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This is not the first time I have spoken in this blog about fear, and it probably won’t be the last.

It seems like every single day it is the common denominator in my conversations, whether its women talking to me about the fear they feel about running in public, or the fear that business owners feel having to pick up the phone and call a complete stranger, it seems we are worried about everything, getting fat, getting old, getting injured, getting the sack, getting the boot, getting cancer…I wonder if we are all simply running around this planet in a constant state of unease worrying about what might happen rather than actually living any kind of life.

psa-member-logo-1187[1]Over the weekend I was away at a convention. The Professional Speaking Association’s annual convention in fact which is called MEGA. Yes thats right, one of the things I consider myself these days, as well as a plus sized athlete, running coach, author and entrepreneur is a professional speaker, and it is something I have been really focussing on over the last 12 months or so…hence my recent string of TV and radio appearances and my latest gig where I will be speaking at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs later this month.

Did you know that public speaking is often thought of as the number one thing that people fear, over and above death apparently…which is funny because its often the fear of dying (freezing or forgetting our words on stage) which drives that fear.

Speaking in public is a real skill without a doubt, but it is also something which can be learned and with practice you really can hone your skills. When I was younger I absolutely hated speaking in public, I remember going for a job interview once and I was so nervous in my presentation that I completely froze, went bright red and nearly fainted, to make things worse I tripped over my bag on the way out almost falling into one of the interviewers laps in the process..needless to say I didn’t get the job.

Untitled 9Over the years I have taken a number of courses and simply forced myself to do it, my work with the Fat Girls Guide to Running often means I need to stand up in front of crowds and speak, but I guess because its a topic I am passionate about I forget about making a fool of myself and somehow find the words to inspire, because at its crux that is what we are scared of right…the possibility of looking stupid, or being judged? Which is funny, because as runners we are scared of that too!!

As a fat runner and a public speaker I must be asking for trouble!!

But why are we so put off from standing out and being different through the disproportionate fear of possibly being laughed at, imagine what the world would look like if every women who was scared all of a sudden stopped, and led the life she wanted to instead, just think what the dynamic would be in the workplace if women stood up, instead of sitting back?

Today I was on yet another public speaking course, but this time it was something called The Exceptional Speaker – A masterclass for experienced speakers wanting to take their speaking to the next level. I had signed up because I am keen to try out some new material I have had jumping around in my head. The day held at the Theatre Royal, Dury Lane was lead by two international speakers who I admire greatly, and with just 8 other speakers in the group (some of whom are fellow PSA members) I was really nervous about how my prepared talk would go down, seeing as none of these guys had ever seen me speak.

We each took turns to do our talk which was recorded and then played back and critiqued, as my slot approached I could feel myself getting anxious, but I reminded myself to breathe and repeated a few positive affirmations about being good enough and knowing this is what I am suppose to be doing with my life…and then it was my turn.

My heart was pounding as all eyes followed me to the front of the room. The camera was rolling…..

The 5 minutes flew by, and apart from a few words I stumbled over in my excitement, I got through it in one piece, with laughter from my peers throughout. I had remembered my structure, kept to the main points and maintained eye contact throughout. I was happy with my effort, and glad that my preparation and knowledge of my content had paid off.

My talk was about the difficulties I faced being someone who always stood out growing up because of my size, and the challenges I have since faced whilst developing the business, revealing some of the realities of being a plus sized athlete…drawing parallels between that and running your own business, with one of the points being about Facing your Fears with a “Whats the worst that could happen” attitude.

People often say to me “Julie you are fearless” but the truth is I am fearful most of the time…I just have a strong sense of why when it comes to this campaign. You see the potential to mess up in all the stuff I do is not quite as strong as my desire to challenge stereotypes and inspire change in this world for overweight women, so each and every day I push past that fear in the hope that one day it won’t be there any more.

The feedback I got from the coaches and my peers was that my speech was very powerful, and that I have the potential to be an exceptional speaker.

WOW. I will admit I got a little teary, as getting such good feedback like this is rare for me and in some ways it signifies the start of this professional speaker journey.

It’s been a long old day, and after coming home cooking dinner and putting Rose to bed, I switched on my computer and had a look at the Facebook page to see what had been going on. Thats when I remembered I had posted a question this morning, while walking to the station.

What is stopping you from getting started, posted with a picture of a running track with the word START printed on it

The answers were quite phenomenal really.

Fear of not running far enough

Self doubt, fear of ridicule

Fear of my body saying no way am I doing this & then I am defeated!

Self doubt and people laughing at me

Lack of motivation, in my head I really want to do it and come up with great plans, but something stops me actually making it out the door. Lack of confidence I guess.

Fear that me knee will collapse and the pain of each step…..

Fear of not finishing!

So there you have it folks, our nation is crippled by fear…real fear which is stopping us reaching our potential and impacting on many areas of our lives.

But do you know what? Sometimes just like the Author Susan Jeffers says, you just have to face the fear and do it anyway. This is a really good book if you ever find yourself limited by fear, I read it in the lead up to running my first ever marathon and again around the time I decided to focus on the blog full time.

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