One of my colleagues, a speech instructor, is acutely aware of how petrified her students are about giving speeches. (This is a fear I share with them. If I taught speech, my syllabus would state something like, “I know you’re afraid of public speaking, and you should be. Because it’s TERRIFYING!” Which is probably the reason I’ve never been asked to teach a speech course.)
Unlike my own teachers who tried to convince us there was nothing to be afraid of when we stood up in front of the class, my friend goes out of her way to agree that their fear is real, but so is their ability to proceed in the face of that fear. So she shares her fears with them. Once she filmed herself at the dentist’s office. Today she is sharing her fear of flying bugs, especially the ones that make walking from one building to another a hazard this week. (One actually flew into my hair, but with my wild curls, it could be forgiven for mistaking my head for a bush.)
I admire my friend’s approach. We often try to make students, our children, or our friends feel better by saying things like, “Don’t be afraid. It’s not scary.” But that doesn’t help when they ARE afraid and the project in front of them seems daunting and downright frightening.
It can be more helpful to say, “Your fear is real. I’m afraid of things too. But this is how I work through it. I know you can work through your fear too.”