Posts Tagged With: public speaking

Day 157: Decisions, Decisions

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a post with this title yet.

Decisions, Decisions.


Decisions do not come easily to me.  I have an excuse, too.  According to my Myers-Briggs inventory results, I have a high amount of Perceiving (vs. Judging), and, quoting that Wikipedia article I just linked to:

According to Myers, perceptive types prefer to “keep decisions open”.

I’ll say. That strong preference of mine tends to make things a bit dodgy — for me and other people involved, I assume — when there’s a need for me to make a decision.

For example, here are some decisions I should be making, ASAP:

  1. Details about a big (in my mind) workshop I’m presenting, to esteemed peers, about the new therapy groups I’m doing at work … IN 10 DAYS!!!!!
  2. Details about a trip I want to take this August, with my son, to London and Edinburgh.
  3. Whether or not to cancel my credit card, which I managed to lose track of THE VERY SAME DAY I published this post about losing things (a decision which will have some effect on my ability to act quickly, once I decide about #2, above).

I hesitate to tell you the machinations and agonies my mind can go through, when I’m trying to make a decision like those above, because I don’t want to bore, horrify, or distress you (or myself), this morning.

Hey, that was a decision I  made! (Although I have to tell you, because I’m so friggin’ transparent about everything, that I just wrote a paragraph where I DID give an example of how ridiculous a decision process can be for me.) (But I erased it.) (And, hey! That was a decision I made!)

You and I might be getting this idea, right now.  Even though I have trouble making decisions, I still have to make them, all the time. And I do.

But with any decision, I can really get caught up in my own mind in an unpleasant and unproductive way.  Usually what trips me up are these thoughts:

There is a right or wrong decision.  If I choose unwisely, there will be major consequences.

Fueled by those kinds of anxiety-provoking thoughts, I go  back and forth, with pros and cons.

I’m “blessed” in the ability to see many different sides to any question or situation. But that blessing can REALLY elongate and confuse the whole Weighing Pros And Cons Thing.

What helps? To remember the following:

  •  There is usually no right or wrong decision. (In other words, it helps to let go of the cognitive distortion of All-or-Nothing Thinking.)
  • Even if a decision isn’t an advantageous one, I can usually adjust and learn from it.
  • My decisions probably won’t affect other people as adversely as I fear.

No matter what, though, I still DON’T LIKE making important decision. I woke up this morning — aware of those three Needs for Decision-Making I listed above —  feeling quite cranky.

I’ll tell you something else. When I’m in a certain state of mind, every decision can feel important. Then, I’m REALLY cranky.

Take this blog post I just wrote, for example. I’m wondering about decisions I’ve made so far, and whether I should I undo them:

Should I have used all those capitalizations in this post?  Did I give enough examples?  Is the writing colorful enough? Is the tone too breezy? Should I have included an anecdote about how I got so tripped up by a ridiculously trivial decision regarding my workshop presentation?  Should I have included the story about my wedding to my ex and how it took us 8 years to decide to get married (because he’s a Myers-Briggs Perceiver, too) but once we decided, I scheduled and planned the whole friggin’ thing, making decisions left and right, in two months?

Ahhhhhh, who cares. The post is what it is.

Whatever THAT is.

You decide.

And thanks for reading!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 105: Everything makes sense on some level(s)

This seems like an important topic to me.

It really helps me to remember that everything makes sense on some level. (This seems to help other people, too.)

It’s something that I tend to forget, though.

It’s something that I keep re-learning, in new ways, as I grow.  (See this post, which people really seem to like, about re-learning things as we move through life.)

I want to start writing about this topic, in a new way, today.  I want to start telling the story differently.  (See this post, which people seem to like even more than the other one I just mentioned, about the importance of how we tell stories.)

I want to give myself room to write about this briefly — to start the conversation with you.  Because that’s another important lesson I’ve learned — it’s really valuable just to connect authentically, even for a few moments,  and start a conversation with somebody.

