The contest had officially started. My nerves were so strong that I couldn’t imagine winning the “Evaluation” competition. Yet, the event would only take ten minutes and determine my future.
Should I quit now and pretend that I lost my Internet connection to the online contest?
My stomach churned in agony. Fear and anguish replaced my thoughts. I was about to go down, and I hadn’t even taken my turn.
The contest goal is to find the best person to give positive and critical feedback to new public speakers. After the target speaker talks, the competing evaluator gets 2-3 minutes to share their observations. They also share a couple of recommendations to help the target speaker learn how to improve their techniques.
I was at the Area Contest. That means those competing had already won in their local community. So I was up against the best in the area.
A friend sent me a chat before the program started. She sent friendly words of encouragement.
My response came from my focus—my nerves. So, first, I shared how nervous I was.
She responded with a quick reminder of who I was and my capabilities.
I felt the impostor syndrome attempting to make its way into my thoughts.
The impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern that causes us to doubt our skills and accomplishments—the syndrome forms from a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
I foolishly rebutted the compliment with a chat clarifying how my nerves were getting the best of me.
There was no reply. My friend knew I was stuck in my head and couldn’t see reality regardless of who I was or how highly she respected me. So she was right not to respond.
Battle of the Brain
Many a battle was lost before the fighting ever started. Our mindset can make or break our chances by dwelling on a single thought designed to tear us down. The lack of reply forced me to realize that I had entered a new battle.
My mind flashed with pros and cons. Could I save face by stepping down and letting my backup take over?
The contestants were moved into the virtual breakout room. The host shared the rules with us and pointed out that the woman in the room was an incredible competitor and had won numerous times before. He jokingly warned us that we were about to lose and suggested there was still time to step down to avoid a brutal beating.
Since many a truth is said in jest, was this highly respected man allowing us to quit?
The host drew our names to determine the order in which we would share. I was to be the first speaker. That meant everyone else would have 5-10 minutes more time to prepare their evaluation—plenty of time to craft a great response.
The Courageous Battle Rages
A couple of dozen people filled the virtual space to watch the competition. Several were very experienced speakers and dignitaries. I was feeling overwhelmed and out of place. I was desperate for a healthy perspective.
Years ago, a teacher told me, “…God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” The word discipline popped into my mind. At that moment, I understood that I needed courage.
I understood courage to be the ability to do something while still feeling fearful. But, unfortunately, the fear wasn’t going to go away until I started sharing my views on the target speaker’s talk.
At that moment, I steeled my will to move forward.
My Evaluation Presentation
I listened intently to what the speaker shared and gathered my thoughts. I had two dozen ideas of how she could improve her message. The problem was us having only enough time to speak to two or three of the items.
But realizing there was a commonality in some of the items, I grouped my thoughts based on her ability to captivate the audience, provide concise content, and her appearance on camera.
The speaker was thrilled to receive such practical advice. She accidentally voiced her excitement during my evaluation. Realizing her microphone was still on, she turned it off and took notes.
The host interviewed the contestants before the results were announced. The host also interviewed the target speaker, and everyone noticed she had already taken some of my advice.
I was happy that I could make a positive impact on her life. I didn’t need to win because seeing the woman’s improvements made my day.
I was startled to hear my name announced as the winner. I was not expecting it. Nor did I feel worthy of it.
Because when I realized my nerves were going to be there regardless of my competition, I chose to be courageous and focused on helping the target speaker improve. When I forced myself to focus on her needs, I no longer had anything to fear. The moment was no longer about my worth at all, but the speaker’s value.
My nerves turned into energy that boosted my clarity. I was then able to speak in a way that mattered for the target speaker. She even got excited about what she was learning. And she implemented a couple of suggestions immediately.
I’m now headed to the Division Contest. I will be going head-to-head with my podcast co-host Lamont Boyd. That’s right; he had entered the same competition and won at his community and area levels. It’s his goal to get to the district level and then beyond.
It’s my goal to encourage the next target speaker. I want to give recommendations that can be implemented and will improve the target speaker’s life.
I’m pretty sure that my decision to be courageous during the past contest will soften my nerves for the next competition. But if not, I’ll still compete to help the target speaker advance their speaking career.
What do you need courage for this week?