Words to Say When You Need a Dose of Courage

Jan 30, 2013

2,200 women. Packed into one room. Hoping to hear something inspiring and life-changing from little ‘ole me.

Gulp.

This past weekend, I was the keynote speaker at women’s conference in Texas. I have to admit—I was a little nervous. It wasn’t the biggest audience I’ve been in front of (11,000 in California). But it definitely wasn’t the smallest (2 in Colorado. Yes, 2.).

Still, 2,200 definitely carried some intimidation. There was a time when the thought of standing in front of ANY crowd made me forfeit my lunch. Speech class, senior year of high school, less than 30 people.

I. wanted. to. die.

But this time, with a room full of women looking back at me, I didn’t panic. And I didn’t lose my lunch. Sure, I had a small case of nerves before I hit the stage. Dropped my notes, fumbled with my headset mic. I’ve learned it comes with the territory, a gift that reminds me I am certainly not all that and a bag of chips.

But panic? Not a bit. In fact, I had a blast. One of the most rewarding speaking experiences I’ve had to date. And that’s really something coming from someone who knows more about chicken than Colonel Sanders.

What made the difference? Certainly my involvement with the SCORRE Conference plays a big part. But it’s more than that.

I’ve changed my script.

In the past, when facing a potentially terrifying situation, I’d list of all the reasons it would be a disaster. I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. They’re going to hate me. What if I make a fool of myself? You know the drill. Because you’ve said some of the same things, too.

No more. It took me a while, but now I realize what a waste those messages are. Instead of rehearsing imminent failure, I rehearse positive truths that change my focus, and my enjoyment of the experience.

It doesn’t matter if your moment of terror is on a stage, leading a new organization, or parenting your kids. We all face risks that seem bigger than our abilities. When that happens and panic threatens to choke the moment, here’s what to say to get a quick dose of courage:

“I’m so excited!” Before any big event, I used to mutter, “I’m so nervous.” I’d tell my husband, friends, even whisper it to myself again and again. My friend, Lucille, was the first to point out that replacing “I’m so nervous” with “I’m so excited” would completely change the dynamic. It removes fear and adds anticipation. Even if you don’t believe it at first, say it anyway and soon your heart rate drops and mood changes. Seriously, this one piece of advice is a goldmine.

“This opportunity is a gift.” I believe sharing a moment in time with someone else is a rare and sacred privilege—whether 2 or 2,200. Don’t take it for granted. Moreover, in a recent podcast, my friend Michael Hyatt said these overwhelming situations can be some of the most valuable learning experiences. Remember, a long line of people would give anything to have a similar opportunity. Don’t waste it being all wrapped up in negative, energy-draining emotions. Instead, honor the experience with gratitude.

“It’s not about me.” Warning: I’m going to be blunt. Nervousness is self-consumption. It’s an outward symptom of an inward focus. To counteract it, picture the faces of real people dealing with real life. Imagine their stories and what they need most. Say, “It’s not about me” as many times as it takes. Then, when taking the stage, look them in the eye and do everything you can to meet that need. It really isn’t about you and me. It’s about the people we’re serving.

“I am enough.” I am 41 years old. And, though it pains me to admit it, I’ve spent many of those years trying to earn my real estate on this Earth, trying to please and impress everyone from my husband and children to the strangers passing me on my morning run. It’s exhausting. So in the last few years I’ve (started to) let that go. I have a multitude of flaws. I reproduce them like bunnies in the spring. But no one can do me like I can. And the real me—even with all those flaws—has far more to offer than a cheap, plastic imitation.

What situations terrify you? How can changing your script change the experience?

27 Comments

  1. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Hi Michelle, Believe it or not, a new situation that doesn’t exactly terrify me, but makes me nervous just the same, is when a brand new client comes to see me for the first time. I get nervous that what they are about to tell me about their need is going to be something beyond my capabilities. And I’ve heard just about everything! I tell myself what you already mentioned, that it’s not about me. I actually deliberately focus outside of myself and instead on their trust in me and how much God must lost them. I wanted to share something amazing with you and your readers. It is a TED speech, from an amazing woman, about how our body language changes our testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and can make us feel more powerful and less afraid, in the matter of two minutes. http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are.html

    I am looking forward to going to a SCORRE Conference one day!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks for sharing the video, Linda! There is a lot of science behind my suggestions above, especially #1. Choosing your script carefully can change your body’s physical response to a stressful situation.