Really Brief Digression about the Presentation I Started Giving Last Week

At the end of the presentation I gave — called “The Power of Groups” (which is really about connecting effectively with patients, no matter where —  a medical resident put this beautifully. He said,  “What I learned today was that it’s a great start just to (1) validate a patient and (2) give them some next steps.”  (It made me so happy, that he (re-)learned that.)

End of Brief Digression

So, this is how I want to begin the conversation about this topic today.  I want to start listing things that freak me out — things that make me “too anxious,” and which can make me almost unbearably anxious when I’m under stress.

Today, I just want to name these things (thus reducing their power) and give a little bit of data about them, to start proving that they make sense on some level(s).

I am also going to divide the data into different types:  Reasons That I Share With Others (which help me feel connected to other people) and Reasons That Can Make Me Feel Different (and therefore alone).  This is something I notice all the time, in my work as a group therapist — people connect — and heal — when they realize they are not alone with feelings and experiences. At the same time, they can disconnect about things they feel alone about (and shame about).

Another thing I’ve been learning lately:  the things that make me feel alone and different might not be as isolating as I think.  So I’m going to address that in this list, too.

One More Digression (to stall and also — I hope — to be helpful)

Before I launch into this  list , which feels new, and therefore scary (see here for a fun post about that) (and yes, I am stalling — or “procrastinating” — by throwing in lots of links, because I’m anxious about writing this),  I just wanted to let you know that Naming Things and Gathering Data are #1 and #2 on  This List of Coping Strategies  — even if I don’t call them that on the list.

End of Last Digression

Okay!  Deep breath …..

Things That Freak Me Out “Too Much

# 1 : Giving a presentation freaks me out.

Why this makes sense to most people:

The top two fears of people are public speaking and death.  (See this post for more about that, plus a quote from Jerry Seinfeld.)

Why this makes sense to (only) me:

Because, when I was in college, right before I graduated, the administration decided to give English Majors an Oral Exam (as a way to reduce grade inflation).  The board of professors who gave me that exam were very tough (I experienced them as shaming and humiliating).  I started out gamely, but things they said, (like “You are about to graduate from THIS SCHOOL and you don’t know THAT??”) made me so anxious, that I kept doing worse and worse.  I felt like I was freezing and my brain slowed down, and I remembered less and less. I left the room and burst into tears.  I knew I had screwed up.  When I told a friend how I had done, he said to me, “Oh, Ann. You always think you’ve screwed up.  I know one of the professors who was there. I’ll ask him.” And I remember my friend’s face when he said to me, “I spoke to him. You were right. You failed the exam.”  And I still graduated, with honors, but at  a (much) lower level.

Why that story of mine isn’t so different from lots of other stories:

Many people have had experiences of feeling humiliated while they were speaking in front of others.

#2:  When things don’t work the way I expect them to (especially technology), I freak out.

Why this makes sense to most people:

Lots of reasons: It’s frustrating when things don’t work the way they’re supposed to!  Most of us are trying to do too much with too little, and if things don’t work correctly, we feel like we don’t have time to spare to correct for that.   Some of us, who are older, feel like we can’t keep up with all the changes in technology (computers, cell phones, etc.). Even low-tech devices (like food processors, which freak me out) require a learning curve to use smoothly.

Why this makes sense to (only) me:

I am dependent upon a technological device — a cardiac pacemaker — to help me survive.  When man-made devices fail, that reminds me (on a subconscious level, usually) that my pacemaker can fail, too. (And I had several pacemakers that didn’t work so well , when both I and pacemaker technology were very young.)

Why this story of mine isn’t so different from lots of other stories:

Hmmm. I’m not sure about this one.  Maybe … lots of people feel REALLY dependent upon technology these days.

#3.  People not telling me the truth freaks me out.

Why this makes sense to most people:

Nobody likes being lied to. It can feel like a betrayal.

