Facing my fears

I recently  joined the PSA (Professional Speaking Association)  last September and attended their convention in October in Nottingham which was great.  One lunch I sat with a man named Paul who was from South Africa and he asked me what I spoke about.  I explained my story to him and happened to have a book with me, so I gave him a copy.

I’ve been very lucky and have been referred for lots of speaking events and last year I made the decision to stop being a psychotherapist and to focus on speaking more, but I decided that I needed a sign to make sure it was the right thing to do!  I woke up on January 1st with a message from Paul saying he had finished my book and wanted me to speak at the South African PSA convention in April!

One of the things that stayed with me after hearing one of the keynote speakers last October at convention, was to be open and say yes to everything!  So I found myself saying yes but was filled with panic and dread on the inside.

Firstly he had never heard me speak and I would be speaking to speakers.  From what I had also heard Johannesburg could be a violent place at times too and I would be travelling alone.  But I was determined to go and not let any fears stop me!

When I look back I know that just even a few years ago I wouldn’t have even contemplated travelling there alone as I would have been too scared, as fear had been my friend for years.  I saw danger and fear in every situation and was so concerned for my safety that it was easier to say no and just not go.

However, over time I have come to see that my fears were all part of my imagination.  They were based on what did happen to me or what could happen to me; none of it was happening right here in the present moment.  And I set out to challenge the fears by putting myself into situations that would scare me in order to desensitise myself to them.

What was really interesting for me on this trip was that my old fear patterns never raised their head and I was looking forward to going which just showed me how far I had come.  Sometimes we don’t appreciate how much work we have done on ourselves until we look back and appreciate our journey

I’m not going to lie and say it was easy for to speak in front of my fellow speakers as I was so nervous, but it went so well and was totally overwhelmed at the end when I received a standing ovation.  There was so much love and support from everyone in the room and loads of great feedback afterwards too which I really appreciated.  The following evening I spoke to 150 women at a charity event, which was so much easier and I can now say that I’m an International Keynote speaker!

Travelling alone was great too and was never scared at any point.  We stayed in Lesedi which is an African Cultural Centre for the convention and slept in traditional huts.  My hut was quite a walk to the conference centre, a good 10 minutes and at night it was pretty easy to get lost as the lighting was pretty scarce.

Just a few years ago I couldn’t even have put my rubbish bin out at the end of my garden if it was dark as I was too scared and jumpy but I found myself enjoying the walk, looking up at the stars and enjoying the peacefulness of the night

It’s amazing to think that I have been able to replace my fears now with curiosity, meaning and gratitude. And if I can, you can too!

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17 Comments

  1. Madeleine I’m so proud of you and how well you have done.

    Making the decision to further your speaking career couldn’t have been easy. But so many people will benefit from each and every #MADTalks session that you do.

    You have come such a long way – from a petrified 13 year old girl who couldn’t talk to anyone about the most horrendous trauma to such an inspirational woman who may be nervous at times but speaks with such confidence.

    Wishing you all the best with your new journey. International speaker indeed! Go get them. Xx

  2. Madeleine, you are remarkable! You bring a new meaning to ‘fight your fear and win’! Much respect fellow speaker of mine and I look forward to working with you in the future. I know our paths will cross again.

  3. Madeleine, you are remarkable and bring a new meaning to ‘fight your fears and win’! I know our paths will cross again and we will work together as fellow speakers. I look forward to it!

  4. Thank you Madeleine for a great blog. Well done. I can relate as I moved over from South Africa by myself and faced that fear. So true not to fear get in the way of living a life of purpose and in gratitude. Congrats on getting a standing ovation, well deserved. Keep inspiring, you’re doing great! xx

  5. Courage is taking that first step and saying the first yes. Sharing your fears and accomplishments is helping others to break out of there spheres of fear and anxiety. Your leadership exemplifies the possible, your humility makes you shine. I remember a lesson on public speaking from a high school teacher who was a Vietnam war veteran: “Your peers are always the toughest group to reach out to when presenting, you might think they can kill you, but they will never eat you – use your nervousness to your advantage and let your true self out”. With this I slow down, measure my breath, and speak from the heart. I think you have a good start Madeleine to a highly successful speaking career.

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