#Personal Stories

Turning Adversity Into Opportunity: How I Overcame My Fear Of Public Speaking

Fear Of Public Speaking
It was around the third or fourth grade of school when I started stuttering which later aggravated into fear of public speaking. My palms would become sweaty and my legs would tremble out of anxiety and nervousness when I was asked to speak in front of more than ten people. Though there are numerous factors responsible for stuttering – genetics, language development, environment etc, in my case, as per my speech therapist, it was mostly language development.

My father had a transferable job, we had to travel to different parts of the country due to which I tried speaking multiple languages at once. Due to this, I would stutter in certain alphabets and had to take pauses to complete my sentences. This caused me a lot of embarrassment and bullying at school which further led to under-confidence, fear, self-doubt and frequent panic attacks. When teachers used to ask us to introduce ourselves or read out a chapter from the book, I used to make excuses like “I have a sore throat or I forgot the book at home” to avoid speaking in front of my classmates. This fear of bullying got so deeply ingrained in my mind that it stopped me from taking part in extracurricular activities. I would only take part in competitions related to music and dance as no speaking was involved in that.

Even when I entered college and the opportunities before expanded, I refused to explore them due to the fear of being judged and laughed at. I did my graduation from Kirori Mal College, the University of Delhi which is very well known for its Dramatics Society “Players”. Since childhood, I had an inclination towards acting and thought to seriously pursue it after my graduation. When I went to the orientation of the dramatics society and saw all the confident people around me, it made me more nervous and I rushed out of the orientation midway. I did not even become a member of any other society of my college nor took part in the inter-college competitions during Delhi University Fest.

Journey of transforming adversity into an opportunity for growth

The worst feeling was not able to do what I wanted to do the most. All this while, I had the desire of speaking in front of people and being applauded and praised like others but I could not translate this desire into reality. After graduation, I pursued three years of LLB from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University. We had moot courts which was an amazing opportunity to hone our personality and communication skills. But even there I tried to avoid public speaking as much as I can. My friends thought that maybe I single-mindedly wanted to focus only on my studies and exams. This is why I refrained from participating in other activities. Little did they know that I had been fighting a constant battle with myself for a long period of time.

Debalina Banerjee

Picture Credit: Debalina Banerjee

The transformation from ‘Fearful to Fearless’

I graduated from law school in 2018. In 2019, I started working with the National Commission for Women. I realised that my work required me to become confident, bold and strong so that I can empower others to do so too. I realised that my purpose is higher, deeper and broader. The only roadblock coming in way of my purpose was my FEAR. To empower others, I needed a voice which was full of courage, conviction and compassion. On the other hand, if I had fear of speaking in front of ten people, a fear of challenging myself and a fear of failing, my larger purpose would automatically be defeated.

So, here, I took a half step forward by challenging myself first, irrespective of the worry about victory or defeat. I used to read one page of a book every day after work and read it out loud in front of the mirror, sometimes in front of my mother too. My parents have been my biggest support system. My mother always encourages me by saying “Beta aisa kuch bhi nahiin jo tu nahiin kar sakti” and that boosted my confidence every time I thought of giving up. Reading out loud in front of the mirror made me aware of the words and specific alphabets where I stutter the most. Accordingly, I used to take deep breaths or slow down my pace in those areas. I began to improve gradually which increased my confidence and bolstered my resolve to win. Subsequently, I could confidently win over my own weaknesses.

The biggest milestone in this journey was when I got the opportunity to speak in front of 500 police officials. That was literally my first time speaking on a stage that too in front of a big audience. After that, there was no looking back. I’ve been anchoring, moderating and speaking on a lot of important subjects/issues throughout the country since then and the strength of the audience has just kept on increasing.

Putting Faith into Action

Earlier, I gave power to my fear and let it overpower all the other areas of my life. I challenged my FEAR through FAITH. Whenever there is an internal boxing match between despair and hope, I always choose hope. When I changed my outlook towards my capabilities, and my inherent potential and challenged my self-imposed limitations.. the magic started happening. Even when nothing works in our favour, we should have an unwavering determination to win with the beacon of profound faith shining in our hearts and the urge to keep advancing no matter what happens. Then the direction that we should take will naturally open up.

Believing in my innate unlimited potential and creating a volley of victories in my life:-

In this journey of my inner transformation and self-improvement, I’ve realised that our talent is never in question; it is how we feel about ourselves that decides the ultimate outcome. I’ve decided not to wait for anybody to validate my capabilities. Instead, I strive every day to become a person of unlimited self-esteem, awaken to my own greatness and appreciate my life, with all its flaws, accomplishments, defeats, losses and victories and truly value all that makes me unique.

Plug into your own life to become an unstoppable power source!

Views expressed by the author are their own.

Debalina Banerjee currently works with the National Commission for Women, Ministry of Women & Child Development.

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