Why this makes sense to (only) me:

When  I was a kid in the hospital, and had gotten my first pacemaker, nobody prepared me for what it was going to look like in my body. (It was big and it stuck out under my skin, A LOT.) When I first saw it and asked what it was, a nurse — who was the only person there while I asked — lied to me about it.  She said it was just my hip, swollen from the surgery.  (By the way, this was the story that I didn’t feel ready to tell while I was writing this post.)

Why that story of mine isn’t so different from lots of other stories:

Lots of people have been lied to — when they were small, vulnerable, and powerless –  by those who were supposed to be taking care of them (and protecting them).

Oh.  I guess this is going to be a short list this morning.

It’s a beginning list, isn’t it?

And, you know what? I just told a story — that’s really important to me —  in a new way.  In a short way. In a contained way.  In a way to honor my difference and uniqueness, but also to connect with others.

And I feel better. I feel like I changed something here.

So that concludes our post for today, ladies and gentlemen.

I hope this post made sense (to you).  It made lots of sense to me.

Thank you, so much, for reading today.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Day 92: What’s so scary?

This is what I want to write about, right now, because I felt scared today, and I’m still feeling it.

I thought it might be helpful to ask myself the question: “What’s so scary?” and see what happens.

Okay, let the questioning begin.

What’s so scary?

I’m glad you asked.   Here’s what so scary: I have to make several presentations, about the therapy groups that I’m doing, to several different audiences, starting next week.  I admit that I lost track of the time and — with kind of a shock —  realized today that it was just a week away.  A week!

What’s so scary about that?

I’m not really prepared.  I mean, I THOUGHT I was prepared. But now that it’s real, and I’m imagining doing the presentation, in front of people I don’t know, who I’m imagining as bored, judgmental, or even contemptuous —  I’m realizing that what I THOUGHT would be good enough, probably isn’t.

So, obviously, I should have been working on this presentation more before. Also, this is the beginning of an inexorable chain of presentations  — SEVEN in the next six weeks. PLUS, this is leading up to another, much bigger presentation I have to do in June to an audience that REALLY scares me.

What’s so scary about that?

Haven’t you been listening?  There is the chance for FAILURE here!  Plus, I could disappoint some people who are expecting me to be good.  So I’m feeling guilty about not doing more, before today. Plus, I’m feeling like a CONCEITED JERK for thinking that I had things all together, and didn’t need to prepare much for this.  What was I thinking, when I said I would do this? I should have known this would scare the sh*t out of me!  How am I ever going to be calm for the next two months??  This is the most stressful thing EVER.  And work can be stressful enough, already.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?  I should have known better.  That’s what I get, for thinking that I was in a confident and experienced enough place to be able to do this without FREAKING OUT.  I mean, look at me now!

So what’s so scary?



I guess my thoughts are scaring me, not the actual presentation.

There are an awful lot of cognitive distortions in those thoughts, which I can see, now that I’ve written them down. I  see shoulds, mind reading, catastrophizing, labeling, emotional reasoning, and there’s probably more.


Here’s what I’m thinking now.

I guess I don’t know how the presentation is going to turn out.

I guess I’m afraid of my own fear, in a way.

I guess imagining the audience being bored, judgmental, and/or contemptuous isn’t helping me right now.


I’m actually a lot less scared.  Amazing.

But what if those thoughts come back between now and next week?  Or between now and June?

I’ll just ask myself,  What’s so scary?

Until it isn’t.

And if that doesn’t work, I’ll figure something else out.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Day 52: Preparation and Spontaneity

While I’ve thought of several different topics (and titles) for today’s blog post, here’s my ultimately goal for this post:

I am giving a 30-minute presentation, later today, at the hospital where I work, to somewhere between 8 and 15 doctors and residents. The presentation is about the work I’m doing at the hospital, which includes group therapy. So what I want to get out of today’s blog post is the following: (1) reducing my anxiety about doing this talk  and (2) helping myself prepare what I’m going to say.