      Reply
    • Michele

      We knew what you meant. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Lori Kempton

    Your words are so true! It’s always scary to be in front of a large group like that. However, when I stand there on behalf of God and the message He gives me to share, all else fades away. It truly is a privilege to be His messenger! Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Michele

      True, Lori. It is a privilege!

      Reply
  3. Denise

    That’s such great advice, Michele!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thanks, Denise. Comes from a lot of doing it the wrong way. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Micky Diaz

    I love this post! That is why I love to share your content with my peers and continue to look up to you for inspiration and motivational insight! God bless you and yours always Michele! Thanks!!!…:-D

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Micky. You’re encouragement blesses me again and again!

      Reply
  5. Amy Thedinga

    Right on Michele. Embracing the truth that its not about me changes everything. It’s all about The Lord Jesus Christ and the people that he has called me to love. It is a privilege and an honor. Thank you for your leadership. You have enCOURAGEed me today.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, dear Amy.

      Reply
  6. Stacy

    Michele, your writing is always relevant and refreshing. Thank you! I loved the Lucille-ism! And, you helped me realize that I’ve been starting to do those things without realizing it. In fact, I used to get so nervous that I once said I’d hoped I’d always be nervous before speaking since I’m sharing God’s word. Now I know more and more that its God that conveys His message, not me, so I just get to be His broken vessel and let His light shine through me.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Hahaha … We all need a little “Lucille” in our lives! Thanks for the kind words, Stacy. I’m glad you keep pushing through the nervousness to speak. You have a gift.

      Reply
  7. Michelle Sarabia

    Love this and well needed before I enter the Blissdom Conference. 700 people. It’s the next step from the 60 that I had last time. Positive reinforcements will be added.

    Reply
    • Michele

      How did that Blissdom Conference go, Michelle? Did you change your script?

      Reply
  8. Mary ann Mann

    Hi Michelle thank you for sharing…I really would love to participate in SCORRE conference,one day in God’s timing.

    Reply
    • Michele

      I would love to meet you in person, Mary Ann! And I think you’d really enjoy SCORRE. It changed everything for me.

      Reply
  9. Spencer

    “It’s not about me” is my favorite of your scripts above. Advice I can use daily. Thank you for inspiring me to look deeper into my soul and deeper into those I should be touching with my words and images without selfishness.

    Reply
    • Michele

      So true. Advice for daily life, on or off the platform. Thanks, Spencer.

      Reply
  10. Chance Scoggins

    “I’ve changed my script.”

    Brilliantly felt and spoken. I love it! There’s not a wasted word in this post. Thank you for that. And thank you for your transparency. It’s your greatest weapon that I can see. I can’t wait to dig into more of your words! 🙂 I can tell we have kindred hearts and minds.

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you. From one writer to another, that means a lot. And I happened to feel the same about your last post. I agree … kindred. We’ll have to make sure to connect one of these times I’m in Nashville!

      Reply
      • Chance Scoggins

        I would sincerely love that. Get here soon! 🙂

        Reply
  11. Olivia Hagen

    Michele,
    I was one of those 2,200 women in Texas at the Cowgirl Get Together, along with my daughter and my sister-in-law. We loved hearing you speak. The Holy Spirit that filled that auditorium was pure awesomeness when you and the other speakers spoke. Thank you for all you are and do!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Thank you, Olivia. God surely did fill that place. I loved being with you all!

      Reply
  12. Judi

    Hi Michelle! This.Was.Awesome. Loved the post and I’m sharing with my network. Public speaking terrifies most. Like you I speak, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my doubts and nervous moments. I could totally relate to this post. Especially the “I’m so excited part” as literally before reading this I had just clicked send on an email to a new client that hired me to speak to thier marketing team. I wrote “I’m so excited to …” instead of letting my nerves get me. And guesss what, it worked … I immediately felt charged. Thanks for the post!

    Reply
    • Michele

      Love it! Thanks for sharing your story, Judi. Changing what we say really does change how we feel.

      Reply

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