Do Not Avoid Fear-Attack It

by Laura Harris
(Corpus Christi, Texas, USA)

"You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you can not do." Eleanor Roosevelt

What aspect of business scares you? If you avoid a fear, you will retain the fear. Why not address it head on? Choose to work toward minimizing it. Putting your head in the sand and avoiding what intimidates you will only assure some level of continued trepidation.

Think back to your earliest fear. My first traumatic experience happened in first grade. My teacher asked me to take a pair of scissors to another classroom. I remember feeling proud in being chosen to complete the task. I would soon regret the confidence she had placed in me.

Walking into the classroom was uneventful until I reached the front of the room. I looked up at the teacher and handed her the scissors, (you guessed it!) pointed end toward her.

The way the situation was handled left a lasting impression. The teacher educated the entire room on the "dangers" of inappropriately handling scissors. After scolding me she insisted I walk back to my teacher, explain what I had done, then return and hand her the scissors correctly.

Argh!!! Had I not been six I would have run away. I can still remember how the silence surrounded me as I returned to the room for a second time. I survived but learned to dread being the center of attention.

I had an equally appalling situation on my 13th birthday. I was forced to do a presentation in front of my class as "punishment" for not knowing the significance of Pearl Harbor. I made up my mind in that instant that I would no longer be forced to stand in front of a class and speak. I actually made it through the remainder of my schooling without having to do one oral presentation.

Let's fast forward from age 13 to age 37. I was asked by a friend to share business practices with a small group of business owners. My immediate reaction was that under no circumstances would I subject myself to possible humiliation. After a tremendous amount of coaxing, I reluctantly agreed to speak but on two conditions.

I would not stand up and speak.
The group had to be small.

They agreed to my demands and yet I was still sick to my stomach for days. Once I survived the ordeal, it occurred to me how juvenile my fears were. They were, however, very real to me.

I began forcing myself to accept speaking engagements when asked. Originally they still had stipulations. I attended seminars that featured the best professional speakers and hired them to coach me.

I read Roger Ailes book You are the Message and Dottie Walters book Speak and Grow Rich, and enjoyed learning to turn my fear into an asset. I soon learned knowledge eradicates fear.

Three years later I was the President of a local club to improve public speaking skills (Toastmasters International). Furthermore, I joined National Speakers Association and took a leadership position in a local club. Instead of dreading public speaking to continue, I decided to conquer it and now literally crave it! I still feel vulnerable but I am most at home, authentic and honest when I am sharing in front of a group. We can grow and change - it's a choice.

If you really want to overcome a fear do not just study the subject, teach it. I allow myself to be completely vulnerable by teaching programs on improving communication skills and mentoring new speakers. You will receive tremendous gratification from teaching that which was hardest for you to learn. I have found that we prefer learning from someone who understands our struggles.

I made a list of "101 Things I Want to do Before I Die". It includes things such as traveling to Greece and taking my nieces, nephews and granddaughter to Disney World. Then I added to the list EVERYTHING I was afraid of. My list of "101 Things I Want to do Before I Die" includes skydiving, obtaining a motorcycle license, white water rafting, and going on a mission trip to a foreign country. Tackling the things that used to terrify me is very empowering.


What Public Speaking Did for Her: I am an entrepreneur, professional speaker and author. I grew up PETRIFIED of speaking. Now it is when I am most comfortable and at home. I grown my business (insurance agency) by speaking in the community. I teach small business owners how to grow their businesses by speaking all over the nation.

Laura Harris is an Entrepreneur, Business Consultant, Speaker and Author. She has been speaking professionally to entrepreneurs for 11 years. I went from a tremendous fear of speaking to making it a wonderful career. You can visit her website at

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