Here’s the deal about #1 above: I’m actually not anxious AT ALL right now ,which surprises the heck out of me, for many reasons.

Here’s the deal about #2 above: I’ve been thinking a lot about preparation lately, and how challenging it can be to balance preparation and spontaneity, which seems so important when you are preparing for  …… um …… anything (including a presentation, a party, a meeting, a therapy group,  writing something, or anything else one might feel the need to prepare for).

I want to write a little bit, right now, about public speaking, because — let’s be blunt — that’s what I’ll be doing today.  And Fear of Public Speaking is one of the most common phobias — it’s often what people fear more than anything.   Jerry Seinfeld has a funny  line about that. I just googled that line and here it is:

“According to most studies,  people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number 2 is death. Does that sound right?  This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Man, I love Jerry Seinfeld. I’ve loved him since I first saw him — decades ago, when he first started performing  stand-up on late-night talk shows.  I could spend this entire blog post analyzing that above line and why it’s so effective — especially in terms of beautiful communication with the audience.  But I won’t. (Maybe that could be the topic of a future blog post?  That would be fun!  And I do have all year, don’t I?)

So why is public speaking sooooooo scary?

Well, here is my “expertise” about this (based on my own experience):

When I’m anxious about public speaking, I’m afraid I’m going to screw up.

That’s about it, folks.

Well, let’s take a little bit of a closer look of what “screwing up” means to me.  And I can really freak myself out about this — with lots of frightening details, dire results,  and scary images, too.

If I were to get anxious about the presentation today (and I’m assuming that’s going to happen AT SOME POINT today), here are some of the thoughts I might have:

I haven’t prepared enough about this.  What’s the matter with me?

I won’t have enough to say.

I’ll freeze.

They’ll all be staring at me, thinking things like …. She’s an idiot! She has no idea what she’s doing! Who hired her?  I would NEVER refer any patient to her, for group or individual work!  

The residents — my audience — will  be bored.

I will pick up negative signals from them (that they’re bored, impatient, confused, judgmental) and even if I was doing okay before that, I’ll immediately stop doing okay.

I’ve prepared too much for this.  

I have too much to say, and I’ll run out of time.

Because I didn’t prepare enough (or prepared too much), what I have to say is confusing.  

I’m sure I could keep going, with this Festival of Anxiety, but I think you get the picture.  (And I assume that some of you can relate to these kinds of thoughts.)

Okay, time out!  As your Blogging Host, in This Year of Living Non-Judgmentally, I would just to point out  there are several cognitive distortions in my Scared Thoughts, above.  These include — at least! — Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, Labeling, and Catastrophizing. If you want to check out the 13 Cognitive Distortions (and maybe figure out how many distortions made an appearance above) see here.

So I guess I’ve already helped myself, this morning, by identifying cognitive distortions that are often involved in Fears about Public Speaking.  I’m hoping that naming those — here, with you —  will help “inoculate” me for later today, when those fears, inevitably, want to creep in. (That is,  as the 1:15 Time of My Talk approaches).

Eeeek!  (I definitely got a little Anxiety Bump, right then, when I wrote the starting time.)

Okay, reality check here, as I’m writing this post.

I had some things I really, really wanted to write in this post, because I thought that would help me prepare for the talk.

And, as usual, I’ve gone different places in this post (places I value, though). But how important is it —  that I write what I first intended to?

And how important is it that I prepare for the talk, by writing this post?  Wouldn’t it be okay (and make it more fun!) if I didn’t worry about preparation, had faith in my ability and knowledge about the topic,  and trust that I could say useful and engaging things in the moment?

I guess I was just defining spontaneity right there.

So, how should I balance preparation and spontaneity?

And I AM back to my topic.

Well, here is something that I KNOW helps me, when I’m preparing for anything.  It helps me o have some structure in place, that allows me enough room for play.

Structure = preparation.

