Aprill Brandon: The only thing to fear is fear itself (and public speaking)
Oct. 5, 2010 at 5:05 a.m.
It's rare, but from time to time, I'll actually do some research for this column. I know! Crazy, right? It's almost like I'm a real journalist.
That said, it is with great pride that I tell you the No. 1 phobia in the world is glossophobia (thank you, Google). For the layman (re: those of you without immediate access to Google...Hi Grandma!) glossophobia means the fear of public speaking.
Now just think about that for a second, especially considering the second biggest phobia is fear of death. That means that most people would rather die than have to speak in public.
And I am one of them.
But I'd even take it a step farther. Not only would I rather die, I'd rather be tortured. I'd rather have to sell my own mother to evil gypsies. I'd rather have to watch "Sister Act 2" on repeat every day for an entire year.
So needless to say, I've never been much for public speaking or pretty much public anything. If I had to write my column while an audience looked on, I'm pretty sure I'd have a nervous breakdown and end up under my desk rocking back and forth as I clutch my AP Stylebook.
But you know what I don't have a fear of? Saying yes. And this is how I keep ending up having to speak in public. Thanks to my vain hope that exposing myself to my fear will help me conquer it, I've agreed to host award ceremonies, speak to Rotary Clubs and even be the featured speaker in honor of Banned Books Week. I've even danced in the Nutcracker twice (which yes, I realize doesn't involve speaking but apparently I also have choreophobia, or the fear of dancing and falling flat on your face, possibly killing a small child dressed like a mouse).
And every time, it goes the same way. I end up shaking like a leaf, sweating like a pig and sounding like Peter Brady when he went through puberty.
For those of you who don't suffer from this debilitating phobia, let me give you a glimpse of how horrible it is. Below I've posted excerpts of a speech I might give alongside the inner monologue going on in my mind at the same time.
"Hello, I'm Aprill Brandon and I'm here to talk to you today about..."
Oh my god, they're all just staring at me.
"...which as I'm sure you all know is illegal in 43 states. Luckily I've yet to get caught although I am now banned for life from Rhode Island..."
Whoever thought of that stupid underwear trick should be dragged out into the street and shot. And then run over. And then eaten by a pack of rabid bunnies.
"...Now of course that's not to say I think we should all do experiments on Chihuahuas..."
Oh no, I might vomit.
"...And in my defense, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has ever gotten a Chihuahua and a rat mixed up. I mean, come on. Am I right? Anyone? Hello?..."
Oh yeah, pretty sure I'm going to vomit.
"...In hindsight, I think we can all agree that creating a game involving a flame thrower and a bowling ball was a bad idea..."
Yup. Right on that guy in front.
"...hair grew back in most places and the scarring on my bottom is slowly healing..."
Will you stop shaking? They're going to start thinking you're having a seizure.
"...And sweet little Mitzy walked away with nothing other than a few singe marks..."
Don't trip while walking away from the podium. Don't trip while walking away from the podium. Don't trip while...
Like I said, it's the same thing every time (although how hard I trip while walking away from the podium varies). And yet, I'm probably going to continue to speak in public if asked.
Why, you ask? Well, call me naive, but I think facing your fears is a way that we grow as humans.
And I'm going to grow no matter how many guys in the front row I have to vomit on (my advance apologies if that's ever you).
Aprill Brandon is a reporter for the Advocate. She also has arachnophobia and often has nightmares of having to speak in front of roomful of spiders.