).
Fear is nothing new, it’s an emotion our cavemen ancestor’s evolved to keep them safe from Sabre Toothed Tigers and hungry dinosaurs. It is also an emotion we can use to our advantage. The adrenalin that pumps around us when we feel fear is a powerful secret weapon – it is fuel, a turbo boost, a perfectly legal and socially acceptable performance enhancing drug – so why not use it to your advantage? Those four letters – F,E,A and R stand for False Expectations Appearing Real. Fear allows our minds to tell us scary and highly imaginative (but very wrong) stories about what is going to happen. Ignore this fake news.
So, the next time you feel fear – whether it be the first time you walk through the door of a King’s Speaker’s meeting, you give a speech, take on a role or indeed anything at all in Kings Speaker’s (or indeed in life in general), remember to “feel the fear and do it anyway” – it won’t be anywhere near as bad as your furtive imagination lead you to believe. Best of all, it allows you to take the control back. Better still, the next time will be even easier because you have already proven to yourself that you can do it, and that nothing bad happened.
So, go on, give it a go – you will genuinely surprise yourself – trust me, if I can do it, anybody can.
Andrew Hill, Kings Speakers member