Play = spontaneity.

And I’m realizing something: The reason I wasn’t anxious as I started writing this post was that I had reached some balance — in my mind –about structure and play for this talk.  I had identified some specifics about creating structure — and how I could play within that. And that had helped, enormously. Hence, no anxiety.

So I’m going to try to put into words, right now, what is giving this talk structure for me.


Well, I know how long the talk is (30 minutes).  And I know how many people are going to be there. And I know where I’m giving the talk. So all that helps.

Okay, what I’m going to write here — I’m realizing right now —  is probably THE KEY to why I’m not nervous . The doctor who asked me to give this talk — to the medical residents she helps train — gave me the following information, when I asked her some questions ahead of time about giving this talk.

These residents  have heard all sorts of different kinds of talks — formal, informal, whatever.

They have no particular expectations.

Because they can get nervous about what do when they are seeing patients who are reporting depression, stress, anxiety, or other kinds of emotional pain, THEY WILL LOVE TO HEAR WHATEVER YOU HAVE TO TELL THEM.

Now, the doctor who spoke to me didn’t yell those last words (and I am totally paraphrasing what she communicated to me, in my own language).  But I’m pretty sure those were the messages she gave me about How To Prepare.

So that creates a really stress-free structure, doesn’t it?  And it pretty much rules out mind reading and fortune telling, doesn’t it?  Because NO MATTER WHAT I SAY, THEY ARE GOING TO LIKE IT.

And that’s probably not entirely true, but it sure sounds good as a pre-presentation pep talk for myself — and  a great way to challenge any mind reading and fortune telling that comes up for me.

Again, hence, that lowers my anxiety.

Now I did want to say more, in this post,  about ways I am creating structure for this presentation, because I think that will be helpful, too.  It also fits in with how I tend to create structure (and safety) for the groups I do.

Ways I Will Be Creating Structure, in my Presentation Today

I will start out my presentation by somehow asking the residents — my audience — what they would like to get out of the talk.   I may — if I have THE GUTS! — use my new magic wand, and ask somebody to make a wish about what they’d like to hear from me during the 30 minutes.

Then, the wishes from the residents — about what  they want to hear  — will dictate what I talk about.  I will be prepared for likely things they might ask for, by having hand-outs on information. This will include information  about how they can refer patients for individual and group therapy and what kinds of therapy are available for their patients.

And, if they ask for things I haven’t prepared for, I will probably make a joke about that, and hand out what I have, anyway.

I will have — on hand — elements of the groups I do, so I can demonstrate these  (if time allows).  These components of the groups I do include Mindfulness Exercises (a way to be more in the moment, by focusing on one thing), Check-ins (where people introduce themselves and have room to say what they want to say), Exercises about Developing Coping Strategies, and Wrap-up (where we get closure on the group meeting, and people can say what they got out of it.


Okay, a light bulb just went off. (Hence, the “Duh!”)   And this is a very well-used light bulb, which seems to switch on, a lot. (I’m surprised this light bulb hasn’t burned out by now, but I guess that is the advantage to this kind of light bulb — a mental idea.)

This talk I’m giving today?  It’s a group.

Man, so many things I do are — in one way or another — a group. How would I define a group? A Group has two things: People and Communication.

(By the way, blogging?  That’s creating a kind of group, actually.)

And I know a lot about groups and how to do them and how to make them effective enough.

And the components of the group therapy groups I’ve been developing and running at work — those groups I want to tell the residents about today?  I  can use those same group components to give my talk today. 

And in ways, I was already preparing to that: by starting with a “check-in” (where the residents will say what they want)

Okay, I’ve gotten what I need out of this blog post.  Gotta go to work and do some groups!

And I hope you’ve gotten something out of this, too – this thrown-together amalgam of Preparation and Spontaneity, which is this blog post.

At least you got a great Jerry Seinfeld quote, dear reader.

Thanks for reading — and doing this group with me!

Categories: personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at