It was a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon in NYC. The brightness of the day belied the dark heaviness I was feeling as I walked dazed into the store. There was a surreal quality around me. I couldn’t believe I was actually going through it. I intentionally chose Saks on Fifth Avenue because I wanted the experience to be the most challenging. I can still remember the terror running through my body, every part of my being screamed turn around and run! My resolve was greater than the impending doom coursing through my veins. I decided to go the swankiest department.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I please have your attention.”
I raised my arms and cried out to the shoppers hovering over the counters in the jewelry department. With my heart pounding so hard I could barely breathe, I looked over the crowd of sixty plus people who have now brought their attention to me.
“I am terrified of public speaking and I need your help.” I bellowed.
Before even completing my sentence, most of them rolled their eyes in disdain as they turned their backs to me, returning their attention to what I so rudely interrupted.
“Please don’t turn your backs on me,” I pleaded. “That is what I am so afraid of… I am terrified of being humiliated and rejected.”
“Don’t mind them,”
I heard a strong voice coming from my left side. There stood a well dressed older man, smiling broadly at me.
“Go on, we want to hear what you have to say.” He spread his arms motioning toward the dozen or so individuals who remained looking at me.
With my legs now buckling, my hands sweating and shaking, I started to share my fears of public speaking and my desperate need to overcome this fear. I don’t remember what I said exactly. All I remember is that I was able to communicate how this fear has prevented me from fully expressing myself.
As I completed my speech, still trembling in my skin, this older man, this angel, said,
“OK, you have shared with us…Now how do you feel?”
I looked down at my body, surprised to see that I was still standing.
“I feel great. I am alive!” I blurted with excitement.
“You look great!” He roared, a big grin spreading on his face. “So where do you go from here?” He asked.
“To Carnegie Hall.” I responded, gleefully.
Clapping erupted from the group that remained with me. I stood there for a while, deeply drinking the moment. I took a bow. The terror I felt only minutes ago transformed into elation…I was flying. I floated over to his wide open arms and sank into his warm embrace.
I soared out of the store and into a new world; a world where I allowed myself to look foolish, and experience great humiliation and rejection on a whole new level. Yes, I had an angel who helped me through the process, but I did it! I confronted my greatest fear and nothing horrible happened – I did not die of embarrassment. It felt like I was going to die – it always does – even with less traumatic fears.
Whether we realize it or not, fears run our live. We have many fears: seemingly superficial ones like fear of heights, elevators, flying, insects; more serious ones like fear of rejection, abandonment and death. We need to become aware of our fears and confront them if we want to expose their illusory power. When Larry King asked Ashton Kutcher how come he is so wise given his youth, he responded, I confront all my fears and I learn and grow from them.
Our fears can be our great enemies or our best teachers. It depends on our perspective.